“Everybody loves romance on a tropical beach under swaying palm trees, don't they?”
It was my publisher on the phone.
“You like to travel,” she added. “You were in Hawaii for a month last year, remember?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “I like Hawaii. Who doesn’t?”
“Exactly!” said my publisher. “Travel! Get it?”
She calls every week reminding me if I’m working to work harder and if I’m not working to get started. Then she reminds me that writing for her is the luckiest break I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Which is true to some extent. She’s a terrific publisher. Half my age but twice as smart.
“Huh?” I said.
(Which ain’t so hard to do, sometimes, be smarter than me.)
“Travel’d be perfect for you!” she went on. “Maybe that’s a subject your readers will enjoy… instead of your usual stuff about the animation business and how many cartoon rabbits you drew way back before computers were invented.”
“Okay,” I answered, winching in silent pain at her accurate remarks. “Maybe a change will do me some good.”
“Right!” she agreed. “And would it kill you to work-in a little product placement this time? Travel offers us a chance to finally monetize this thing! Just think! Airlines, hotels, restaurants, automobiles. Vodka brands!”
I perked up.
“C’mon Rusty!” she said. “Vodka! Can’t you see the potential?!”
She’s very persuasive, my publisher. That’s probably one of the reasons she’s so successful.
That, and her great white shark approach to life. With her as the shark, of course. I knew that whatever resistance I managed to put up today, I would be writing a travel blog tomorrow.
And trying to work-in something about General Motors or Apple Computers or Rolex wristwatches without looking like I’d sold out.
Because goddammit Bob Dylan! You wrote Mr. Tambourine Man, man! You gave us Blowin' in the Wind, and Foot of Pride and Mississippi and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. And a hundred others, you magnificent bastard! But you broke my heart in 2013 during Super Bowl halftime when you tried to sell me a stinking motorcar!
“You’re a writer, aren’t you?” my publisher reminded me.
“Yeah,” I answered.
It was that easy, according to her. You just sat down and wrote it.
Just like Bob sat down and wrote Mr. Tambourine Man, I suppose.
“Try it, will ya?” she pleaded. “Travel. For me? Just one.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll try.”
“Good! And don’t forget a Ferrari or something! Something cute!”
“Right. Sure. Bye!”
“In Paris maybe,” she added. “Or Bangkok. You know, somewhere nice.”
“Yeah. Well. We’ll see.”
“In a ritzy hotel! With a casino and a spa and a big pool and …”
“Okay. Will do. Bye!”
“And for god’s sake, no swear words this time. Please?”
“You’re fucking kidding, right?”
“Travel is a family thing, Rusty. C’mon.”
“How about if I travel to some fantastic brothel in the fucking Arabian Casbah and report on the fellatio, anal, and ménage à trois technique of the local harlots?” I answered. “Would that be family friendly enough for you?”
“Please Rusty!” she said. “No fellatio!”
“Women, men, AND camels!” I added for good measure.
“Not again!” she exclaimed. “Please!”
“Well. Okay then,” I said, being agreeable in my magnanimity. “As long as we’ve got that straight.”
“Yeah, okay,” she said. “No camels, please! Thanks.”
I laughed to myself to hear the relief in her voice.
(I was relieved too, for on a personal level camels are beasts of things.)
“Talk to you Tuesday,” said my publisher. “Please work on the travel thing. And Rusty, no brothels. Okay?”
“Okay. No brothels. Cross my heart.”
She couldn’t see me not crossing my heart, so what did it matter?
“Well,” I said. “Talk to you later. I’ll send in my expenses. Bye!”
“Yeah. Great. Shouldn’t be much. Ferrari or two. Gotta go. Bye!”
“Your expenses? We don’t pay …”
“Got a plane to catch!” I interrupted. “First class all the way! I’ll call you from the Ritz! Bye!”
“Hey! Rusty! You can’t …”
I hung up and started looking for my passport.