Chapter Thirty-six

   Ever since the Vonnegut blurb things have been going great. I mean, I am hot. Random House (Anna Matopeia changed her mind!) loves every single word. In fact, I've started sending them one word at a time, as I write it. And yes, I know I've been getting ahead of myself again, but I can't resist it. Meanwhile, Maureen has been teasing the book reviewers with snippets from earlier chapters, as well as spreading rumors about my mental instability, planting doubts that I'll ever be able to finish, that I'm too discombobulated, too crazy -- hell, whatever she's doing, it seems to work -- I'm the toast of the town! The man of the moment!
   "I hate to break up your little party but one reader, me, is not quite so taken with all of this."
   Oh? Who are you? Are you new? Have I talked to you before?
   "No you haven't. I'm visiting from a foreign country, yet to be named, and was looking for something to read that was quintessentially American -- to better acquaint myself with your culture. Someone suggested this novel, even though it wasn't finished. And that's what brought me to, well, this point."
   Hmm. Interesting, I guess.
   "It's not that your writing is totally without charm -- you've had your moments -- but I can't follow it, not at all. It's too confusing."
   For instance.
   "All right, like the incident at the copying place when you stuck your head in the Xerox machine. Did that really happen?"
   "What about the job at the bank? Did you ever work at a bank?"
   "And Maureen? Is she real?"
   Yes, of course she is.
   "Because I can't tell whether she's real, whether you're real, whether anything you write is real -- "
   Whoa, slow down. Let's take one thing at a time. I'm not going anywhere.
   "Okay. What about your namesake?"
   "The inventor. Of the shoelace-tying contraption. James M. Reynolds."
   What about him?
   "Real? Or made up?"
   Made up.
   "I thought so. And what about Sonny, and Ben and the rest. Are they real?"
   Greg, Farley and Ben are made up. Sonny is real.
   "What about Kurt Vonnegut? He didn't really write that blurb, did he?"
   Are you a lawyer?
   "No, I'm just a reader."
   You're not with Heinz or one of its subsidiaries, are you?
   "No. You see, I'm from Togoland -- Togoland? (Togoland? -- Ed.) and I wanted to read up on American culture and customs, and I stumbled upon this book, and now I find myself all wrapped up in it but not knowing a damn thing about what's going on, or who's who or what's what and the whole damn thing doesn't make one damn bit of sense!"
   You're getting angry.
   "Of course I'm getting angry! I have a right to be angry! I've read this far and I -- I feel cheated!"
   What can I do? What do you want? More Powloo? More cruise ship?
   "I'll tell you what I want. I want Maureen."
   Hey, wait a minute now...
   "I just want to meet her, that's all."
   You just want to meet her?
   Well, all right. That can be arranged. What else?
   "Nothing else."
   Okay. Well, you'll have to wait because she's not here. I don't know where she went.
   "I'll wait."
   And I don't know when she'll be back. It could be quite a while.
   "That's all right, I'll wait."
   You'll wait. Fine. Wait. I'll move on, then, to something else.
   I'm leaving a space between paragraphs because this next sequence is separate from the previous sequence, but it's related to it, in a way. In other words, that guy's kind of a creep, don't you think? Introduce him to Maureen? Yeah, right -- what am I, crazy? Don't answer that. Let him sit there for a while. Maybe he'll creep away if we just ignore him. Did you hear something? I did. Someone else is here with me, right now. Who is it? Who's there?
   "Hannamuna. Hannamuna towah."
   Why, it's Dancing Cloud, everybody! Welcome Dancing Cloud, our Eleventh Century Powloo Indian! (Pretend you hear applause.)
   "Hannamuna towah. Hannamuna towah."
   I'll interpret. He's saying, he's glad to be here.
   "Hannamuna towah. Mannatuba Nowah."
   He's saying, he's glad to be here, but where's Maureen?
