Sadly, when I look around America today, I see a lack of romantic spirit. Men and women are no longer filled with wonder for the ethereal forces that drive them together. They're not looking up, starry-eyed, at the shimmering night sky. They're not dreaming of the dawn. They're not talking about love! But once my short fiction starts getting published, that should all change.

Do you doubt the power of love? If only you could read my work. I recently wrote a semi-autobiographical piece about a torrid love affair which occurred some four years ago at choral camp, wherein my heart was opened to the wonders of love and then cruelly quashed at summer's end. You surely would have been moved.

I recently decided to share a piece of my short fiction, a work titled Stopwatch,with Anna, a young woman I know from The Writer's Nook. It's about a man named Etal who watches a dog playing in the street while he eats his morning breakfast. Finally, Etal brings a ham-on-croissant out to the dog, but the dog turns and runs away.

Anna said she didn't really understand the story, because nothing seemed to happen. She didn't even notice the anagram! This is what I struggle with daily—minds that have been welded firmly shut, leaving romance and intrigue out in the cold.

When Anna sees my work reprinted in Granta, America's leading short-fiction quarterly, she will reconsider her opinion. I've gone through Writer's Market and submitted tales of love and anguish to over 150 different publications, including my favorites, Ploughshares and Glimmer Train, with no reply as of yet. I was ecstatic to get a letter from Story yesterday, but upon opening it, I found it to be an offer for 30 percent off a year's subscription.

I haven't actually had work published yet—except for a pamphlet on Hepatitis B I once did for the Campus Health Service—but it won't be long before an editor catches wind of how fresh, new and different my work is. Then, all of America will be losing themselves in the rhapsodic prose of Michael LaFleur. Then, once again, America will look at the world and see beauty beneath the thick, impermeable coat of the dust of discontent.

Until I can earn a living doing short fiction full-time, I'll still have to keep my job at Books-A-Lot. All of my free time, though, I spend with pen in hand, formulating in my mind that crucial opening paragraph. Again and again, I must tell my roommates to keep their game of Pictionary a little quieter, because I am busy creating the next Great American Novella.

I like to carry my special writing notebook wherever I go, in case I am suddenly hit with the ending for one of the many tales that are percolating in my head. Sometimes, when I'm in line at the convenience store, I am struck by the particular way the cashier is holding her head, and I am compelled to get out my notebook and capture it. I notice these little things.

When I'm at Shakespeare's Espresso, I spread my notebook, my Powerbook and my velveteen-covered dream journal across the table and spend hours laboring at my art. All the employees know how driven I am. Sometimes they worry for my welfare and suggest that I stop for the night and go home, as I'm usually there right up until closing time, slaving away. But that's the kind of dedication it takes.

Everyone at last summer's Concordia College Young Writer's Workshop was very encouraging, praising my ability to come up with countless metaphors for crying. They know talent when they see it. You can bet on this: Once America finally gets the chance to read my short fiction, Michael LaFleur will be as big a household name as Ethan Canin or Lorrie Moore!