“Dave! The BBC World Service accepted my story!” I show him the check for 80 pounds sterling (the only money I received for my fiction for 20 years until I self-published my new novels on Amazon; I would make 10 times that much writing technical papers for IBM, and a good living over 30 years writing program code).
“That’s great! When is it going to broadcast?”
“Not till next year sometime. I’ll let you know.”
“I told you that story was special.” Dave smiles ear to ear — proud he was the one to suggest to send my story to the BBC.
Click the below arrow to hear the short live intro of the BBC Worldwide Radio production of my short story, Surviving on Mexican Shade:
After the broadcast, I got an especially nice fan letter from John Murray of Murray Publishing in the UK, c/o Angela David of the BBC – here is a snippet:
Dear Mr Else,
On Sunday February 23rd I suffered from insomnia and turned on the World Service in the middle of the night. I was absolutely captivated by what I heard. It was your short story ‘Surviving on Mexican Shade.’
Click the below arrow to hear the BBC Worldwide Radio production of my short story, Surviving on Mexican Shade (around 5 minutes long):
Around this time I remember sitting in one of our Paris Writers Group meetings, proposing that we should name our group something besides the Paris Writers Group, as one day one or all of us would be famous and the group name will be mentioned in autobiographies, biographies, etc. I was voted down.
My manuscript, My Father’s Lies, from which Surviving on Mexican Shade was taken, spent a year going from publishing house to publishing house – the eventual rejection letters were always nice and encouraging, but simply put, My Father’s Lies was not a commercial work. “Is it a novel, a collection of short stories, a memoir? I can’t even tell what it is!” complained one editor. I asked my agent, “Why can’t they understand – it is something new, something unique, something Else?”
With my family back, and all my travels, for work and pleasure, I saw less and less of Dave. After one of my many trips, I returned to the office, only to discover him missing. Elizabeth, our department secretary, told me that Dave had been admitted to a hospital in Paris. I went to see him immediately, found him sitting in bed in a hospital gown, looking skeletal (I suppose his clothes had hidden from me just how much weight he’d lost since coming to Paris). He asked me to help him get to the chair by the window – I ended up lifting him, he weighed nothing. I carried him over and set him down gently in the chair.
“I’m going home,” he told me.
And so it ends, I thought, but I said only, “Oh?”
He looked out the window, to the manicured trees in the park.
“I wish you the best, Dave.”
His eyes, a paler blue than when we first arrived in Paris, smiled at me. He motioned for the juice on the tray next to his bed. I poured him a plastic cupful. “Get some too,” he said. I poured myself a bit.
“To our time in Paris,” he toasted, raising his cup.
I couldn’t help but smile. “To my guardian angel,” I said and touched my cup to his.