REACH VERSUS GRASP
At this late date, I can only marvel at the deftness with which he set the hook.
I only glanced at the clock when the phone was ringing and couldn't believe how late it was, so when he answered I blurted "I hope I didn't wake you!"
He merely chuckled. "You've been working, haven't you?"
"Yes! All day. It feels like a river! How did you know?"
"Well it was all there, wasn't it? I mean, you yourself admitted you'd left all those signposts."
"And then ignored them totally."
"Well, probably you weren't ready yet. You've got to learn to trust your talent. It's going well?"
"Effortlessly. Sometimes I'll forget a name and just leave a blank to be filled in later, the pressure's so strong. I'll have a devil of a time getting all the niggling little details straight once I go back over it."
"That's the donkeywork. Leave it for an editor. In fact, once you've finished a first draft I could go over it for you if you'd like. It might save you some time."
"That would be wonderful. Thank you."
"Oh come now. I've edited a bit before, I'm good with details, punctuation, spelling, dates-times-names. Think nothing of it."
"You know what I meant."
"Well, if it's coming that fast, it must have been ready, right? That's all that really matters. Are you going to write all night?"
"No. I know what happens next, but this is a good place to quit. Besides, my shoulders are screaming! I'm going to reward myself with a huge slug of Johnny Walker Red, find some sort of food, and fall into bed."
"When you're done, bring it round to my flat. I reward work well done. Good night."
"Good night. And, thanks again."
I was exhausted, but I was ecstatic! And, as it turned out, someone forwarded a copy of a new magazine that came next day, and carried along on creative euphoria I loaded what I had and an incoherent cover letter into an envelope and flipped it into the mail as I renewed my whisky supply, and then forgot about it and got back to work.
It took longer than I'd expected. I'd expected to type without pause for three straight days and fall dead beside my keyboard, but it was over a week. There were two whole days when I couldn't go near it. I ruined my eyes with the Sunday TIMES crossword and ruined my posture with endless addictive spates of Windows Solitaire, stopped reading half a dozen books about page twelve or twenty-seven, loaded tons of popcorn and tacos and brie- smeared triscuits into myself nonstop, and then simply sat down, picked out the next sentence exactly where I had left off --- and then, suddenly, it had ended. Sated with sex and experimentation, my protagonist snuggled into sleep with the right woman safe in his arms at last, and I had done it.
I felt emptied, but not really tired. I poured myself a congratulatory drink, lasered it out, and sat down to read the whole thing, the old stuff and the new stuff, all the way through from the beginning for the very first time. And it was all there. Occasionally I'd fumble for a pen, or notice paragraphs needing sandpaper, but it was all there. The early encounters prefigured later confrontations, and day two reflected and resonated off day one in ways I hadn't really planned on, but ways that felt surprisingly inevitable. I read, uninterrupted, from shortly before noon on through most of the afternoon, almost as though I were reading someone else's newly published work. And then, just as I was pouring another congratulatory drink, the phone rang.
"I'm sorry," the strange voice began. "Were you napping?"
It was a woman's voice, saying she was editor of that magazine, saying CONSENTING ADULTS struck exactly the note they wanted to separate them from "The Magazines Men Like," asking how long the finished version might run, saying the whole thing probably needed a front end --- a chapter expanding on the getting-acquainted dinner party prefacing the main event, where characters could get introduced --- thinking it would make a perfect three-part serial, hoping I'd let their subsidiary press issue it as a paperback, wondering if there were any short-stories in a similar vein they might run, hoping I could come to the office to sign contracts within the week, and never once, though I'd never noticed, mentioning money.
My hand trembling, I put the phone down, and laughed hysterically for what felt like half an hour. And then I dialed Eliot.
"I finished it, Eliot," I said.
"...I not only finished it, I sold it!"
"What, you mean your first-draft?"
"Yes! Oh, she wants some re-writes, but that won't be a problem, and she wants my short-stories too! I've made it, Eliot! I'm an overnight success! And I owe it all to you!"
My enthusiastic glee rang into a long, silent pause.
"You really think you've finished with it, then?"
"Finished? Of course it's finished! Didn't you hear me? Someone wants to buy it, Eliot!"
"And just who is this mystery-woman?"
"I've forgotten her name. She's editor of NIGHTWING."
"I'm not familiar with it."
"No one is. It's a new men's magazine with pretensions of grandeur. She thinks I'll strike the keynote for what they're trying to do with the stroke-book scene."
"And that's quite enough for you, is it."
"Hell yes! She's going to pay me money! What else is there!"
"Well, you led me to believe you wanted to explore all the permutations. And you're satisfied you've done that?"
"I've explored all the permutations I know of. Yeah."
"Ah, well then! Listen, I didn't mean to rain on your parade. Really, enjoy your success. Congratulations. And do drop a copy of the finished product by. We should probably throw a party to celebrate. Matter of fact, there are some people I wanted you to meet. Celebrate, by all means celebrate, you certainly deserve it. And let me make some calls and invitations for a celebration of our own. Keep Saturday evening free, and I'll get back to you. I'll have to bake a cake!"