Chapter Forty-nine

   I know it's a little late to be explaining the premise or purpose of this book. Way too late.
   "Excuse me... "
   What? Who's that?
   "Remember me? I talked to you a long time ago -- at least it seems like a long time ago -- I'm the first reader, from the first chapter."
   Oh yeah. How are you?
   "Not bad, not bad. Say, could you do me a favor?"
   It depends. You are aware that I'm in the middle of writing a novel?
   "Yes, yes, of course, but you can do this at the same time -- at least you have up to now."
   Okay, what is it?
   "Well, I have this friend, and he wrote a novel, which was published, and -- "
   Good for him. Have I heard of it?
   "No, I doubt it. It was never on the best seller list or anything. But it's a great novel, called Bop City Blues."
   Never heard of it.
   "I didn't think so. Anyway, the author of Bop City Blues wants to reach a larger audience, and he has a proposition for you."
   "He'd like to sell you -- such a crude way to put it -- his book."
   What do you mean? I thought it was published already?
   "It was. But few read it and fewer bought it. It literally disappeared. The author would like you to have the rights to the material -- to incorporate into your novel however you see fit -- for a reasonable, mutually agreed-upon sum. Let's say, five thousand dollars."
   Five thousand dollars? Where am I going to get five thousand dollars?
   "You just did -- you just got practically anything you wanted in the last chapter. It's not a lot to ask when you see the book."
   When can I see the book?
   "When can I see the money?"
   What is the author's name?
   "Who is on the five thousand dollar bill?"
   Who -- by answering a question with a question -- is in danger of losing his brief cameo appearance altogether?
   "Okay, okay -- here -- speed read it, then get out your checkbook."
   Hmm... I'm scanning now through a dog-eared copy of Bop City Blues and... it's not bad, not bad at all... nice feel to it, interesting characters... a lot of... atmosphere. I'll take it.
   "Check, please."
   All right, the check, the check... here.
   "You have a picture of Willie 'The Actor' Sutton on all your checks?"
   Yeah, it's just a joke.
   "Some joke. Well, thanks, it was nice doing business with you -- 'bye."
   "What's that?"
   A book.
   "I can see that. What book?"
   Bop City Blues. I bought the rights to it for five grand.
   "What are you going to do with it?"
   I don't know yet. I'll find a use for some of the stuff set in the nightclub, and maybe a few of the characters.
   "Wait a second, Jim, you're not going to use material from someone else's novel in your own novel are you?"
   Yeah. I paid for it. What's wrong?
   "What's wrong? Why don't you just steal from Hemingway, or Hawthorne?"
   That's a great idea! What do you think the Hemingway estate would ask for a small chunk of The Old Man and the Sea?
   "Have you gone mad?"
   You mean recently?
   "Be serious."
   I'll be half serious.
   "Jim, when you said I would fall madly in love with you in Chapter Fifty-seven, was that, can that be... re-negotiated?"
   Afraid not -- wrote it already -- it's set in stone. Sorry.
   "Well, I'd like to have some say."
   Oh, I'm sure you'll have plenty to say.
   ("Aimless, gimmicky, and as yet unfinished, Reynolds has a long way to go before he achieves his goal!" -- James M. Reynolds, and I know, I know, but I felt it was time to address you directly once again and admit that, yes, it is aimless, and it is gimmicky, and it is unfinished, and I do have a long way to go before I achieve my goal. What is my goal? My goal is to, first of all, finish. Then you can buy it, read it, do whatever you want to do with it, and maybe I'll make a few bucks. Other goals: To establish a link between the creative process and the marketing end, and get in on the ground floor; also, to establish a coherent unified field theory that explains why everything seems to have so much in common with everything else, especially out in the field; to see Maureen with her clothes off; and, finally, to establish a link between endless digressions and detours and long rambling thoughts that seem to meld into totally unrelated subject matter like how gabardine is woven or what is the best way to smoke a ham, but no, I'm not getting trapped in that hellish labyrinth. Besides, there are other goals I have in mind that are deep, serious, complex, and profound in their implications. But they are not funny, and in the end would probably be deleted.)
   "What's going on up there in that head of yours, Jim Reynolds?"
   "You drifted off."
   I did? I'm sorry, Maureen.
   "Don't apologize. I'm sure it was a good one. By the way, that reader, the aspiring writer, is on the line. Want to talk to him?"
   Not really. Put him on.
   "Hiya, Jim!"
   Since when are we on a first-name basis?
   "Why not? I'm a featured character."
   Only for the moment, a moment which could be oh-so-fleeting.
   "You can't cut me, I'm all over the place. Removing me would be like taking a cantaloupe from the bottom of the stack."
   I hate to disappoint you, but you're not indispensable. Nothing that went on in your scenes, including this one, has any impact whatsoever on the plot, or whatever you want to call it.
   "Then I'll make myself indispensable! I'll reveal the gimmick behind this thing, the big joke. I'll give it away, your BIG SECRET."
   Oh really? You've figured it out, have you?
   "Yes I have."
   Okay, let's hear it.
   "All right, here it is: Everything, every name, every place, every reference point -- every word in this book -- comes from the various materials that were left on the glass of the Xerox (Copier! -- Ed.), sorry, copier machine the day you copied yourself. Everything has been rearranged, and shuffled, and jumbled, and shuffled again. And everything in this book is really the slow, meticulous process of putting together the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. I'm right, aren't I?"
   You're wrong.
   "Then, the second possibility is -- it's backwards, it's being written backwards!"
   As I told you earlier, no. Look, aspiring writer, I --
   "What about Bop City? You plugged it in later, after you'd already written that chapter -- you went back and put it in, didn't you? Didn't you?"
   Well, yes, once or twice I've had that luxury, but the whole thing, backwards? I told you, no.
   ("Imagine Where's Waldo? as written by William S. Burroughs and you get a good idea of what awaits you in James M. Reynolds's wild, wicked, and wacky first novel, In the Bubble" -- Aspiring Writer)
   Sorry, nice try, but "Aspiring Writer" just does not have the cachet of, say, Joan Didion, or William S. Burroughs. Or even Waldo.
   "Put Joan Didion's name on it then, I don't care."
   ("Don't you dare!" -- Joan Didion)
   "I just want to break into this business in the worst way."
   And you're succeeding.

(This ends Chapter Forty-nine.)

Chapter Fifty