Catching Voices, by Sheila Deeth
It’s beginning to go dark. Cars crawl up the road then turn, re-turn. Someone’s waving and showing the way. I guess we’re lost as each other, same destination, same place beckoning in dreams and in space.
Warm light spills through wide glass doors. “Blackbird,” it says over the entrance. Inside the birds of women stoop and stalk. Someone welcomes me in. “Congratulations.” And I wonder if it’s real.
Real cheese awaits, real vegetables beautifully displayed, and real figs—how I love figs. Real paper plates, but I almost forget to take one. It’s not the food or the wine that we’re here for though. In shadows at the back, stacks of books form a city on a table, Portland built by women’s words. Someone crosses off my name.
You can tell the writers from editors as we mill about the room. Newly minted, newly published, we hold our books close to the chest, juggle plates and try not to smear the precious page. Writers look up at passing strangers and smile. “Are you?” They point down with their eyes. “Yes, page one forty eight.” “Page fifty.” “Page one fifty six.”
“It’s my first attempt at a sex scene,” Teresa says, and I wonder if she or I will be more embarrassed as I stand there and read. But it’s beautiful—nature and the human body and literary art, and how can my writing belong in the same book as this?
The editors are the ones with arms unencumbered; they’ve seen it all before. “I haven’t said hello to you yet,” says one. “And which is your piece?” The glow when she says how she liked it warms me down to my toes. Better than cheese. Better than wine.
We thank those strangers, faceless no more, who brought us here. They walked before us, labored over other people’s words, turned them to something more. Then we nudge each other to walk up to the mike and it’s wine to the ears, intoxicating, wonderfully pure and smooth. I’m not sure if I’m brave—are my words good enough?—but I know someone chose them and printed them and it almost feels like betrayal to stand back so I take my turn. It sounds okay, your average table-wine maybe compared to others’ champagne.
Afterwards I come home and read through the night, cover to cover, catching voices like stars. VoiceCatcher 4 is released at last, but I’m still not sure I belong. Maybe they just wanted someone English, maybe a third-person writer to fill in a gap and I came along. But my name is there in print and my writing is real.
They’ve caught voices, and included mine. It’s VoiceCatcher 4, its pages poised and waiting to captivate. And now I’m trying to write for 5.