Valerie hated his pedantry, she hated his arrogance, but most of all she hated his expertise.
StoryBoardLand was a place on the web for aspiring authors to post their stuff, and tradition held that readers who encountered typos or other errors would bring them up with the writer. Though some (who were in it for the thrills rather than the craft) brushed these off, Valerie didn't consider herself that shallow an artist and took every comment seriously. Countless times she'd been saved from posting stupid, often embarrassingly hilarious mistakes to a public site somewhere by the intervention of her peers on SBL.
A few readers took it a step farther and provided complete critiques of the stories; this was somewhat less welcome to most authors, since most of those individuals tended to be picky to the point of anal retentiveness. Such behavior was usually greeted with a "No content commentary, please!" response, and it was a measure of the good rapport SBL members had with one another that this was uniformly respected.
Not by him, though.
She had no idea who he was, where he had come from, or why he'd chosen her as a victim, but "Theodoric" consistently and uninvitedly offered a full-blown noun-and-verb-level analysis of all of her posted work. He even went so far as to dig up a three-year old thread which pre-dated his advent on SBL in order to ensure he had applied his red pen to all of her work.
It was frustrating and irritating, and she'd have long ago told him to go take a flying fuck were it not for the fact that his suggestions were, without exception, a tremendous improvement to each story.
She had privately asked him to stop editing her stuff, since she didn't appreciate his tone or attitude. This was a major pain in the ass, as his SBL account refused personal messages and email and she had to go to some silly, flashy website he owned, load some idiotic Java application, and leave a message that way. And it had been useless anyway, since he'd just replied with, "Stop posting it and I'll stop critiquing it."
At that point she'd decided to just ignore him and hope he would go away, but her curiosity at what he had found would get the better of her and she'd always read the criticism. Sometimes his advice was short and to the point: a simple "Rephrase this" was more than sufficient and much appreciated. She was thankful and did so. More often than not, however, his words seemed designed to belittle her, as when her bad habit of using the same word multiple times in adjacent sentences manifested:
The dress fell across her breasts perfectly, and the waist fit her as if it been designed for her. The men would be staring at her breasts all evening, she thought with a mix of trepidation and anxiety.
"Breasts... breasts." I like 'em when there are two, but only in reality. Not in writing!
His sexual innuendo didn't stop there, though:
Sally shook her head, and it seemed to be as much to clear her head as to deny it.
"Shook her head... clear her head." I know you've never heard this in your life, but Too Much Head!
It was stupid and bullish and she hated every moment she spent correcting her errors... but she had to concede he was nearly always right. And all of her protests rang empty whenever she reposted a corrected version, as it then became obvious that she'd made the changes anyway despite her claim to be ignoring him.
He was useful, dammit. She could admit that. Why did he have to be such a jerk about it? She tried again to discuss his commentary by logging onto his website, focusing on the damned chat window and not the gaudy swirling colors in the background.
Friday 12:27 Hey, Val here again.
Friday 12:34 Hi, Val There Again!
Friday 12:35 Wanted to talk about your edits of my stuff.
Friday 12:48 Sure, what's going on?
Friday 12:49 Sigh... Can you tone them down? Or just stick to the technical stuff?
Friday 13:19 Why? Is there something there that's inaccurate? Wrong?
Friday 13:20 Nnnnoooo. That's not the point. Your edits are good, but it's the snarky comments that accompany them that bother me.
Friday 13:37 Why?
Friday 13:38 Because they make me look like an ass!
Friday 13:45 If the booty fits... :)
She'd logged off the site, then, and not posted anything to SBL for over a week.
She was still writing, though, and worked on a story she was planning on submitting to Women's Literary Fiction Monthly. She knew it was good at its heart, but she also knew that it could use some assistance, so ultimately she posted it for feedback. And she got some: TemperMan corrected several typos, BMWdriver pointed out a plot hole and suggested a way to resolve it... and then two days later a message was posted by her nemesis. It was long. She sighed and dug in.
The woman who was seating people didn't notice her waiting.
Some people call the "woman who was seating people" a "hostess".