   "Mannatuba Nowah. Mannatuba Nowah. Mannatuba Nowah."
   He's saying, where's Maureen over and over.
   "Mannatuba Nowah. Mannatuba Nowah. Mannatuba Nowah."
   All right, enough! Tell us, Dancing Cloud, as long as you're here, what was life really like back in the Eleventh Century? Altuna nula?
   "Altuna nula?"
   Yes. Tell us about your life back then. Altuna nula.
   "Alamba, na altuna patamba nell luna. Meupa, palupa noa menna nua, ponanda."
   He says that life back then was very difficult. People only lived to an age of about twenty-five or thirty, and living inside the cliffs was harsh and forbidding.
   "Nolanda moona, pupua nua, bupupulua."
   He says the food was mostly grains and berries.
   "Omoo, napoola moo, nuboo."
   Occasionally they'd eat a hawk...
   "Omoo, namoola poo, nuboo."
   ... or an eagle.
   "Amoo nabula muna nu -- "
   And, maybe, once in a blue moon, pancakes.
   "Amoo nabula pua nabula mua -- "
   (Editor's Note: We have a problem, Mr. Reynolds. In addition to the Heinz suit, and a few other minor nuisance cases, the Combined Council of Native Americans, an Indian legal defense group, is threatening us with a major, I mean major, lawsuit.)
   What for?
   (Editor's Note: What for? Well, why don't we start with your clich‚d and demeaning treatment of Indians in the current chapter.)
   You find this demeaning?
   (Editor's Note: I don't, no, but many Indians, or, excuse me, Native Americans, do.)
   I don't know why. Dancing Cloud is a perfectly honest rendering -- based on what I can imagine -- of a Native American as he would have been about a thousand years ago.
   (Editor's Note: Mr. Reynolds, we've received several letters from scholars who dispute your description of the period, and for that matter, the Powloo -- and that's not all -- )
   Wait. What the scholars overlook, what they don't know, is that just by writing about the Powloo and getting it published, just by getting the text of this book inserted into the information superhighway, implanted on the hard disk memory of the nation's neural network, just by doing that -- the Powloo, Dancing Cloud, you, me, Ben, Farley, Nutwick the lawyer, whatever you've just read -- are now immortal. History will one day note that they're part of history. Here they are. There they were. And that's that.
   (Editor's Note: And is that going to be your defense in court?)
   I'm sick of the courtroom. Why can't we open things up? Or have I exhausted the budget?
   (Editor's Note: The budget? This isn't a movie. You'll try anything, won't you? You're like some tired old fighter, on his last legs, flailing away with anything and everything he's got, only to pick up one more paltry payday in Palookaville.)
   Whoa, now, what's this? You? A writer?
   (Editor's Note: I've thought about it. Now, please, do something about the Indian problem, please.)
   I'll soften it a little.
   (Editor's Note: Thank you. And, oh, I know I'm forgetting something... Ah yes! Mr. Reynolds -- you must, you must remove the rape reference back in... )
   Chapter Nine?
   (Editor's Note: That's it, Chapter Nine. Take it out. This is from the top. No arguments.)
   Okay. No arguments. If it's from the top, I'll take it out.
   (Editor's Note: And the mention of Frank Sinatra, in Chapter Thirty. That, too, must go.)
   I don't need it. I'll change it to Tony Bennett. Or Louis Prima. Or, I won't use a name at all. I'll have to think about it.
   (Editor's Note: Take your time.)
   Why no sense of urgency all of a sudden? Don't you want a first draft of this by a certain date?
   (Editor's Note: Not really. We're getting more interest in it now, while you're writing it, than what we expect to get after it's published. Happens all the time. Remember that sappy Lincoln bio by that phony Childress? Sounded great, but what a turkey.)
   I think you're getting ahead of yourself.
   (Editor's Note: You're right. Good luck.)

(This ends Chapter Thirty-six, in a business-like manner.)

Chapter Thirty-seven