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have skipped town or his inner circle. Five readers, five dropouts from his life.
     He tells me that his friend Michelle was at a school for publishing, that she wanted to be a book editor, that she offered to look the novel over as practice in exchange for drum lessons. Shortly after delivering her a smartly bound copy of the manuscript he had special-made for her along with a specially purchased red pen, not even enough time for more than a few chapters, she stopped arriving in his basement on Tuesdays at three, her phone number stopped working without report, she disappeared from class. She never returned the manuscript, her thoughts on it, or the pen.
     He fell in love with an English major, a "writer" herself. Mad with passion and poetry, they exchanged books. Hers, a blip only of novella length, was read in an afternoon, reported on over dinner. His, a full novel, a solid hundred and five thousand words, needed more

time for full analysis, time it would never receive. She gave her novella and her love to a rival by chapter 7, and he wondered if Michelle had also been on chapter 7, thinking it a shame, because the exposition and back-story had barely faded at that point, that the plot didn't really pick up until chapter 9.
     He tells me that his roommate's mother was a professional novelist, that they'd met and gotten along and that he wanted her to be his mentor, but that he didn't want to give her his novel until it was at least readable enough for people to reach chapter 8, or she wouldn't really be interested in helping him. So he gave it to her daughter, his roommate. And she promptly moved out amid a swarm of the type of meritless allegations roommates always make about one another upon exit. He didn't know what chapter she was on, only that she didn't pay the electric bill when she left.