Diane accepted a job as a recruiter. She loved her job, and tried to do it with as much verve as possible.
"Job... job." I know you must like this word, but as with "head" in your last story, it's too much of a good thing. Try "work" in the second instance.
Mark thought Sally looked lit from within.
Tonight Barbie looked even more beautiful than ever, as it she were lit from within.
So both Sally and Barbie are lit from within? Is there a world shortage in glowing metaphors or something? Have you run out?
She felt the blood rush to her ears with the heat of embarrassment. Which was stupid-- she didn't know any of these people, really. What did she care what they thought? Self-esteem building platitudes didn't stop her from feeling the shame, though, and she had to log out of SBL in order to avoid ranting insanely in response.
She logged into his website to privately give him a piece of her mind, but ended up staring at it blankly for ten minutes before finally giving up and deciding she didn't have anything to say which wouldn't sound inane. Valerie switched off the machine, took a deep breath, and decided to get some reading done.
She didn't get five pages into her mystery novel, though, before she started getting distracted. By work stuff, of course, and somewhat by how long it had been since she'd seen Kevin outside of work. Or seen any man outside of anything... especially his clothes. She was an attractive woman, she knew, she'd just been too busy to take advantage of it properly. Or for them to take advantage of her, properly. She grinned at this thought and began to take care of herself properly: blouse unbuttoned slightly, she cupped her breasts in her hands, sending the typical tickle down to her lower regions. Two breasts, she thought insanely. I like two as well. That put her in mind of her earlier mortification, but instead of freaking her out it was kind of turning her on even more.
It brought her to thoughts about sexual fantasies she used to have as a teen: being naked in school, and having all the other kids staring at her while she tried desperately to cover up. One hand slipped beneath the waistband of her sweat pants and into the moist confines of her pussy. "Mmmmmmm..." she vocalized, thighs tight against her hand to add more pressure. Putting a raw story out there for the world to see was not entirely unlike being naked in public. So what did that imply about the act of being edited? Possibility being brought to fulfillment? She probed with her fingers, bringing her own pussibility... er... possibility to fulfillment, and enjoyed a quiet but pleasurable climax. Climax at the end of her tale, or at her tail end?
Valerie giggled at this, rested a moment, then sought an afternoon snack.
* * *
That night she tried again to reason with Theodoric on his website.
Tuesday 22:50 Okay, I acknowledge the value of your editing, and even admit I find it useful. If you can't be civil when delivering it, then can't you just deliver your criticism privately? Through email. Hell, even on your website.
Tuesday 23:03 Why? You're posting the story publicly, and soliciting feedback publicly. Should the response not be public?
Tuesday 23:04 In most cases I don't mind. But you're a rather harsh editor.
Tuesday 23:17 And you're my favorite editee. So suck it up and get over it. I'll continue to edit you publicly, babe.
Tuesday 23:18 Oh, gee. Why am I so lucky? Why don't you pester FLiboy or Istantinopole with your unsolicited edits?
Tuesday 23:21 Sweetheart, they are talentless hacks who will be writing fanfic and bad porn until they roll over dead. You've got real potential, and are worth the time to culture.
Tuesday 23:22 Culture? Am I a bacterium, then? Yeast?
Tuesday 23:47 No, doll. You're a pearl.
She'd been incensed then, and hadn't typed a response. His constant use of diminutive endearments for her grated. He hadn't earned the right. If she could have slapped the power button on her computer she would have, but as it was a Mac she closed it down and seethed quietly, ire unvented by physical expression.
She had an early morning coming up the next day, so she hit the bed right after a quick facial scrub. She was having a hard time getting the chat out of her head, though, and sleep would not come, so she resorted to masturbation. Pearl she may or may not be, but she certainly had one, and she diddled it for fifteen minutes or so until her ass was wet with her juices and her pelvic thrusts made a similar mess of her palms. She couldn't have said afterward what she'd fantasized about, but it seemed at once angry, embarrassing, and sizzling, and the eventual orgasm was like a fizz of tiny bubbles on her brain. Soothed and humming drowsily, she finally dropped into sleep.
