An excerpt from Galley Proof.
"A Room of One’s Own"
I was clearly caught in a cliché.
Everyone has seen those films – usually a sex comedy about high school or college – in which an alluring character is introduced to the plot with the use of soft lighting, swoony music, and, depending on the level of writing, induced drooling from the other characters in the film. Said character enters the library or cafeteria and the music hits its stride. Every other character, but most notably the main character, is dumbfounded – nay, lobotomized – by the sheer sensuality and god-like nature of that which has just walked in. Life, we are led to believe, was nothing before this divine event. Yet what we aren’t privy to as viewers of this type of film – not at the outset anyway – is what trouble will follow in this beauty’s wake. And there must be trouble, for without it there is no story. No life. No box-office. What boisterous, if unbelievable, shenanigans will the hero have to go through to get the guy or girl of his or her dreams? And will it be worth it? That’s what makes or breaks films like this: worth. For if it is worth it, if after all the embarrassing smackdowns, the disgusting flatulent jokes, and the strained one-liners, if in the end we really do care about these somewhat contrived and clichéd characters, then we can forgive any plot hole. We, every one of us, are only looking for a good time, after all. Nobody expects a rom-com to change their life.
And, now that introductions are out of the way, so starts my tale.
To put it plainly, I was pigging out. My new editor had yet to arrive and I had already ordered half the menu and was on my second
Long Island iced tea. I’m a pretty man – clean-cut brown hair, a face that has been described as “open”, and a body that knows its way around a gym – but I don’t know how pretty I was looking just then. Though, in my defense, all thirteen dishes on the table were in nice rows, perfectly laid out. I was a stickler for order and conformity.
Normally when meeting with an editor I would arrive early to look over my notes for my new project. But my notes had been destroyed. By me. In a fit of anger and self-ridicule. All that was left was a single piece of paper which now lay on the table, a small dab of shrimp cocktail sauce on the right corner. Who cares.
It was for precisely this reason, I suppose, my publisher at Hillside Books decided to send me a new editor. They could tell I was having issues and thought maybe an editor could help. This is when editors start to resemble mean drill sergeants. There were going to be some major battles in the coming weeks and months. Most likely their thinking was that if they started things out between me and this new editor, a Mr. Brock Kimble, in a chic hotel restaurant where there were other people around things would not so quickly dissolve into a sparring match like it had with the last editor they sent me. And honestly, I’ve never been one for showy displays of anger, so they thought correctly. I was not going to knock over the gorgeous pastry tables or throw dishes at the large crystal chandelier, even if the thought did cross my mind. I was a nice guy. I would not be throwing the wine into the cascading fountain or slap some passing waitress across the face just for being too near to me. But I had decided I would not be so easily soothed either. Yes. I would eat their free food and drink their bribery wine, but I’ll be damned if I gave Mr. Kimble one smile. My tolerance was worn thin already. Like that Kool-Aid t-shirt I had kept since high school and refused to throw away. Worn thin.
No. Mr. Kimble would have to get by on my curt and dismissive answers and challenging stares. I was very proud of myself for deciding all of this. It was written like a script in my brain.
And then, as I was devouring a chicken wing as if tolling out vengeance, my moment of cliché happened. Into the restaurant walked what could only be described (albeit inadequately) as a stunning man. I swear, the room went silent and everything crawled in his presence. He was dressed in a dark suit, buttoned properly so that it showed a tapered waist. His shoulders were broad and above them, oh deliciousness, was a face so proportioned and perfect I wanted to take up drawing on the spot. His hair was dark, as were his eyes. In fact, he was so pretty I found myself gagging. Then I realized that the chicken wing was still halfway crammed down my throat. Silly me. I spat it out just as his eyes focused on mine. The chicken landed on the plate with a resounding echo and my face, I could tell via the flames of my embarrassment, was flushed. My ears were most likely bright red as well.
I began to chant to myself: Please don’t be him. Please don’t be him. Please, please, please don’t be him.
But it was. And he was soon standing over me, grinning. He looked at my table and the mess I had made. “You’ve been busy,” he said. “Cute ears.”
As I reached for his offered hand to shake it, I gasped and choked. A bit of leftover chicken flew out of my mouth and onto the table, in front of his crotch. Humiliation complete. Lesson learned.
“Sorry,” I said, taking a quick drink of water. People were looking at me disapprovingly for daring to nearly die in public.
“Don’t worry about it.” He smiled and sat down, sitting his briefcase in the seat beside him. “I’ve had worse things thrown at me than a piece of regurgitated chicken. I’m Brock Kimble.”
Logan Brandish. Of course, you know that or you wouldn’t have known how to find me. Wish I had had a photo of you.” I grimaced. That did not sound right even though the implication was very near the mark. By golly! He was pretty!
