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Nit Copyright Š 2013 by Charles Brass All rights reserved. No part of this story (eBook) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidences are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Edited by Terry Wright Cover Art by Terry Wright ISBN 978-1-936991-53-2


By Charles Brass Unable to sleep, Gina rolled over in her bed, rousting Marshall, her cat, from the pillows next to hers. He meowed and stretched. His big paws dug into the rumpled sheets and comforter, his tail flapping about. The twenty-pound cat with white and orange fur was totally oblivious to the problem that robbed Gina of her sleep. The contest. The contest she had to win. She sat on the edge of the bed, her head spinning with an ache that wouldn’t go away. At least her room was hot enough to chase back the chills, though she didn’t remember turning up the heater. She focused bleary eyes on the dim glow from her computer monitor on her desk and wondered if any reviews had come in. Her story had to be perfect for the contest. Back to work, Gina. She got up and stumbled toward the light switch by the door, her bare feet trudging through dirty clothes scattered across the floor. On the


way, she kicked a discarded pizza box that collided with empty Mountain Dew cans she’d tossed into a pile. The sudden clinking and clatter got a growl out of her cat. “Oh, Marshall, you goof.” Turning on the light, she squashed her eyelids together until the brightness subsided. Her headache thumped closer to the back of her eyeballs. Squinting, she looked at the sprawl of empty Chinese food containers, crumpled sandwich wrappers, and pizza boxes. If not for online ordering and delivery service to her door, she would have starved... since her sister Abby moved out to go live with her fucking boyfriend. The pain of abandonment settled in her stomach like sludge in a sewer. Wiping sweat from her chin, she slumped into her desk chair and brought her computer from hibernation. She opened her web browser and navigated to the writers’ critique site she frequented. Someone should have looked at my story by now. Yes! A review from hasty_words started out as usual, hailing Gina by her screen name: Hey there, my_26_bitches! I read through your story and WOW! If this doesn’t win the contest, I will be totally shocked! You’re such an awesome writer, I can’t believe you haven’t won any awards yet. This time, though, I just KNOW you’ll take the prize, LOL!


Gina stopped reading and frowned. Normally she enjoyed hasty_words’ reviews—about the only reviewer who could drop a halfway decent critique without insulting her. But the way this one opened just rankled her to the bone. Reminded her of all those semifinalist finishes she’d suffered through. Yeah. Thanks for the slap in the face, hasty_words. Again. All those great-story-but-not-quite-what-we’re-looking-for finishes. She’d put her strongest efforts into those stories. She’d read the winners, and they were no better than hers. Time after time, though, always just-not-quite-good-enough. A semifinalist. Right. The first group of losers. May as well call me a semifuckyoulist. The way this story came out, though, pleased her from the start. She’d decided to write and submit way too late—like three nights before the deadline late—then messed up reading the story parameters, got the whole premise wrong. On first glance, all she’d seen was “a body of water” and thought it odd, but oh well. She’d even paid early, before submitting, to hold her place on the contest roster. So over the past day—well, it felt like a full day; was it a full day? She’d nodded off toward the end, so she wasn’t sure—she’d sat and hammered out a story about a young woman with a literal body made of water, a mermaid who’d left her ocean home, wandered about the land seeing the forbidden sights. A mermaid who’d ended up stranded in a desert after a plane crash, stuck with two male survivors, a town maybe


a few days’ walk away, the two men hoping what little water they had would last the trip. Then halfway along, their water gone, they realize she hasn’t touched a drop. They discover she’s made of water and start sipping from her to survive. With each sip, a little bit of her is lost... Different. Interesting. A story of survival and sacrifice. How much would the mermaid give of herself to keep two strangers alive before she feared for her own life and stopped giving? Except that wasn’t what the contest wanted at all. Body of water had meant a pond, a lake, a sea, an ocean. Not a literal body of water. She’d paid her entry fee—Sorry, no refunds. She’d queried the contest sponsors, what should I do? Well, send it in, they’d said. We’ll give it fair consideration. Which meant, if it was any good, it would probably be added to her string of semifuckyoulist heartbreakers. But this one’s really good. She spun her wireless mouse on her desk. Sure, I screwed up. But the story... It’s one of my best. Her scalp dripped sweat. With both hands, she smoothed her short blonde hair back, which plastered it to both sides of her head. She took a deep breath, pushed her irritation aside, and continued reading hasty_words’ review. ...the writing is really sharp, like every word fits perfect! Didn’t she (or he—hasty_words could be a dude) say that before? Like, a review or two ago?


