The Natural • The Assistant • The Magic Barrel • The Fixer
The Girl of My DreamsBernard Malamud
After Mitka had burned the manuscript of his heartbroken novel in the blackened bottom of Mrs. Lutz’s rusty trash can in her back yard, although the emotional landlady tried all sorts of bait and schemes to lure him forth, and he could tell as he lay abed, from the new sounds on the floor and her penetrating perfume, that there was an unattached female loose on the premises (wondrous possibility of yore), he resisted all and with a twist of the key had locked himself a prisoner in his room, only venturing out after midnight for crackers and tea and an occasional can of fruit; and this went on for too many weeks to count.
In the late fall, after a long year and a half of voyaging among more than twenty publishers, the novel had returned to stay and he had hurled it into a barrel burning autumn leaves, stirring the mess with a long length of pipe, to get the inner sheets afire. Overhead a few dead apples hung like forgotten Christmas ornaments upon the leafless tree. The sparks, as he stirred, flew to the apples, the withered fruit representing not only creation gone for nothing (three long years), but all his hopes, and the proud ideas he had given his book; and Mitka, although not a sentimentalist, felt as if he had burned (it took a thick two hours) an everlasting hollow in himself.