Fifty Shades of Ink: Episode 2 “The editing chamber”

“The editing chamber”

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The next day a much anticipated and yet dreaded text popped up on my phone:

Back in NY. Finished your book on the flight. May I call you? – N P

I sat staring at my phone screen, a mixture of emotions swirling in me like bits of toe jam and other stuff swirling around the drain after you’ve had a bath. I have to admit one of the most prominent of these emotions was excitement. Morgan had done something for me I never would have dared to do, and a door had opened where I hadn’t even suspected there might be a door, and … wait, where was I. Oh yes, the text.

Not wanting to seem too eager, I texted back:

You may.

A few agonizing minutes later the phone rang. I answered with my name. Never had my own name sounded so strange to me, as if I’d just made it up. That’s actually pretty profound, isn’t it? That your own name sounds the most detached from you when you speak it to identify yourself. Anyhow, after I’d said my name a voice spoke. A voice unlike any I’d heard before: rich, sultry, smooth, but with a hint of roughness to it, an edge, like a bar of fine chocolate scraped across gravel. I’d never imagined chocolate scraped across gravel before. It would be such a waste of chocolate, but what sort of person would do such a thing? I was intrigued, thrilled, discombobulated. The sound of that voice sent a feeling through me that I hadn’t felt in far too long, a feeling that shot from my ear to my heart and then straight to my deepest, most secret sensuous core, after which it rebounded up through my intestinal area, ricocheted off my spleen and finally found its way out of me in the form of a barely-suppressed sigh.

“Robin Hackwright, this is Noel Poundscribe. Good to talk to you at last.”

“You, too,” I said. Or rather, squeaked, finding my mouth suddenly drier than a very dry desert.

“May I call you Robin?” the voice choco-gravelled.

“Sure,” I eked out.

“Listen, Robin, I’ve read your manuscript now, and I think I want to work with you on it. Get it ready for publication, I mean.”

 The shock of this statement left me speechless. I struggled to get back my poise and remembered what I’d told myself: don’t sound too eager.

“Oh yeah?” I said.

Noel Poundstone laughed. His laugh was like fine chocolate being scraped over gravel by someone in a fairly good mood. Was he laughing at my attempt to sound stand-offish? Or was he just a jolly person? I had no way to know.

“Yes,” he said. “Let me reiterate: I think I’m interested in working with you, but I’m not committing to anything. Not quite yet. There’s something I will require of you before I can make up my mind.”

 Require of you. Coming from a small town, I’d never heard anyone wield grammar like that before.

“And what will you require?” I said, struggling to sound nonchalant.

“I will need you to come to New York.”

[need to write a scene here of Robin telling herself she can’t go to New York — she can’t abandon her studies and her ailing mother, etc. & Morgan persuades her … on second thought, just skip it]

I landed at JFK airport and was met at the terminal by an unsmiling, intimidating (but not too scary) black man who introduced himself as Chadwick and said that he was taking me to Mr Poundscribe’s office downtown. I climbed into the limousine at the curb, and was whisked through the streets, my mind agog at the sights of the famous city I’d seen so many times on television and had never imagined I would ever get to see, living as I did on the other side of the continent.

We pulled up outside a huge building of glass and marble just as a man was opening the door, about to go in, when he stopped and turned as I climbed of the limo. I must have been looking dazed in a fetchingly waiflike way. He was a tall, slender man with [google Ryan Gosling pics].

“Ah, you must be Robin, I was just getting back from lunch,” the man said, and again I heard chocolate scraped over gravel, and I knew who this was.

 Instead of stepping toward him, I involuntarily stepped back. Perhaps because I felt the force of destiny descend on me in that moment…. I heard a shout of warning, saw something hurtling toward me from the periphery of my vision, and the next thing I knew, Noel Poundscribe had thrown me to the ground.

“Hhh huhh hhh hoo,” I gasped, the wind having been knocked unceremoniously out of me.

Noel helped me up, and pointed to the runaway hot dog vending cart that was still careening down the sidewalk, knocking down pedestrians, while its owner chased after it screaming curses in some Mediterranean language.

“We have a lot of those carts here in New York City,” Noel said. “Sometimes they get out of control. You have to keep your eyes open in a place like this.”

Chadwick carried my luggage while, still dazed and wheezing, I followed Noel into the building and into the elevator and into the most incredible penthouse office I’d ever seen in my life. Gold, marble, walls of windows, a massage table, a carp pond, a karaoke machine … none of the things I’d imagined whenever I fantasized about having an awesome office one day were there. No, but it was still a pretty amazing office. Walls of books. Walls and walls of books. Just think of all the different shades of ink on all of those pages…. Somehow, too, this rectangular room had more than four walls, and they were all walls of books. Except there were also some walls of windows, too. And a skylight. And a huge desk. It’s really hard describing rooms, actually. There’s so much stuff in them.

Chadwick set down my luggage.

“Hey, thanks, man,” Noel said to him, and he and Chadwick fistbumped before the chauffeur left the room. People in New York City were so cool.

“Well, here we are,” Noel said with what he hoped was a disarming smile. But I was resistant to his charms, despite my attraction to him, because a hackneyed plot like this demands resistance on the part of the protagonist.

“This is where we’ll be working on my manuscript?” I queried coldly, determined to keep things on a professional footing.

“Not exactly,” Noel said, with a smile that said he saw through my facade. “I have another space reserved for editorial … encounters. But before I show it to you, I think you should know something about me. When it comes to editing, I have rather unusual methods.”

He turned and spoke the enigmatic phrase “Carver and Lish” to the room, and one of the shelves of books suddenly slid aside, revealing another chamber. Noel nodded to me, and I followed him through the little doorway (I’d always fantasized about having a secret door concealed by books) and into bafflement.

 A small room. Bare concrete walls and floor. No windows, just a single bare bulb hanging over a small battered table flanked by two beat-up looking folding chairs.

“This is where we will be working,” Noel said. “As soon as you sign the contract, that is.”

“C-c-contract?” I said vertiginously. “I … I didn’t think there was a publisher involved yet.”

“There isn’t, Robin. Not yet. This is a contract you have to sign before I agree to be your editor. And the first clause of the contract states that you will never tell a living soul what goes on in this room.”

[to be continued]

 

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