Felix Cheong

SELECTED PROSE

an excerpt from Vanishing Point

“FINALLY, time alone with my first novel!” she mutters, admiring her name on the hardcopy book, not just one of those easily-published-but-quickly-forgotten websites. Kheng was right; the cover does capture the essence of the story, despite her initial misgivings. Melanie reads the first sentence aloud, under the secrecy of her breath:

Though she was a little plump, Molly Tang had a habit of wearing gaudy, garish clothes.

She stops and reads it again. And reads it again. “Strange,” she says, momentarily confused. “Where is it?”

A word seems to have disappeared from the line. Not just a letter trading places with another, as it sometimes happens when she is not paying attention to the text, but an entire word. It cannot be a proofreading error because she and Kheng had pored over the galley proof at least four times between them. As far as she remembers it, her book opens with the sentence: Though she was a little plump, Molly Tang had a strange habit of wearing gaudy, garish clothes.

As if to shake the missing word loose from its hiding place, Melanie turns the book upside down. Opening the first page again, she holds her breath. There it is – or is not. It is the same when she checks every other copy on the shelf.

“Kheng,” she wails on the phone, almost close to tears. “I just discovered a typo. Right in the first sentence. I do not know how we could have been so careless…”

“Hang on, let me grab a copy…No, there is no typo: Though she was a little plump, Molly Tang had a habit of wearing gaudy, garish clothes.”

“The word strange is not there!” Melanie almost screams.

“What? You are not all there?” Kheng says, seemingly distracted and distant. “I am sorry, the connection is bad. Listen, I am at the Frankfurt Book Fair now. I have to meet a few American distributors. Nothing’s missing, Melanie. You did a great job. It is a good bedside read. Already, we have sold twenty copies. When I get back, we can discuss the next Molly Tiang book.”

And with that, she hangs up, leaving Melanie confused, crossed and cursing under her breath, “You hang up on me when I need you the most!”

Over the next three hours, Melanie trundles from bookstore to bookstore all over town – no mean feat, considering her high-heels have already deposited a couple of blisters on the sides of her feet – checking each and every copy of her book. Every copy has that one word missing. Strange.

© Ethos Books

by Felix Cheong
from Vanishing Point (2012)
published by Ethos Books

 

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