The other day, all excited, I phoned my editor Edgar Reewright and told him about the book idea that had floated into my mind, from out of nowhere, that morning.
“Very nice, Neil, very nice. You’ve got quite the imagination,” he said in a flat tone when I was done. Then he excused himself, explaining that he had to tell his wife something. He asked me to hang on, neglecting to put me on hold. “Yo, Loretta!” I heard him yell. “You know that blogger whose crap I edit?”
Loretta was elsewhere in the house, obviously, but I was able to make out her response. “Right, his name is Noel or Niles or something like that, isn’t it?”
“You’re close. It’s Neil,” Edgar replied. “And he’s on the phone. He called because he plans to write a book, and he wants me to edit it. He’s never written a book before. All he does is turn out pointless essays for his blog. But if he does write this thing, it’ll be so bad it’ll make his essays look good.”
A few seconds later, Edgar spoke again. “I’m back, Neil. Where were we? I’m all ears.”
“All ears, huh? Well, it seems like you’re overlooking your big, loud f*cking mouth! I mean, you weren’t exactly whispering to Loretta just now, Edgar. Only the deaf wouldn’t have heard what you said. My man, you’ve got a lot of nerve talking about me like that. I’ll have you know that I’m a valued writer. WordPress, for instance, holds me in high regard. They contacted me a few days ago to let me know that my blog came in first in their If You Look Deeply, There’s A Slight Chance You’ll Find Something Of Worth And Interest Here competition for 2022. First place, Edgar! I’m very proud.”
“As well you should be, Neil. Listen, what can I say? Your book idea sounds like a loser to me, but maybe I’m wrong. Explain it to me once more, this time in a little more detail.”
“Okay, Edgar. It’s about a homely guy, Roy Oy, who’s going nowhere in life. He’s in his 50s, living with his elderly parents in the house he grew up in and stuck in a dead-end job as the fact-checker for Who’d Have Thunk It? magazine. He hasn’t been on a date in over 20 years and, needless to say, never has had a girlfriend. He spends his off-hours clipping coupons and watching YouTube videos about how to get in touch with space aliens.”
“I’m listening, Neil. Reluctantly,” Edgar said.
“Well, early one morning he’s awakened by a tap on the shoulder. Standing beside him is a strange creature. It’s four feet tall and slender, its bright skin colors pulsating like the aurora borealis and its head spinning around and around so as to take in just about everything all at once.”
“The visitor says, ‘Your incessant YouTube-viewing has paid off, for here I am. I initially planned to abduct you and take you back to my home planet. But I can tell that you’re really pathetic, so I’m not going to bother doing that. However, because I’m very magnanimous I will grant you one wish before I’m on my way. What may I do for you, Mr. Oy?’ ”
“Roy loses no time in answering. He tells the space alien that he wants the world to become a paradise, a place where everybody is loving, kind and generous, and where peace and prosperity reign. The alien says ‘okay, it’s done’ and then leaves via the window it had raised a minute earlier in order to enter the bedroom.”
“So, that’s it, Edgar. Just like that, Planet Earth becomes magnificent. Troubles are over. Everyone gets along. End of story.”
“Yup, I get it, Neil. But I don’t like it. Where’s the tension? Where’s the drama? Hell, nobody wants to read some half-baked, half-assed Pollyannaish tale. Count me out. Go ahead and write the book if you like, but I decline to edit it.”
“As you wish, Edgar. But you’re making a big mistake. Millions and millions of people love books with happy endings. My book, I have no doubt, will climb to the top of the charts and stay there for weeks and weeks. I’m going to become rich, Edgar, and I’d have given you a healthy cut of the profits. Your loss.”
At that moment I swear I could see dollar signs flashing in front of Edgar’s eyes.
“You know, Neil,” he said, “my judgment has been off for a long while. That’s what chronic constipation can do to you. I haven’t taken a dump in weeks, for crying out loud, even though I eat prunes like they’re going out of style and take stool softeners right and left. So, on second thought, count me in!”
“Thanks, Edgar. I’m going to pay you in prunes.”