B16: ADULT UPMARKET CONTEMPORARY: YEAR OF THE LETTERS
Title: Year of the Letters
Age Category: Adult
Genre: Upmarket Contemporary
Word Count: 82,000
Pitch: After his estranged son is killed in Afghanistan, a father discovers a notebook of secret letters his son, when 11 years old, wrote to his dead grandmother during the year that changed everything.
First 250 Word of Manuscript:
Working around dead people left a smell. Knowing the chow line would be long, twenty-one-year-old Jake Gatlin, a corporal in a Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs unit in Afghanistan, stayed behind to let the line shorten.
He lay still as a bird dog on point. His eyes were open, but he couldn’t see a thing. He had taken off his boots and socks, because he wanted to feel the smoothness of the plastic under his heels and on the tops of his toes. As the plastic settled over his body, its heaviness was comforting, like the thick wool blanket his mama used to lay across him on cool nights when he pretended he was asleep. He felt its weight and coolness where it touched his naked forehead, nose, cheeks, heels and toes. Jake tried not to let his chest heave too much, so he took deep, slow breaths. But it didn’t matter. Each breath heaved his chest enough to crinkle-crackle the plastic, as if bone beetles scurried across the outside surface, searching for ingress.
Time stood nearly as still as he lay. No red dirt swirled up his nose. No fingers sweated inside blood covered gloves. No dog tags lay crumpled on the ground to be collected and cataloged. No tattered pockets hid “I love you,” notes from wives or wrinkled photographs of unseen babies to be smoothed and placed in plastic baggies. No leg-less, foot-filled boots had to be un-laced to remove the stump.