Rival by Alex Eichen
The editor hands me five, unbent pieces of paper, white beyond white, with my rival’s name shining in the top corner. I read about wind, the licking breeze of daybreak while searching for poorly spread ellipses, the worst and only error he typically makes. What I wouldn’t do for a misspelled word or a malaprop, a “taught” instead of “taut”. I’d circle it big with devastating red ink that would cut into innocent words, with a bold “SP” to show the girl sitting next to me how perfect he isn’t. She adores his work, and tells me daily. I ask if she thought he intended to not capitalize “god”. Yes, she says not even looking up at me, he’s just so awesome like that.
My resolve strengthens at this new wound to my artistic vanity, and I bring my face close, close to the paper, desperate to find an error — and I do! A misspelled “look”, one of my favorite words, now “loko”. He probably typed it too fast, rapt in genius, no doubt. But as I raise my arm to grab the pen, I forget to let go of his paper, and the edge of the paper bites into my nose, tearing it ferociously, serrated almost. A half tear wells up in my eye as I touch my finger to the cut, and his paper falls to the ground, dotted red. And now, I feel his sting, physical and mental, every time I drag my hand across my nose to stop the snot from falling into the licking breeze of daybreak.