* * *
It got worse after she posted a new revision of the story for the Literary Journal. This time Theodoric left a short message. For a moment she dared to hope against all hope that he'd changed his mind and was going to be more discreet about this. That was not in the cards, and she inwardly chastised herself for not knowing better:
I was going to post my edits here, but in attempting to I found that there were so many that I violated the character limitation of the board software. Instead I've posted them to my personal website...
and he listed the address. Publicly. She gritted her teeth.
She was infuriated by the implication: that while the story itself fit tidily within the limitations of the SBL software, somehow there were so many corrections to detail that it no longer would. It was a crappy story, in other words. She flushed.
She tried to be positive about it and consoled herself with the fact that no one would bother logging into an outside site just to read Theodoric's edit of her works. However, not two minutes after she read the message a follow-up was posted by BMWdriver:
LOL! Theo, your editorial comments are even funnier than the story! (sorry, Val, no offense)
None taken. You fucking sycophantic asshole.
Of course she went to Theodoric's site to check what he had to say. Her cheeks burned as she read the commentary (and if her nipples stiffened slightly, it was doubtless coincidence).
Jonathan took the candles out onto the patio and Lisa told him to put them around the patio and light them.
"Patio...patio." Baker's man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Of course, it was impossible to tell from the context what she'd actually meant; there was no way unless he reappeared on the scene, of course.
"Of course... of course." I'll refrain from the Mr. Ed jokes. Oh, wait. I didn't. Sorry.
"You'd be surprised how long he will last."
I'd go with "he'll" in dialogue, Contractionless Woman.
My heart raced as I watched him walk to the counter.
This is the third time her heart has "raced" in this story. Her heart is already sped up from previous paragraphs... should I call a doctor?
Frankly, Valerie didn't see what was so funny here. It was juvenile, really. And unnecessary. She walked away without making any comments (or edits), since it was late in the afternoon and she had to get to an appointment, but the one thing she regretted most of all was not having the time to masturbate. As flustered and ashamed as she was from the what her editorial assailant had written, she was also indescribably and inexplicably horny.
It wasn't until three days later, in the midst of another mind-blowing orgasm from re-reading his edits, that it occurred to her that the excitement was so great precisely because of the shame.
* * *
She should never have posted another story while she was struggling to complete the first, but her enjoyment of the editing process was starting to get to her. She dug up something she'd only half-finished a year ago and posted it as a tease, hoping for a major response. As usual, she regretted it the moment she saw Theodoric's moniker on the next message, but despite the way he disgraced her in it she read through the entire message avidly. Fortunately (or unfortunately), all the edits fit in the SBL software this time:
Sadie was gushing about Jonathan's competence.
You already used gushing
He gushed about Diane like she was the heart of his universe.
My gush, again with the gushing? Gush darn it. Like, oh my gush!
Edgar's world exploded as the feeling hit him.
Wow. Second world exploding in this story. Hope we don't run out of worlds...
"Bryan, we've got to get out of her!"
Why get out of her? Is she a bad fuck? Oh, perhaps you meant "here". Ah.
Miss Esterhaus lives in Mrs. Esther's house? It's an ambiguous homophone bordering on a pun, and unless it's deliberate I'd consider changing the name.
I love the freeway; it's such a crapshoot. I turn into a town and I never know what's going to happen.
Abracadabra! Poof! I am now a town!
He was quite the surgeon, apparently.
You've used "quite" something less than half a million times in this story so far.
Evidently this was not quite what she had in mind.
Your use of "quite" is quite pervasive.
Often it was hard to tell what she meant.
You often use often. Too often.
She reminded him of his promise that it would only be a few weeks, and that the ring was precious to her.
Ach! Sssss! Smeagol wants it! Nasssty dirty hobbitses!
Kelli swallowed down a protest and just kept her commentary to herself.
"Choked down" or "swallowed". Not "swallowed down". Not that you need any help in that regard...
