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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Comedy · #2321599
An author confronts a critic.
A Slight Adjustment

He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with craggy face and outrageously dashing hair that swept across his forehead, just above his right eye. He leaned against the front desk nonchalantly.

Sally looked up from her keyboard and smiled. “Can I help you, sir?” she asked.

“I’d like to speak to the editor,” he replied.

So would I, thought Sally, but she answered sweetly enough. “I’m afraid he’s in conference right now, sir. What’s it about?”

“This review of my book,” he said, producing a newspaper folded precisely so that the relevant article was central to the page. His finger rapped at it accusingly.

Sally glanced at it briefly. “You could talk to the literary critic,” she said. “He’s in today.”

“That’ll certainly do.” He flashed a grin at her and winked.

She pretended not to notice the wink and reached across to open the hatch to allow the visitor through the counter. “Just follow me, sir.”

The man complied and Sally led him from the front office, through an open door to a short corridor, and into a large, open office filled with people at desks, talking into phones, typing at keyboards and having shouted conversations across the aisles. Sally plunged into the chaos and arrived at the far wall, where a man was sprawling back in his chair, feet on his desk, arms up and folded so that his hands supported his head, while he stared at the ceiling.

“Mr. Brenner,” said Sally.

The man’s eyes shifted sideways to regard Sally with a bored look. “What is it, Sally?”

She turned to indicate the man standing next to her. “This is Mr….” she paused before continuing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name.”

“Chandler B Rhodes,” replied the man.

Brenner’s eyes shifted to look at Rhodes. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

Rhodes produced the newspaper, still neatly folded, and jabbed a finger at the offending passage. “This,” he said.

Brenner dropped his feet to the floor and leaned forward to peer at the article, “Ah yes, my piece on Paradise Tomorrow. I guess you’d better sit down.”

The author moved to take the chair in front of Brenner’s desk. Sally mumbled something and disappeared into the crowd, obviously heading back to Reception. The two at the desk stared at each other for a moment before Brenner resumed his enquiry.

“It’s your review,” said Rhodes. “You’ve rated my book with one star only.”

Brenner nodded. “Yes. Sorry about that but we never give less than a star. Don’t want to be too discouraging, after all.”

“That’s ridiculous,” returned Rhodes.

“Seems sensible enough to me.”

“But, if you never rate at no star, giving one star amounts to the same thing.”

“How so?”

“If it’s impossible to get zero stars, one star is the least possible. With both, you’re saying that the book has absolutely no redeeming qualities. The ratings are the same.”

Brenner looked thoughtful. “Well, yes, I suppose you could say that. So what do you propose instead?”

“Look, all I’m asking is whether you really meant this rating. If you think my book is so awful that it has no redeeming qualities, you should say so.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“What? That my book really is that bad?”

Brenner waved a dismissive hand. “No, I mean that I ought to consider giving out no stars at all.”

“But don’t you see that’s unfair to me?” asked Rhodes. “The way it stands at the moment, you’re saying that my book is totally worthless. Are you saying that?”

“Well no, as I recall it, there were some good points about it.”

“Ahah. So it deserves more than one star in that case.”

“I suppose I could give it another one,” said Brenner.

“Wait a minute,” said Rhodes. “You said it had some good points. That’s plural. Just one would have been enough to push it up to two stars but you say it’s got several.”

“I don’t know that I could do that.”

“You’re the damn critic. If you can’t do it, who can?”

Brenner frowned in indecision. “I’m only the damn critic, you mean,” he muttered. Then he brightened and said, “What the hell. I am the critic and I’ll do it. Three stars for Paradise whatsit.”

“I’m still not sure you’re being fair,” Rhodes came back. "Think about it, man. Surely it’s worth more than that. All those good points after all.”

“I dunno,” said Brenner. “You’re taxing my memory. It’s some time since I read it, you know.”

“Well, let’s approach it from a different angle then. What was so awful about it, in your estimation?”

Brenner looked off into the distance. “Damned if I can remember,” he said.

“There you are then. It can’t have been that bad if you can’t even remember why.”

“Look, I just recall not liking it, that’s all. There must have been reasons but they’re all gone from my head now.”

“So you’re gonna knock off a star because you didn’t like it. And you don’t even know why. You might just have been feeling a bit dyspeptic on the day.”

“True,” said Brenner, a far off look in his eyes as though recalling some outlandish lunchtime feast he’d had in the past.


“Alright, alright, it can have four stars.”

“Well thank you indeed, Mr. Philanthropist. I lose a star because you have a lousy memory. There’s probably nothing wrong with my book at all.”

Brenner held his fists to his temples in frustration. “Okay, you win, it gets five stars. Now will you leave me alone, for pete’s sake?”

“Full adjustment with apology in print?”

“Yes, yes, now get the hell outa my office!”

Rhodes stood, turned smartly and marched back to Reception. As he passed through the counter trapdoor, Sally looked up. “Get what you wanted, Mr. Rhodes?”

“I always do,” he said.

House Martell

Word count: 979
For "Game of Thrones, The North Remembers, Newspaper Clippings Prompt 18
Prompt: Start your story with someone receiving a one-star review.
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