There was a certain annoying buzz to that phone that kept nagging him. It was the same phone he always had, replacements and modernisation wasn’t exactly an easy achievment here. But this buzz annoyed him the most, cause he knew what it really meant. He glanced out the window. Not a bad view, even on a rainy day.
“Raymond,” came the frustrated whisper as the door had been opened slightly.
“He’s here. I’ve been calling you!”
Raymond turned toward the door.
“Okay, okay, I’ll see him now, I was just sorting a few things out.”
“Well you better sort him out quick, he’s worrying the others!”
Tam closed the door slowly and somewhat sympathetically.
He looked down at his desk, desk? In front of him was what someone considered a masterpiece, and someone else, a joke. He had worked in this business for three years now and while there had been awkward and uncomfortable moments, this had all the hallmarks of topping everything.
The phone started buzzing again. It was traditional that an author should always be ‘buzzed’ through and that had to be done right.
He reached over and slowly picked the phone up.
“Yes Tam, tell me that your son Toby managed to beat that fat bully cretin that keeps belly flopping in the pool on purpose, or some other brilliant and engaging whip about how Mike’s boss is too good-looking to be that, and sure there shouldn’t be women bosses anyway.”
“Em, not quite, I have Mr Crane here to see you,”
“Great! I was looking forward to him calling in.”
“I’ll send him straight through,” chirped Tam.
“Tam, just one thing, you didn’t do that retro speaker phone answer thing, did you?”
“Why yes Mr Raymond, I relish the opportunity to be made a fool in public. Thank you.”
He slowly placed the phone back on the receiver and waited. Damn, he thought, I’ll need her after this.
There was a slight knock on the door and then a big swooshing I don’t need an invitation entrance.
“Hello!” came the bright and forceful voice.
“Mr Crane,” Raymond said as he stood up and reached out his hand.
“Oh I don’t shake hands, no offense, we had to do it as part of mass and then when the swine flu came in the bishop said we didn’t have to do it anymore.”
Raymond looked at him, “okay, very well, please, take a seat, no jokes please.”
Mr Crane looked at him seriously, then suddenly smiled,”I like it! Very good!”
Raymond smiled and shuffled slightly in his seat as he watched Mr Crane sit down.
“So, we are here to discuss your latest manuscript,” started Raymond.
“Yes, this book is the one that will send tremors through the market, following up on my other two successful novels, you have read them? It was Norman Jones that was handling me.”
“Yes, I have read the other two, Norman, I’m afraid, isn’t currently involved at this level.”
“Ah, I knew it. I knew it would happen. Norman had a certain, a certain, well just a way when it came to spotting talent and great art.”
“Yes,” replied Raymond, “he did have a way.”
“Yes, okay, so, to the book. Interesting. Let’s start at the beginning, good place I suppose, maybe the title?”
“Definitely, gonna grab them yeah?”
Raymond glanced nervously at the floor.
“Well I’m just wondering about the title.”
“The title, okay, what do you think?”
Raymond sighed. He picked up the manuscript, curled back the neat unchallenged cover and nodded.
“Okay,I’m not sure that it will grab the public too quickly.”
“Rabid!” said Crane.
“Yeah,okay, I get that, quite strong, but there might be an issue with the notion that mice are Rabid.”
“They can be, they’re rodents.”
“Yes they are, and I’m sure they can be, but I suppose the issue here is that most people think of mice as small, fury,cuddly, okay type, unless they have a total phobia about them. Not quite the RABID idea?”
“Exactly, they are gonna be so shocked, and for some, so scared, it’ll be great!” responded Crane.
“Could be, yep, could be. But I would be concerned that the title might turn some away before they get that?”
Crane nodded, “I get you, okay, I’ll think about the title.
Raymond smiled, somewhat relieved, the meeting was going well.
“Now, about women,” he started.
“Women? What’s wrong, I included them. Norman told me it was important to be balanced and include women, I did.”
Raymond looked down at the red ink emblazoned manuscript.
“Norman was very good, did he mean include women more or maybe in a different way”
Crane just frowned.
“Okay. You see the story seems to be a little stereotyped when it comes to women.”
“Yes, they seem to scream a lot? As in, every time a mouse appears, even if it’s not rabid?”
“Don’t they scream?”
“Well I’m sure they do, but I imagine many or some don’t?”
“Really? My research didn’t show that at all!”
“Your research?” asked Raymond casting an eye on the file.
“Oh yes, Norman was most insistent that I do detailed research on my next book, He actually said, if I’m not mistaken, don’t even think of coming back here until you have done your research.” Crane nodded. “He was very supportive.”
Raymond looked at him waiting.
“And I think you are inaccurate with your comments, I have made a significant role for a lady flying officer, so I don’t think I can be accused of stereotyping!”
“Yes, Kate, an US Airforce Officer, with significant military achievements, who also screams a lot when she sees mice”
“Ye, a lot of tension, yes?”
“Yes but at the same time no.”
“Are you being stereotyped in saying a lady air force officer wouldn’t scream at mice? Rabid Mice?”
Raymond sighed and looked to the floor.
“I really want to say to you, look at it again, think of the title, think of how you’re portraying women, but I can’t”
Crane leaned towards him, tilting his head one way, “Go on, I’m listening”
“We can’t publish it, not this way, and frankly not anyway. In fact Mr Crane, we really can’t review any further submissions.”
Crane continued to look at him in a somewhat contorted way leaning across the desk.
“Are you comfortable?” Asked Raymond.
“Yes I am.”
“Yes I surely am. And you know what, you’re a genius. You’re even better than Norman. He was trying to help, he was suggesting writing less, taking time out, but you! You have given me a new direction, a new start, excellent. Well now, that was good,” he smiled.
Raymond looked at him puzzled.
“That was a good meeting, yes? I will have all this sorted and be back to you in a couple of weeks. Excellent, you are a suitable replacement for Norman. Excellent” he said as he left the office.
Raymond looked down at the file, it had a red stamp on it, DPN, “Dispose of Now”, and that wasn’t the file it referred to. He sighed reached over and pushed the phone button.
“Yes Mr Raymond?”
“I need to speak to Norman.”
“Sorry Mr Raymond, Norman isn’t with us anymore. And just to remind you, there are four more old files, sorry I mean new files here for you to review.”
Raymond looked toward the window, “I have a wonderful view.”