Anna Matopeia crossed her legs, uncrossed them, crossed them, uncrossed them -- okay, I told myself, start the damn sales pitch.
"The working title is One Hundred Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall, and it begins where we left off -- on the twenty-ninth floor of a Manhattan high-rise just after Jim, that's me, has leapt -- is it leapt? -- or leaped? Which is it? Leapt or leaped?"
"Leaped," she corrected me. (Leapt! -- Ed., the new Ed.)
(Editor's Note: We prefer leaped at our house.)
"Leaped -- out the window. I have just leaped out the window of Maureen's apartment as her husband is about to enter."
"And then what happens?"
"Well, what happens next is, I'm falling, faster and faster, accelerating at a rate of oh, about thirty-two feet per second per second, or maybe it's thirty-one feet per second per second -- although, honestly, it feels more like thirty-three feet per second per second!"
"Mr. Reynolds, please, I have another meeting after this one -- in about fifteen minutes. If you could just summarize a bit, compress time a little, we could -- "
"I got you. Okay, I'm falling, and, on the way down, I'm trying to think about anything but hitting the ground, and I end up thinking about -- Maureen! And I come to realize how much I need her, how important she is to me, how she's responsible, where I'm frivolous; how she's passionate, where I'm cold and aloof; how she's the strength, the glue, the Krazy Glue of the relationship; how I'd be lost without her... "
"You're thinking all this on the way down?"
"Yeah, isn't that amazing? Anyway, to continue -- because I know you're in a hurry, Anna, can I call you Anna? -- I land without hardly a scratch. I decide then and there to go back upstairs and confront Maureen's husband and challenge him to prove that he loves her even one-sixteenth as much as I do."
"And... what happens?"
"Well, they're not home -- I just missed them. But, I vow to return the next chance I get. Meanwhile, the elevator takes forever to get down from the twenty-ninth floor, so I -- "
"I hate to rush you, Mr. Reynolds, but -- "
"Okay, okay, here's what happens: She dumps this guy, we go out, we get serious, we marry. She asks for, and I give her, a co-authorship credit on the second printing of this novel. Then we divorce -- it's bitter -- but in the end we come to terms with things and get together again. As for Ed. -- you remember Ed.? -- we find out his real name's Owen Gelbaugh, he quits his job, finds work as a d.j. at a local radio station for awhile, then moves to Russia. Dancing Cloud stays in the 20th Century, goes to college, and becomes active in the Native American rights movement, the animal rights movement, and the Native American animal rights movement. Sonny, Greg, Ben, and Farley open a business converting gas-guzzlers to electric cars, but the batteries have a tendency to explode. Enter Vinnie and Bobby and a resurrected Carmine -- they now run a successful electric car battery disposal business. Sonny and the boys end up selling fishing bait door-to-door in Paris, while Vinnie is eventually elected Governor of New Mexico -- and he appoints Carmine as his Chief of Staff. At a memorial service for Mr. Katz, held at the Notes' suburban estate, Abe gets into a very vocal argument with Mrs. Note about her treatment of the servants. I'm two (three? four?) sheets to the wind and deliver the longest, the most rambling, the most scattered, the most self-conscious, the most embarrassing eulogy you could ever imagine -- that is, until Norman Mailer gets up to speak, and before you know it he and Joseph Heller and Uncle Lupo are in the middle of a pier one (six?) brawl. And the Note mansion ends up looking like the set of Atlanta right after they finished filming Gone With the Wind!"
Anna Matopeia was enthralled, alternately staring at me and her watch. I sensed the kill, although I couldn't tell who was doing the killing.
"Meanwhile, as we flee the melee -- heh-heh -- you, Ms. Matopeia, you... meet the man of your dreams."
"Really?" She perked up.
"He's the illegitimate son of James Joyce and Joyce Kilmer."
"Joyce Kilmer was a man!"
"I knew that, I knew that -- I meant -- Joyce James."
"Who's Joyce James?"
"You've never heard of Joyce James?"
"Well, Joyce James was quite a woman. She was the dominant figure of the most influential literary salon in Europe in the Twenties."
"Never heard of her."
"You've heard of Virginia Woolf? Gertrude Stein? Gertrude Lawrence?"
"So had she."
"Mr. Reynolds, as I said -- "
"Call me Jim."
"Jim -- "
"Call me Mr. Reynolds."
"Look, I can only take so much more of this!"
She wasn't alone.
"What are you doing?" Maureen has just asked me.
You said end it, so I ended it. Done, finished, fini, finis, fin, fins, fooey.
"That's no place to end a novel."
Well, we can argue about that during the first revisions, or in the next book, but right now I have to list "Other Books by James M. Reynolds," and then pen a brief bio of myself, and then I'm outta here.
OTHER BOOKS BY JAMES M. REYNOLDS
Finnegans Wake, with James Joyce, 1939
How to Beat the Odds in Vegas, 1958
Have you Hugged Your Porcupine?, 1961
The Kama Sutra Kookbook, with Sarabeth Honeybee, 1969
The James M. Reynolds Story, As Told to Himself, 1981
How to Win at Trivial Pursuit, 1987
One Hundred Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 1994
How to Win at Virtual Reality, 1997
Don't Call Me Ishmael!, with Sarabeth Honeybee, 2002
"Jim, I thought you said this was your first book?"
The first good one, I meant.
"And who is Sarabeth Honeybee?"
Someone I met in Berkeley -- but you're ruining my train of thought, Maureen. Where was I? Oh yeah.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James M. Reynolds was born in 1945 in Youngstown, Ohio, and moved his family to Farmington, New Mexico when he was two. He graduated, magna cum laude, from Harvard, at the age of six and did his graduate work in chemistry at Stanford, while at the same time appearing as "Jimmy" on the children's television program Blabbo the Clown. In 1969 Mr. Reynolds ingested some extremely powerful mescaline and to this day is still not totally convinced that everything that's happened since isn't just an extended hallucination and that he could still be sitting on the floor of a friend's apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, just off Avenue A, at about two-thirty in the morning, the only sound the fuzzy "ffft ffft ffft" of the inner groove of an Ornette Coleman record repeating over and over and over and over.
Reynolds lives alone, in a gaudy ten-room Bauhaus beachfront bachelor bungalow, surrounded by numerous opened cans of cat food, and his collection of rare, handmade English dart sets, of which he has -- no, no, that's not correct, he's not into darts.
Mr. Reynolds is currently working on this sentence, which is part of a brief bio that will appear in the back of the novel that he is currently writing. He lives alone.
"I still don't understand, Jim. It hasn't ended yet. I mean, I'm still talking, and you're still writing. What gives?"
I don't know, Maureen. I don't know. I work in mysterious ways. We'll find out more -- though not much -- in the next chapter. See you then.
(This ends Chapter Forty-seven.)