“This is a Play.” He stated while loudly setting the bundled stack of paper onto the desk. In the top corner was a brass fastener, one of those with the round, flat, button-shaped top with two thin strips that could be bent on the other side of the papers to hold them together. It was about an inch from the corner, just far enough so that the paper didn’t rip out the first time the pages were separated for reading.
I was caught wondering why they never made those with the two blades curved so that they were less likely to cut through the paper. I found myself looking closer at the hole to see just how much damage had been done by the brass connector already.
“It Is! A fine example of my work.” The author stomped vocally to get my attention back where it should be. I jumped, anticipating a hand being slapped down on my desk, or more appropriately, on the stack of paper that claimed to be a play. After a very slight cringe, I looked into the author’s face, searching for emotions that hadn’t been telegraphed onto the desk.
“I see.” I shuffled around behind the desk with small sideways footsteps until I was behind the chair. Reaching over the chair, across the wide desk, and nearly falling over while I stretched, I peeled a couple of pages up from the bottom and seemingly looked at the words there.
“Your finest example?” I queried of my guest. The man calmed down a little bit, having had a few words examined finally, but his face was still a little red across his forehead and at the top of his cheeks. Behind the desk I stood taller and pursed my lips and let them flutter as I pushed a breath through them. I did my best John Cleese impersonation.
“Have you studied play writing for a long time?”
“Well, no. I only took it up when I found I couldn’t be a shoe salesman.” Aghast and surprised, my eyebrows jumped into the middle of my forehead as the proposed author talked.
“And why was that? What couldn’t you do as a shoe salesman that you can do as a playwright?” I asked.
There was no answer. The writer stared down at his highly polished shoes that I couldn’t see from behind the desk. They were a mark of his profession to keep his own shoes in tip-top shape at all times, rain or shine, mud or dust. He enjoyed that part of the profession and had decided to keep it up regardless of his new occupation.
“You had a bad approach, couldn’t face the customers, mumbled?” I asked the very silent man standing before the desk. “Are you antisocial, too aggressive?”. I continued tossing out possibilities as my ire became irritation.
“Did you sell a lousy product!” I tried a final time to find out the secret of his failure. Still nothing came between his lips and I grasped the chair suddenly from behind with both hands. I yelled at him in frustration.
“What makes you think I will publish you if you won’t even speak up for yourself?” I spat between my well groomed teeth. My fingers squeaked the leather of the chair as I dug my fingers in even deeper. Then I stood upright, calming myself as best I could. I was thinking that the man would have to be thrown out when he finally spoke.
“I, ah.., I kept getting lost.” He finally managed to mumble.
Behind the desk I calmed myself completely then, smoothed out the impressions in the back of the chair and stood erect once more. I walked around the chair again and turned my back to it, folded my legs, and sat in it. I smoothed my pants and picked a bit of lint from the top of one of my knees.
I looked up at the man standing before me. His hat was being held before him by the brim, using both hands. He raised it as though to shield himself and also lifted his face to look down at me now that I was shorter by having sat in the chair.
“Do you think you can publish it?” he asked with anew excitement, which was quickly squashed by me.
“No, I don’t think so.” Before the man could get agitated once again I spoke hurriedly.
“I’m afraid you’ve done it again.” I explained. I raised my thumb and gestured off to the right.
“You’ll find Bankrupt and Bereft Publishing next door.” I couldn’t help smiling just a little as he turned away. “Some people never learn.” I thought with embarrassment.