Twas the Night Before Deadline

by Betsy Ashton

Betsy Ashton, born in Washington, DC, was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She protested the war in Vietnam, burned her bra for feminism, and is a steadfast Independent. She is a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. She mentors writers and writes and publishes fiction. Her first mystery, Mad Max Unintended Consequences, was published in February 2013. The second in the series, Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, came out in April 2015. In her spare time, she is the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club. She loves riding behind her husband on his motorcycle. You’ll have to decide for yourself if and where she has a tattoo.

December 15, 2021

I always rerun this post just before Christmas in honor of the angst my fellow writers and I often feel. I hope you enjoy it.

with apologies to CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

‘Twas the night before deadline, when all through the house

Not a writer was stirring, not even his mouse;

The laptop was set on the table with care,

In hopes that words soon would appear.

Images nestled all snug in his head;

Visions of page proofs filled him with dread;

With good guy as hero, a bad guy with a rap,

How to keep the right words, and edit the crap.

When out on the street there arose such a ruckus,

He sprang up in anger at loss of his focus.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

Drew back the curtains and peered through the glass.

Red lights swirled on ceiling and wall,

Shattered concentration caused him to bawl.

When what to his curious eyes did appear,

Images of pages, blank and austere.

He wielded his pen so sure and so quick,

He knew in a moment his edits were mixed.

More rapid than eagles his cross-outs they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Bracket! now, Period! now Colon and Slashes!

On, Comma! on, Hyphen! on Quote Mark and Em-Dashes!

To the top of the page! to the top of the wall!

Now erase away! erase away! erase away all!”

Ideas that normally flowed freely and fast,

Now met such obstacles, they left him aghast;

On the screen his cursor stood still,

Hours to deadline, no words to kill.

When, in a twinkling, he heard in the hall

The shuffling gait of his wife’s footfall.

As he drew back his head, and turned to see,

Into the study she carried fresh coffee.

Dressed warmly in flannel, from her neck to her foot,

Her clothes were all rumpled, no makeup to boot;

She set the cup down with deliberate care,

Steam rising and swirling, to drink it a dare.

He wished she’d call his editor to plead

All he needed was one day to re-read.

His editor he knew would shout and decry,

He was behind in his contract, he couldn’t deny.

That editor so mean, so nasty and bold,

“Not another second,” his memory so cold,

With a nod of his head and a stroke of his pen,

He fought his way out of the mess he was in.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Delete key melt down, words appearing from murk,

Finally laying fingers on keyboard, a touch so slight,

He typed and typed well into the night.

He sprang from his chair, the manuscript to send

The deadline met, the last words “The End.”

His editor sent a note of delight,

“Happy deadlines to all, and to all a good write!”

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