Valerie was horrified, though her clit burned. That last one was too much to bear silently (as were the grunting fuck-noises she was making). He'd crossed the line, and in a fit of keyboard-dampening pique she fired off a one-handed complaint to the moderator of the board over the comment. This was way out of line for a literary criticism. An hour later, the moderator of SBL sent her a personal apology, saying that she had contacted Theodoric and firmly admonished him for making comments like that in an editing thread. Valerie would be happy to know, she reported, that Theodoric has agreed not to respond again to any of Valerie's work.
Valerie was stunned and shattered. Be careful what you ask for... you might get it. That was entirely not what she'd expected, and threw a monkey wrench into her entire schedule (not to mention her sex life). She quickly informed the moderator that a censorship solution was not necessary. That probably she had over-reacted. But the response back indicated it had been Theodoric's idea to cease editing her.
She almost cried. She wanted to get edited, dammit! She needed it sooooo badly.
As ever, the place she went was his own custom website.
Saturday 21:06 Please! I need you to edit me! It's very importnat.
There, the typo ought to draw him.
Saturday 21:13 "Importnat" to you, perhaps, but I've got better things to do.
Dammit. She was crazy horny and the sonofabitch wouldn't budge, even when she baited him with obvious stuff. Though the minor correction did give her clit a sharp zing.
Saturday 21:13 I have a deadline! Come on... What can I do to change your mind?
Saturday 21:27 Heh.
Oh, dear God, what am I doing?
Saturday 21:27 Um... that's not exactly an answer.
And am I sure I want one, now?
Saturday 21:29 I can think of some things. They involve photography and lingerie.
Saturday 21:29 Fuck you.
Saturday 21:06 Not required. Possibly never unless I like what I see in the photos.
Ugh! Jerk! She didn't respond... well, not with typing, anyway. Her body did, though: she kneaded her tits with her hands... she needed her tits with her hands. How's that for "ambiguous homophone verging on a pun", you bastard? Her nipples were chafing under her rough treatment, now, but for some ungodly reason that made the muscles inside her cunt clench and unclench like fists. They continued to massage an imaginary cock while her hand strayed down to her clit to make her ("Unnnnnhhhhh!") come.
She was glad he couldn't see her now: flushed, sweating, eyes red from the frustration. Glad he couldn't smell her, either: her whorish aroma billowed up from her nether regions and the cloth seat of her chair would need replacing before she could ever let anyone else sit in it again.
What the hell was she going to do? The submission deadline for the story was in two days, but it was the weekend and she couldn't possibly get half-naked photos mailed to him in time... not that she had even considered doing such a thing. Not even for a sweaty, cunt-spasming moment!
And Victoria's Secret was closed now, anyway, leaving only tomorrow to acquire a digital camera, garter-belt, and stockings and finish the story. Fuck. She needed a plan B.
The urgency of her need for a good, hard edit provided a solution, but it was only after another orgasm had cleared her head that she was able to take care of the implementation details.
* * *
She violated the story over and over. Hundreds of times she twisted it, turning once- perfect sentences into a messy, stinking mass of incoherence. Taking words and breaking them with typographical errors, boring holes in the grammar worthy of a fifth-grader or a gaming console message board. She made sure she repeated the same word lots of sentences in a row.
She knew he would not be able to resist reading it, and she wanted to make it hurt for him to look at but fail to touch.
Emma was a lieberrian whom worked on the lieberry's websight. Websight mangement was really a cakewalk, really, but from time to time she had to do a spot of real work, and at those times it wasn't a cakewalk.
It was bad. So bad she could barely resist fixing it herself-- and she'd had enough self-editing in the last few days to be bored with it. She needed someone else present-- someone who would edit brutally, ruthlessly. With fervor.
The key was to get his attention... to show him he needed her just as much as she needed him. His editing. Oh, hell, him! Denial wasn't getting her anywhere, for God's sake.
She wrapped the story up into a wad of gibberish and posted it under her byline on the SBL board, with a special dedication: "Theodoric, baby... this one's for you!"
The responses back from the board regulars varied from "WTF?" (from folks who did not get the joke) to "You go, girl!" and "ROTFL!" from those who did. But their response was immaterial to her: the only response she cared about was the one she could draw from him.