... really felt the pain in the main character’s decision... Girard is so real, and like, Marcel is totally there... Then, in the second-to-last paragraph, hasty_words wrote: I got so caught up in the story, I stopped checking for errors about a quarter way in! Sorry! I thought I saw a nit near the middle. I read back but didn’t see anything. Maybe it got away! LOL! But I’m sure I saw something missing. Gina’s fingers tightened on the mouse. She clenched her jaw. “What?” She leaned toward her monitor. “You thought you saw a nit?” Sweat beaded on her forehead and trickled down her cheeks. She felt it collecting in the small of her back. Her tongue felt sticky. “Why do I post my stories here, you idiot? So you can think you saw a nit?” She re-read the last paragraph. And read it again. Her teeth ground together. She lifted the mouse and squeezed it. “God dammit,” she screeched. “The deadline is...” Well, maybe two days away now. I don’t have time to go back and look for a nit. “That’s why I posted it, for your fresh eyes...” She tapped the mouse hard against the desktop, fighting the urge to throw it. Trouble with wireless mouses, they were easy to throw. Especially these small ones she liked, the ones that fit snug in the palm of her hand. Good thing they didn’t cost much. She felt the urge to throw the mouse growing, beginning in her


back, building in her shoulder, going down her arm, and tightening at her wrist. While throwing it would certainly shatter the mouse, doing it wouldn’t make her feel any better, not really, and then she’d be forced to wrestle with the plastic packaging of a new mouse. Still, she didn’t feel inclined to stop the urge, though she could get control of it, if she... did something. Did what? An image of a small white pill and a glass of water flashed in her thoughts. No—it’s a yellow pill. No, white. No... yellow. Her pills. What color were her pills? She tried to remember. Then she glanced at the mouse she held tight in her hand, wishing she had the strength to crush it. Screw the pills! She focused back on her monitor. “What the fuck do you mean you thought you saw a nit?” she shouted at the screen. No point in trying to find it in the manuscript—if there even was one. Her nits very seldom involved typos, or using their instead of they’re, or its when it should have been it’s. Those she saw on the fly. Her brain might pick it out ten or twelve or even fifty words later, after she’d typed it, the way her fingers flew over the keyboard sometimes. But she saw them and went right back to fix them. Other bone-ups, like using the word was too many damn times, or typing form when she meant from—those she found and fixed as she typed, as well, or on an edit read the next day. Those stood out. What she had the most trouble with, what drove her nuts, were the


nits that involved a missing word. It was hardest to find a word that wasn’t there. And her mind was usually so into her prose, her brain saw the missing word as if it sat right where it belonged. And worse, the missing word was often just two letters: to, am, be. Damn near impossible to see, especially when her brain knew how the text was supposed to read. Her writing came out so smoothly, she couldn’t help but feel the endorphin rush as she read through the manuscript, not looking for what wasn’t there. She considered the twenty-six letters of the alphabet to be her bitches. But now and then, two of them got together and raised a middle finger at her. And until someone with fresh eyes pointed out they weren’t there, she never even noticed. Embarrassing. She tapped her knuckles on the desk and clenched her jaw. Heat built in her shoulder. Her fingers tightened around the mouse. She could hear its final seconds ticking down, in tandem with the pounding of her pulse. Thud... Thud... THUD... ... I thought I saw a nit near the middle... Probably the worst thing hasty_words could have put in a review. She’d already messed up the subject matter, got the body of water wrong. Now this. She unclenched her jaw to gasp. I’ve already taken one big fucking strike. So this has to be perfect. Has to be nit-fucking-free. And you think you saw a nit in the middle somewhere?


“Fuck you!” she shouted at the monitor. Spittle dotted the screen. She jumped to her feet, her chair kicking back and thumping over, and in one smooth motion turned and hurled the wireless mouse against her bedroom wall. The mouse exploded. Marshall dove from the bed and scampered out the door. ***

To purchase your copy of “Nit” go to where you’ll find the links to your favorite online booksellers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author

Charles Brass works as a CT/MRI technologist at the local hospital and at a new 24-hour emergency clinic in a small town south of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. During his six years of active duty in the United States Navy, he served five months in Bahrain during the first Gulf War. Now, with a BS in Animation under his belt, he’s working on a patient education video business during the day and CT and MRI scans on sick and injured people at night. Still, he finds enough spare time to write. Charles first began writing twenty years ago, just to get some of his many story ideas on paper. Over the years he has honed his craft and developed a passion for telling tales about characters whose lives are turned upside-down, and how they struggle to overcome their sudden and sometimes overwhelming misfortunes. Now with three books published and a fourth on the way, Charles now looks forward to entertaining readers with his first short story publication titled ‘Nit.’ For more information, visit his blog at Like him on Facebook, and he can be reached via email at


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A little word is missing somewhere in Gina’s manuscript, a nit two reviewers thought they noticed but couldn’t find when they read it over a...

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