Let Them Learn the Hard Way

By Ronald Larsen

Shortly after they walked in to the meeting of our spiritual development group, Sandra announced, “Harry submitted a poem about angels to Today’s Spirituality magazine. He just received a letter saying they don’t want to publish it, but they asked him to keep submitting. Isn’t that great?”

“That’s a standard form letter,” I blurted out. “Most magazines get a lot of stuff they can’t use and send that type of rejection slip out. It’s polite.”

“Well, thanks for throwing cold water on Harry’s writing efforts!”

“Isn’t it better to know the truth?”

Neither she nor Harry said anything to me then or the rest of the evening, so I guess reality wasn’t what they were looking for.  I wondered what to do if the situation happened again.

A couple of years and a new town later, Sally, the next-door neighbor, proudly showed my wife a children’s book she had written entitled, “The Little Boy and the Garden Slug.”

She didn’t ask for my opinion, but I took a peek at the first few pages. It was dreadful. Thin concept, all telling, no showing, poor punctuation, no discernible plot. The little boy did this, the little boy did that, then he did something else…

Wiser now, I said nothing.

A week later, Sally came over for coffee and announced, “My book is going to be published!”

“Yeah?” I said.

“Yes, I saw an ad that a representative from Publisher’s Subsidy will be in town this week and I scheduled an appointment with him tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, oh!” I said to myself. But I bit my tongue.

The following afternoon, Sally sat sobbing at our kitchen table. “They want to publish my book, but they want me to pay for it!”

“Gee, that’s tough,” I said. Then under my breath added, “Sometimes you’ve just got to let them learn the hard way.”


Ronald Larsen is a retired electrical engineer who went over to the dark side (Marketing) and spent 50+ years writing technical literature in the computer and automation industries. His work has been published in Bewildering Stories,  Every Day Fiction, Fewerthan500, Flash Fiction Magazine, Metaphorosis, and numerous engineering magazines.


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