It was around five in the evening when she posted the awful travesty, and she waited patiently, not responding to any of the SBL commentary, until a quarter to one Monday morning, refreshing the screen every five minutes or so while in another window she paged through some of the other editing threads on the board with arousal and voyeuristic elan.
When she saw a Theodoric message pop up with three lines in it, she nearly collapsed in despair, her libido dragged below sea level with chains of disappointment.
It wasn't until she read it...
This is slightly worse than the earlier version posted, so I am reverting back to that one in hopes of helping you out more. Check my website for the complete edit.
...that she knew she had won.
* * *
Ted "Theodoric" Szmerkofsky did not live in his parents' basement, exactly. Technically he lived upstairs in the same bedroom he'd occupied since the sixth grade, when his older brother had left for college and bequeathed him a room unburdened by older sisters.
He did, however, spend the majority of his time in the basement, which is where his system was set up. He oscillated between web-surfing, posting to message boards, and playing first person shooters, but mostly he viewed pornography. Very little of his time was truly spent on proofreading the work of authors he liked; if Ted had a gift it was a mild synesthesia which made minor textual or contextual discrepancies leap out at him as if they were printed in bright orange ink. It was distracting in most cases, but it had proven useful in the recent past. Mostly.
"You've got mail!"
Despite stereotypes, Ted was not overweight. In fact, his scrawny ass could stand to put on a few pounds. He climbed the staircase two steps at a time and grabbed a fistful of blueberries from the bowl on the kitchen table before making his way to the foyer table. The mail typically piled up there until his father grabbed the bills, his mother the catalogs, and Ted the "other". The package was oblong and soft, and from... Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Who the hell was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? He tore open the package and peeked inside. His jaw dropped for a moment, then the better part of valor asserted itself and he crumpled the package under his arm and slipped back down to his sanctum sanctorum.
Ted slid into the beaten-up-to-the-point-of-comfort old chair, and dumped the package into his lap. Atop the minor stack was the latest issue of Women's Literary Fiction Monthly, a Post-it marking the page of a short story by Valerie Chandra entitled, "Wrong As Rain". The text looked decidedly familiar, and he chuckled. There was no bright orange anywhere.
His reaction to the second item was less humorous: a large Ziploc bag containing something filmy and lacy. It was evident from the third item-- a paper bag containing five glossy 8x10s-- that the lacy somethings were intended to be the same panties and stockings worn in the photos. It was further evident from the scent wafting out of the opened Ziploc that the activities portrayed in the photos were not simulated: the removed articles of clothing had actually been rubbed in the cunt of the aroused and naked girl.
He wasn't about to question it too deeply, as the hard-on in his pants and the grin on his face attested, but how the hell had she gotten his home address?
The answer didn't come to him until after he'd masturbated his tensions into the toilet of the basement bathroom while looking at the photos and inhaling the aroma within the bag. Which-- unsurprisingly, when you thought about it-- didn't take very long. When the haze from his brain had cleared and the Ziploc had been resealed to preserve freshness, he swore softly to himself and checked out his domain name setup. Huh.
Damn. He was usually more careful than that, but he'd forgotten to change the account settings and registrant name to point at a different address than his own. Oops. He'd rectify that later today, but in the meantime...
He still couldn't quite believe it had worked, but the "How to Enslave Friends and Hypnotize People" book he'd ordered as a joke had been adaptable into something which would run on a website. Who would have thought that a P.O. Box wedged in between X-ray Specs and fake doggie-doo could be legit? The comic book had been from the 70s, too; Ted supposed the fact that it was still a valid address thirty years later should have told him something.
He'd never been sure throughout the whole debacle that Valerie had been serious; surely, he'd pushed the envelope enough to see if she would cry "uncle", and she never had. But there had been alternative explanations for her eventual compliance. After all, his editing was very good.
He glanced at the empty envelope lying on his keyboard and shook his head. It wasn't that good.
No, he'd have to go for the crazier explanation. He wondered how far he could take this, and the ideas he came up with had him back in the bathroom again, Ziploc aromatic and photos arrayed across the back of the commode.
He didn't spend too much time on self-gratification, though. He wanted to get back to SBL.
There was lots of editing to do.