The American public deserves to know the truth, if anyone can be found to print it. There exists a conspiracy to keep me from being published, a conspiracy beside which Enron would be considered small potatoes in Idaho and Martha Stewart just another annoying former soccer mom.
The architects of this conspiracy are P.J. Wodehouse, James Thurber and Darius the Phoenician. (The last, a phallic symbolist as well as a Phoenician, wrote the world’s first unintelligible joke about a farmer’s wife in cuneiform in 3000 B.C., several centuries before the discovery of farming.) Death poses no obstacle to this conspiracy. Its absent members use all manner of devices to communicate from the Great Beyond. James Thurber, for example, knocks all night on radiator pipes. Darius the Phoenician communicates through the medium of Daniel Pinkwater.
The most easily identified members of the conspiracy to keep me from being published are a strange band of people called editors after Ed Itor the Hittie who, though unable to read cuneiform, carved the words “Sorry Not for Us” in giant letters on a commemorative stele over which Darius the Phoenician had labored night and day for eleven years during which his wife left him, his father disinherited him and his fig crop languished and died. Perhaps in emulation of Itor, the editors spend shadowy existences behind floor-to-ceiling structures known as “slush piles” which are erected entirely out of my manuscripts. The “slush piles” receive their name from the editors’ practice of taking manuscripts home with them on snowy days and dropping them in the street while getting out of taxicabs. While facing East behind their slush piles – the better to venerate fashionable magazines, many of which no longer read unsolicited manuscripts – the editors perform a death and purification rite in which a manuscript is taken out of one envelope, purified by the removal of paper clips and any other extraneous objects that might be of value to the editor and placed in another envelope.
In furtherance of their nefarious purposes, editors are permitted to use the means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce with impunity. In fact, they not only use interstate commerce with impunity, they use it with my stamps. This is a scandal of national proportions. If I had any more stamps, I would write my Congressman for an investigation. But why bother? My Congressman is a scandal of national proportions all by himself.
It is well know that my Congressman has a nubile secretary who cannot type. What is not so well known is that editors have nubile secretaries, too. They must, because they almost never have anything typed. Rather, they communicate with the outside world exclusively through printed rejection slips, documents which are sent to Taiwanese computer programmers for special polishing until they read something like this:
“Regrettably, the enclosed material does not meet our present editorial needs at this time. Since it cannot be utilized by us at the present, at this time it is being returned by us herewith. We would like to be able to comment on each of the pieces we receive, however, the volume of pieces being received by us being large, makes this unfeasible. Everything sent to us receives careful consideration, which may explain why there may have been a delay of several weeks before this particular piece many not have been returned to you by us prior to this particular time.”
On frequent occasions editors embellish rejection slips with elliptical handwritten comments. The most common are “Sorry – but Thanx,” an expression of gratitude for the stamps, and “Do Keep in Touch,” a signification that the editor is running low on paper clips. The sardonic “You will place it elsewhere” is reserved for manuscripts that have already made the rounds from Advertising Age and The Atlantic Monthly to The Zookeepers’ Gazette and Zwieback: Magazine of Toast Masters. But the ultimate insult is “Do Keep Trying,” followed by an exclamation point, a remark reserved for posthumous manuscripts.
James Thurber particularly enjoys these insults, beating out merry polka rhythms on my air conditioning ducts in the hours between one and five AM. I believe it is Darius the Phoenician who adds spam, spear-fish attacks and distasteful jokes to my email at all hours of the night or day. But on the fine points of the conspiracy such as these, even Daniel Pinkwater is not talking.