“Would have been easy enough to find you. All writers have the same look of social discomfort and inferiority.”
I can only imagine what I must have looked like sitting there with him. How others saw me. He ordered his drink with style. He did everything with style. He was fluid. He was Henry Higgins. I wasn’t even Eliza Doolittle. I was Nell, still choking up bits of chicken.
“You’re my new editor?” I asked. My plan to be subtle and aloof was lost.
He must have heard that question and intonation before. His smile jarred the room. “I started as a cover model for the romance division of
Hillside. After proving myself,” (he leaned in closer here, smelling clean and fresh) “and sleeping just a few feet up, I landed myself in this position. I’ve been in every position you can think of. Wink wink.”
Eyes bright. Eyes full of mischief. “I believe in being totally honest. That’s one thing you should know about me, Mr. Brandish. Or Logan? I’ll call you
Logan. Over the next few weeks I will hurt your feelings with some of my critiques, but I’ll also be there to encourage you on. We’ll get you going again. You’ll see. I’ll be like Henry V, ushering you on to victory…or something like that. I’m not certain what Henry V is famous for other than being played by Kenneth Brannagh. So, what have you got to show me?”
“Um…I…I’m having issues…”
He spread his arms. “That’s why I’m here. You don’t have anything?”
My fingers edged toward the lone, pathetic piece of stained paper on the table. He snatched if up and read it:
“The trireme surged on the open sea.”
He looked at the page a bit longer then flipped it over as if there were any possibility at all of something being on the other side.
“This is it?”
“Well, there was more…”
“More better, or just more of the same?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. The fact is, since the destruction of my notes I had only gotten as far as the first sentence. Fifteen versions of the first sentence. (There once was a trireme from
. Trireme Irene had seventeen children. Triremes are big big boats powered by angry muscle bottoms. All aboard!) The first sentence gets things going. It’s the START button to any new manuscript. Unfortunately for me, the first sentence of any new manuscript is like pushing a basketball out my urethra. Kent
I shrugged and gave a half smile. That worked to get me out of trouble sometimes. I looked so All-American people sang at me when the National Anthem was played at ball games.
“Hmmm. Well, it’s a start.” He handed the paper back to me. “Do you know anything about galley ships?”
“Looks like you got some homework, then, huh?” He leaned forward and said with a booming voice, “Cause I sure as hell don’t either, and have no intention of edimicatin’ myself about ‘em. Know what I mean, Jelly bean!”
He was a silly man. A silly, gorgeous man.
A handsome young waiter brought Mr. Kimble his drink and I noticed a lingering gaze between the two. That’s when my stomach dropped and my balls disappeared into my abdomen. Here was a lovely gay man and I had, quite purposely, sabotaged any chance I had with him. He had even said I had cute ears. I had most likely put him off eating for the rest of his life with the whole chicken debacle. He certainly wasn’t ordering anything there. There wasn’t room left on the table.
The waiter looked at me, disinterested, and asked if I needed anything more.
Go away, little bird. Go away.
“I’ve read your blog,” Brock said. “Very entertaining. Witty.”
“Well, I’m no Noel Coward.”
“Never heard of him. Unfortunate name. About your blog. Like I said, entertaining stuff, but I would reconsider the links to the naughtier sites. You know. The porn blogs and naked men.”
How dare he!
“We want the focus to be on you. We don’t want anyone who has come to your site to be distracted by pretty pictures. We want them to stick around and not be clicking away for the first pair of fresh ass cheeks they see.” About that time a fresh pair – those of our handsome young waiter – walked right by. Mr. Brock Kimble couldn’t keep himself from following them for just a bit.
“It’s my blog. It’s like a diary. I post things that interest me.”
“I get it. I know what a blog is. Still, the Lord wouldn’t like it.”
My jaw literally dropped.
“Just kidding.” What a wicked smile.
He looked around the restaurant for that cute little waiter. The one I had just bitch-slapped in my mind. “But seriously, consider taking those links down.”
“Are we through here?” I asked, doing my best to show some irritation.
“Sure. Would you like me to help you clean up?”
“No, I would not! I don’t think I like you, Mr. Kimble.”
“Good. Then you can stop worrying about how you appear around me.”
I froze. How could he know? How could he tell how awkward I felt?
His eyes locked with those of the waiter. “I’ve got another meeting,” he said. “And you’ve got homework.”
I sat a while longer, trying not to pay attention to my new agent walking out the door with the waiter. In my most Walter Mitty-like fantasies I swung into action and knocked the waiter on his cute little buns. He was fired for flirting with a customer and trying to steal my man, and then Mr. Kimble and I purchased a suite where we fucked like toys wound too tightly. My fantasy love life was always so exciting. But life never measured up to fantasy. In real life, kisses are never as sweet and assholes only stretch so far.