...torrents of rain guided my approach to David's mainstreet office. Doused within seconds of leaving the car, my shirt now clinging to my chest like a second skin, I thought, "This is Good Friday...really?"
My editor's office looms above a narrow staircase only a bookworm could appreciate. A steep incline reminiscent of its Victorian roots, alerting its upstairs occupant of an approaching guest with moans and echoing creaks, as if the weight of my shoe has rendered the ancient timbers unfathomable pain. I breathed a curse for not remaining loyal to my treadmill as promised, and continued on.
I was beckoned by David earlier in the day. A text message... "Stop by. Need to talk."
On other occasions, when having received such an invite, my evening becomes marred with the news of further delays on publication. "We should consider this..." or "We need to dwell on that for a while..." or some other form of maddening gibberish leading to another month of ruthless editing and the like. Therefore, the brooding cloud had followed me into David's office, no longer spitting upon my shoulder, but hovering like a spirit nonetheless.
I entered the office, more like a studio apartment, and studied a coagulating mess of paperwork randomly scattered about over his antique mahogany table. I'm sure at some point during its life, holiday gatherings had been shared upon its bruised top. Feasts of ham and turkey, festive drinks shared by loved ones sitting around the family heirloom. Now in its twilight years, the table hefted the weight of papers by the ream, manuscripts scribbled upon in red ink, a Mac desktop placed near the window at the far corner, and the top of David's scalp peeking out from above the monitor.
He knew I was standing there, and yet continued to type. Finishing up an important email, or what have you. I considered what was left of his silver hair dancing to the rise and fall of his shoulders, and figured that if Merlin would've been granted a computer while under Arthur's care, the scene would've no doubt looked similar.
I sat across from him, listening to his fingers pecking away, the rain pounding overhead. This was common. No gracious hello, or festive handshakes. Just a quiet entrance, not to disturb a mind rendered swollen from thought. And so I awaited my turn at the table. My reason for being there.
It took another minute or two before he noted my presence. The pecking stopped. He issued a belch under his breath. Then managed to say through a grunt, "This came for you today."
From behind his Mac, a book was tossed into the air. It hovered above the table for a moment, as if deciding whether its predetermined destination was really where it wanted to be just then, before landing with a dull thud in front of my place at the table.
I looked down, and stared at my cover. My title. My name. My story.
Memories of long hours spent hunched over my keyboard, scribing a tale worthy of being read, nipped at my conscience. Still more time battling exhaustive edit work. Years. Unending tribulations. A major re-write. Then another.
"You can touch it," David's gravely humor jerked me back from my state of shock. "It won't dissolve into dust."
I ran a forefinger over its glossy cover, breathed in the scent of fresh paper and lingering glue. That new book smell, urging its handler to turn the page and discover what lies inside.
With both hands, I opened it to a random page. Reading a paragraph, and recognizing the voice as my own.
"...I found Katie and my father sitting side by side on the sofa, dressed for church. Dad was wearing the same navy-blue polyester pants and white button down shirt that he'd worn the week prior. Katie was absently picking at a runner in her tights, which started just above her knee and disappeared under the hem of her blue floral dress..."
"I held onto the receipt in case you weren't interested," David kidded.
I looked up, realizing he'd finally stopped typing. Had in fact, rolled his chair away from the monitor, casting me a playful grin. A mental image of the troll from under the bridge danced about in my head, urging a smirk.
"Is there just one?" I asked.
"I thought I'd better hang onto a few extras," he said. "You know, in case somebody out there actually wants to read the thing. But that one's for you. And a few more you'd like."
I nodded, still a bit numb, then asked, "So is it available?"
"Not for a couple of weeks yet. We have much to think about. Reviews. Posting it online. Luring the big fish in for a nibble. It'll be ready in May as promised."
"Who's getting copies?"
David cleared his throat, a sound reminiscent of sawing timber, then, "We'll stay mostly local to start. Then, if I hear back that it doesn't suck, we'll spread our wings a bit and go from there."
"Amazon?" I asked.
"In a couple weeks, give or take."
David snorted. "You haven't a prayer."
"Okay," I said. "Spielberg then."
"Take a breath, kid. Your heads beginning to swell."
We shared a laugh. Then he stood and offered his hand. I rose to my feet and accepted.
"So...you like it?" he asked.
"We're close now. So very close..."
I hefted the book, cradling it under an arm.
"Gonna read it again?" he asked.
"I've read it enough. This one's for my son. I promised him the first copy."
I glanced out the window. The rain had stopped, the sun struggling to make an appearance.
"Not so bad a day afterall, eh?"
"It's finishing up well," I said.
"South of Charm"-May 2011
Thanks for reading :)