Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fried Potatoes With Ketchup

I’m not sure this is such a good idea. 
I told my publisher that I was tired of writing about the fighting I do with my wife, and that I feared asking my readers to go with me into these unpleasant matrimonial circumstances week after week. 
No matter how funny they were. 
You know me, my readers come first!
“Haven’t I already gone over that stuff?” I whined. “I’ve had enough!”
I may have mentioned that I often end up whining when I meet my publisher.
I was in my publisher’s corner office on the sixty-second floor overlooking the park, sitting in one of the oversized leather chairs reserved for guests. “After all,” I said, giving her the same excuse I just gave you, “My readers come first.” 
She wasn’t falling for it either. 
My publisher looked back at me from across her opulent desk with a patient smile, as if I were a pet dog who had just amusingly crapped on the front lawn. The perfectly manicured front lawn, I should add, knowing my publisher.
“You know how writing about my marriage upsets me,” I added. I squirmed in the chair and put a look of earnest piety upon my face (much easier to do on paper than in real life, believe me) and said, with all the conviction I could muster, “I needed three Bloody Marys just to sit down and face the keyboard this morning.”
If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs so far, then you can imagine what she said to that! If you haven’t been keeping up, or, even worse, you have no imagination, then I’ll tell what she said to that.
“You ungrateful little bastard,” was what she said to that. She laughed as she said it, too. 
She wore a perfectly fitted, dark gray business suit over a simple cream-colored silk blouse. Her blonde hair was pulled back and coiled into a tight bun. Not a hair was out of place. Her makeup and nails were flawless. 
There was not one speck of dust in her office, either. Never was.
Nothing was ever out of place in her office.
Except me. I always felt out of place in her office. 
“It was me,” she said, “who first gave you a chance, remember? You were nothing. Unpublished. Unwanted. Unwashed. You were less than nothing really. You were all like, ‘Please, please, please! I want to be a great writer!’ Remember? What a load of crap!”
She laughed again, with more heartiness this time. My publisher has a charming, musical laugh that gaily fills the air, yet somehow at the same time stabs at my artist’s heart.
“Actually,” I replied. “That was your predecessor. It was him who gave me my first shot at the big time. He died right here in this building. Just keeled over during his coffee break! That was just after you started here.”
“Big time!” she snorted derisively. “Your books only sell because we put a huge international marketing campaign behind them. Yes, the Company spends billions shoveling your unique brand of shit. And we expect to make a solid profit, don’t forget that.”
I squirmed in my seat and made a mental note not to forget. Billions shoveling shit. Got it. 
She hates it when I forget.
“You see,” she said, as if speaking to a child, “people will buy anything if you wrap it up beautifully and sell it ever so carefully.” She smiled and added, “As long as they don’t have to get their fat asses off the couch.”
She is one of the city’s most successful publishers, so I suppose I’m lucky to be working with her, but sometimes I have my doubts. She often told me I was her favorite author, but she probably told all of her authors the same thing. 
Without a doubt, though, she liked to lecture me, and she enjoyed it whenever she got the chance. She did it all the time, lectured me, as she saw it the ignorant, naive artist, about the cold, hard facts of the big, nasty world.
The world she had on a string tied to her finger.
“Remember sweetie,” she cooed, “you’d be nothing without me. You’d be back living in your broken down Buick, a burned-out bum hustling in cheap porno flicks for a greasy burger and a dime-bag. Or pressure-washing the turds from sleazy motel swimming pools in Central Florida at twenty-five bucks a throw.”
“How’d you know about that?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“We know everything,” she answered breezily. “About everybody. And what we don’t know, we invent. Remember, the Company hates to lose.”
“Why would the Company hate Toulouse?” I asked, attempting a little levity and wishing I could trade my coffee for a Bloody Mary. The coffee tasted odd today. 
“Don’t you think it’s a little late for you to pretend you didn’t know that?” she said. 
“What? That the Company hates Toulouse? This is the first I’ve heard of it! Has anybody informed Toulouse?”
“Please don’t try that corny hash on me,” she replied,  and unbidden to my mind came a vision of her completely naked, smothered in corned beef hash, with some fried potatoes covered in ketchup on the side. I saw in this vision a banquet table topped with silver racks filled with golden buttered toast. Platters heaped with exotic French pastries, bowls of fresh fruit from the Tropics. Pancakes and waffles stood piled high and dripping with maple syrup. There was coffee and tea and orange juice and champagne on the table, too.
Oh, why hadn’t I eaten breakfast at the hotel, I chided myself, instead of downing those four extra-spicy Bloody Marys?
She leaned back in her swanky leather chair and brought her fingertips slowly together in front of her chin. She stared at me for a moment. 
She is very beautiful, my publisher, in a perfect, cold, sanitized kind of way. Myself, I find it eerie, rather than attractive. Like she’d just stepped out of a Vogue photo shoot or a movie set and was more Hollywood special effects than a real person. Not that I mind Hollywood special effects or beautiful women, certainly not, but she was just too perfect, in my opinion, to be completely, convincingly real, and without realness what have you got? 
Perhaps, with me, attraction is a matter of temperature as well, for she is a cool one, my publisher. 
Of course, the vision of her naked and covered in breakfast was triggered by hunger pains and my writer’s imagination exceeding the speed limit, nothing more. 
It happens all the time to us writers. 
You’d be surprised by who I’ve imagined naked and covered in food.
My publisher looked at me a minute longer with her perfect blue-gray eyes, which were slightly out of focus as if lost in thought. She seemed to make up her mind about something. Then she allowed herself to display a very self-satisfied Cheshire cat kind of smile.
“Have some more coffee,” she urged sweetly, “it’s fresh from the cafeteria.”

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