“The Call”

I was in a pink cadallic heading south on ’93 when I got The Call.

“Max, baby, it’s Caitlin.”  My agent spoke like this. She’s an agent and there are strict rules about diction.  She was also smoking a cigar.  I couldn’t see the cigar, and it didn’t affect her speech, but she was smoking one.  Rules.

“Caitlin, how are things?” I asked, as the wind whipped through my luxuriously thick, and not at all thinning hair.

“No time for small talk, Wirestone– I’ve got a lot of clients. But I’ve got good news for you.  Devi loved the manuscript.  Loved it.  Called it hilarious.”

“Really?” I asked.  “Hilarious?”

“Wait, is this Charlie Stross?” asked Caitlin.

“No,” I said.  “Max Wirestone.”

“Oh right,” said Caitlin through the the thick haze of Cuban cigar smoke.  “That’s right then, hilarious.”

My son, snug in his carseat behind me, joined in the conversation.

“Oh, Pápá,” he said.  “This is ever so delightful.  Perhaps at last you will have the money for that vintage gaming console you wanted so much.” My son speaks like Oliver Twist. He’d never make it as an agent.

“Alright, Caitlin,” I asked.  “What’s the next step?”

“I’m gonna put her through. You two kids can work it out.  I’ve got Hugo’s to polish.”

A glowing fiery orb appeared floating in the car.

“Pápá!  It is the Eye of Sauron!”

And friends, it was.  There it sat, in the passenger seat, burning in resplendent and terrible glory. I turned the AC up from two to four, because the flames coming off the eye were making the car a little warm.

“WIRESTONE?” boomed the orb.  “IS THIS MAX WIRESTONE?”

“Yeah,” I said, a little uncertainly, because even I, a soon-to-be-published author who is never awkward, occasionally get confused.  “This is Max.  Is this Devi?”

“DEVI IS BUT ONE OF MY MANY NAMES AND GUISES.  MY TRUE NAME IS TOO TERRIBLE TO BE SPOKEN.”

“It’s Sauron,” said my son, who wasn’t great at social cues. He’s three. We’re working on it.

“LOVED THE BOOK,” continued the eye.  “FUCKING HILARIOUS.”

“Really?  My book?” I asked.  I’m not good with praise, even if it is from a giant flaming eye.

“WELL. IT HAD ITS POINTS, ANYWAY. YOU COULD STAND TO MAKE THE MAIN CHARACTER LESS PASSIVE.”

This was a fair cop, and I’d heard it before.  It was a little tough to take from a motionless eye (talk about passive), but I took my lumps.

“ALSO THE TITLE IS TERRIBLE,” continued the orb.

“What?” I said.  “Dahlia Moss and Mystery of the Treacherous Treant” is a great title!”

“NO.” said Sauron.  “AWFUL.”

“I guess I could change it.”

“YOUR QUICK OBEDIENCE PLEASES ME,” said Sauron.

“So are you kids in business?” asked Caitlin, coughing. The smoke didn’t agree with her but she kept at it. She’s a great agent.

“WE ARE IN BUSINESS,” said Sauron.

“I’m in,” I said, admiring the sunset before me. Another picture perfect day in New Hampshire.  And warm, too, especially for January.  “What’s the first thing to do?” I asked.

“You get a revised version of the manuscript to Devi, stat,” said Caitlin, “and after that…”

“AFTER THAT WE BEGIN THE SPOILING OF ISENGARD!!!!”

Oh, how we laughed.

—–

DAHLIA MOSS & THE MYSTERY OF THE TO-BE-DETERMINED SUBTITLE is forthcoming from Little Brown/Redhook.

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