I sat at the kitchen table in a three-piece suit wearing my favorite bow tie and my best leather shoes. In an attempt to avoid switching on Fox Sports, I’d challenged myself to the New York Times crossword puzzle. After having racked my brain over it for the better part of the morning, I still hadn’t nearly solved half of it. The cup of coffee in front of me had turned stale some time ago, when the shrill ring of my landline phone yanked me out of this miserable morning routine. I was glad for the distraction.
“Clement, I need you!”
The voice on the other end of the line sounded stressed and was so familiar to me that I knew immediately who had called me.
Out of an old habit I had kept the day free and was ready to step in. But actually, I didn’t really expect to be asked for help. So Cynthia’s call was a surprise. Everyone else must have already cancelled. I was dead sure I was at the bottom of her list — if I made it.
“Would you fill in today?”
I was at a loss of words. A thousand thoughts raced through my head, most of them doubts. But the tingling sensation in my stomach betrayed my true feelings: I was excited.
Cynthia seemed to be unsettled by my silence.
“I know our last encounter wasn’t exactly…”
“Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your decision,” I interrupted her. “I never blamed you for what happened.”
“So? Will you do it?”
Thirty minutes later, I went up the stairs of 34 Street/Penn Station and pushed my umbrella against the cold wind. The collar of my woolen coat was turned up, wrapped with a scarf multiple times. Nevertheless, icy snowflakes found their way onto my naked skin. I pulled my shoulders up and hastened my step. Despite the uncomfortable February weather, 8th Avenue was full of people. They all rushed in the same direction I was heading. Most of them were dragging carefully covered dog boxes.
Für den Vorher-Nachher-Vergleich habe ich den Anfang meiner Erzählung The Marvelous Misfits of Westminster gewählt. Wie du siehst, hatte die Geschichte in der Erstfassung noch einen anderen Titel. Das Feedback, das ich zur Erstfassung bekommen habe, war positiv. Allerdings fanden die Testlesenden, dass es zu lange dauert, bis die eigentliche Handlung einsetzt und wichtige Figuren früher eingeführt werden sollten. Die Rückmeldungen machten auch deutlich, dass das mysteriöse/fantastische Element der Erzählung nicht deutlich genug war. In der Endfassung habe ich dieses Problem durch Kürzungen und Einbau einer Rahmenhandlung gelöst.