IT had come - unheralded and humble - on recycled paper through the half-forgotten fax machine.
Barbara stood in the middle of the office, holding IT in her hands, looking at me with her eyes bugging out and saying quietly, "We just got a letter from Dolly Parton."
Time stopped. The world stood still. If Barbara had said, "We just got a live bomb," my brain and body would have reacted exactly the same way.
I couldn't move. I just stared at her. She stared back at me. Neither of us blinked. The pit of my stomach got cold, and the saliva that had been in my mouth drained straight down into my knees. I was instantly aching to know what that letter in her hands said and just as instantly I didn't want to know. I suddenly wanted to stay a little longer in the state of being unanswered, of being blissfully ignorant, where all possibility still existed.
Because as long as Dolly hadn't yet said no, she could still say yes....
If it WAS no, though - my entire jig would be up. Right there. Right that second. There would be nothing left to do but pack up my computer, say thanks to Barbara and go home. There would be no re-writing this particular story. There would be no re-naming it, "The Year Tina Turner Was My Mom". It was Dolly Parton or it was nothing.
"I'll read it," Barbara said. That got me moving. In a flash I was out of my chair, across the room and snatching the letter out of her hands. Call it some weird sort of maternal instinct but it was my baby - I needed to be the first one to see it. I had to love it and accept it as mine, no matter what it looked like.
It looked fat.
When I saw that the whole page was crammed with words, my heart started to sink like a stone. Everything I've learned and heard about Dolly Parton has led me to believe that she is a truly generous and compassionate soul. So when I saw all that writing, I was dead sure she had gone out of her way to be kind - to let me down easy.
My eyes stung. My hands shook. I forced myself to read:
Well, I spent the weekend reading your wonderful script, -
SHE spent the WEEKEND reading my WONDERFUL script...?! I couldn't breathe. Dolly Parton had actually brought my script on tour and spent her weekend reading it? And thought it was wonderful?!
"And?! Andandandand???" Barbara was losing her mind.
Still fearing a big bad "but", I almost stopped reading right there. Almost.
...Needless to say, I was and am very flattered that you would choose me as your subject for a movie. I think it is written really well and I could see where it could make for a fine and meaningful film....
So far, so unbelievably good.... Then, it came:
... I would be proud to allow you to use my name, likeness and music...
I read those words again. And again. Then I skimmed the rest of the letter, checking even the very sweet "P.S." she'd written me at the bottom. Apart from an entirely reasonable request for approval of her images and an eye to respecting the causes she supports, Dolly Parton did not write any "buts" whatsoever...!
In fact, she said that she would be proud to be part of the project in every single way I had requested - and more.
It was then that my face started leaking pure joy - for about two days straight actually. In fact, I spent the next week or so after that just feeling goofy with gratitude and goodwill toward all humankind. Most especially towards Dolly Parton. But also towards the mysterious Miss X who was instrumental in ensuring my proposal was seen and carefully considered by Ms. Parton in the first place. I am very grateful for all she did and continues to do.
So, if I thought Dolly Parton was something special before all of this, I am now quite simply overflowing with admiration and respect for her and the people with whom she surrounds herself.
And so the time had come to do us ALL justice and get this baby made! After the twists and turns and time I had travelled, there was exactly 13 days left before the funding applications had to be submitted. But hey, I now held the most important and wondrous piece of the puzzle in my hand - a big fat Yes! from Dolly Parton herself.
What could possibly stop me now?