Chapter Forty-one

   Well, that was satisfying. Might have eaten a bit too much. I probably shouldn't have finished all of Maureen's pancakes. I bet that's how she maintains her figure -- getting others to finish her pancakes for her.
   Speaking of Maureen, where is she? Maureen? Where are you, Maureen? Mannatuba Nowah. Mannatuba Nowah.
   "Okay, okay, I'm here, manitoba pua, manitoba pua."
   Now, now, watch what you say, you'll get us in trouble.
   "I'll get you in trouble, not me. I'm not writing this, you are."
   Thanks for reminding me.
   "Oh, and before I forget, Jim, you need to send Kurt Vonnegut a gift."
   A gift? Why?
   "To thank him for filling in for you."
   I don't understand. He got something out of it, didn't he? He got a lot out of it, in fact, a lot of fresh publicity. I mean, who's talking about Kurt Vonnegut these days?
   "That's not the point, Jim -- and how can you be so callous? At least send him a card, a 'thank you' note."
   All right, all right. What else?
   "Nothing else."
   That's it? Good. Where are you going?
   "I, uh, have somewhere to go."
   That's apparent, but where?
   "Where? Oh, I don't know... (incoherent mumble)."
   What? You're mumbling, incoherently.
   "I have a jrmobmn."
   A what?
   "A job."
   A job? Another job? In addition to Kopy Katz, and this novel?
   "Well, yeah. But it's only part-time."
   What is it?
   "I'd rather not say."
   Well, I can find out pretty easily, so don't try to be cute.
   "All right, I'll tell you, although I wanted to keep it a secret. You see, with the extra money, I was going to get you something really nice for your birthday."
   "If you must know, I was going to buy you a Faberge egg."
   A Faberge egg? Those things are worth millions of dollars!
   "I was going to buy you a dozen. A dozen Faberge eggs. For your birthday."
   That's silly, Maureen. You can't tell a joke. Not at all.
   "It's no joke. I guess you haven't heard about the Imagination Card."
   The Imagination Card? No, I haven't.
   "With the Imagination Card I can charge any item, regardless of cost, take an infinite amount of time to pay for it, and get free gifts to boot."
   Really? Where do you get one?
   "You can't. You're not a fictional character, at least you say you aren't, so you don't qualify. You must be a fictional character, currently employed in a fictional capacity, and you must have more than five lines or perform 'special business' to be eligible. I love this card."
   I can see why, but, what's "special business"?
   "'Special business' is defined as 'any action or appearance in a work of fiction by a character described in such a way as to be considered unique' -- by a select panel of experts."
   Geez, you know this stuff by heart.
   "I said, I love this credit card. It's the best."
   But, as you say, if I could prove that I was a fictional character -- by the way, does "narrative voice" count?
   "I'm not sure. I think so. Is that what you think you are, Jim, a 'narrative voice'? You're more than that, aren't you?"
   Well, I'd rather not get into it.
   "No? You do realize you're up to Chapter Forty-one already?"
   I know, I know. Say, you didn't tell me.
   "Tell you what?"
   Your new job. What is it?
   "It's just a job."
   Every job is different, Maureen. Come on, out with it.
   "I'm a character... in another novel."
   "It's by this new writer -- it's his first novel, but it sounds great. He wants me to play the girlfriend of the protagonist, a kind of serial killer-savant, a brilliant homicidal maniac. But, like I said, it's only part-time. I'll be back here on weekends. And I'll see you at Kopy Katz, if we ever go back there."
   Maureen, I don't know what to say. If I'm not mistaken I'm crestfallen! What's his name?
   "Blabberman. Blabbo Blabberman. That's not his real name, though, because you won't let me say his real name in your book, so I guess the readers will simply have to pick up a copy of I, A Writer -- not it's actual title -- by Blabbo Blabberman -- once again, not his real name -- and see for themselves."
   Yes, I guess they will. You say his name's Blabbo Blabberman?
   "No I do not! You do! You say his name's Blabbo Blabberman! And I want to get out of here, Jim, now! Right now! Okay?"
   Okay, okay. 'Bye. See you later. When are you coming back?
   "I'll be back, oh, in Chapter Forty-three."
   Okay, see you then. (Okay? Okay? You're just letting her walk out like that? She's your best character, you can't just let her walk away like that. What about us? What about me? My job is linked to this project. If this fails -- there goes the house in the Hamptons every other weekend; there goes the good table at Elaine's on off-nights; there go the free lunches at Nedick's. What about me? -- Ed.)
   You? You, Ed.? (Watch what you say, here comes Mr. Note! -- Ed.)
   (Editor's Note: So, how's it going? I was just making the rounds, checking on our various "projects," touching base with the creative geniuses down here in the boiler room. How's it going, fellas?) (Uh, great, great, sir -- Ed.)
   (Editor's Note: Good, Ed., but why are you acting that way?) (Acting what way? -- Ed.)
   (Editor's Note: Like someone dropped a frozen fish down your shirt.) (No one dropped a frozen fish down my shirt -- Ed.)
   (Editor's Note: It's just an expression! What's wrong with you, Ed.? Come on, I can tell something's wrong, so spit it out -- but don't spit, that's just an expression.)
   He's upset because Maureen walked out.
   (Editor's Note: What? She did? What brought this on?) (She'll be back! She'll be back! -- Ed.)
   (Editor's Note: Jim, you tell me, what happened?)
   Well, I won't repeat the whole story, that would be literary death at this point, but the upshoot is she got some part-time work in another novel.
   (Editor's Note: Really? You're kidding!)
   No, I'm not. I won't mention the name of the publisher, either because, well, why give away free advertising for the enemy, right?
   (Editor's Note: Of course.) (Of course -- Ed.)
   But, it means that, for the time being at least, you guys are going to have to pull your weight and then some to get me through the next couple of chapters. I hope you're up to it.
   (Editor's Note: I'm very busy, Mr. Reynolds. I can't babysit every author through their first novel. If I did I'd end up in an asylum. Why can't you just think of something that doesn't involve us, and move on -- start the next chapter in Timbuktu, or Tanzania, or Bop City, and come up with some new characters, or bring back Abe Lincoln [No! -- Ed.] or -- what, Ed.? -- or, continue the Powloo tale, or the U-boat drama, or anything, anything. There, does that help?)
   Huh? Oh, I don't know. You see, it's not just losing her character, it's more than that. (More? -- Ed.)
   Yeah. Sure. Of course. Haven't you noticed? Haven't you been reading this? Don't you get it by now? In reality, this is just another love story. (Come on! -- Ed.)
   That's all it is, a love story between an author and one of his characters who he falls in love with, and who falls madly in love with him. Well, not until Chapter Fifty-seven, maybe, but take my word for it. And, if it doesn't happen in Chapter Fifty-seven, I'll remove this paragraph.
   (Editor's Note: Fair enough. But, until then, heed my words, and give us one chapter, at least, of something new, something different. Please.)

(This ends Chapter Forty-one.)

Chapter Forty-two