The newspaper covered the lower portion of Bill’s face, below the eyes, producing an annoying peek-a-boo effect, as Robin, Mrs. Constant as was, noted. “Billy, please put down the paper.” Done.
“Bill, don’t say ‘what’. “
“Okay, pardon me dear?” Robin silently reminded herself to work on laying off the etiquette lessons. Perhaps when she and Bill had been married another fifteen years, she or he would come around, around to something. In the meantime, Robin went on to pose the material question,
“Well what, my dear?”
“What did the publisher think about your idea?”
“About financing your Paris trip instead of giving you the advance?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Uh, I think it should work.”
“Do you think it’ll work, or do they?”
“They haven’t said, but I meant logically. If they’d give me a five grand advance, why wouldn’t they pay for me writing in Paris, to a max of five thousand?”
“As we discussed (suppressing condescending smile), because they’d say ‘Why not just take the money and pay for the trip yourself?’”
“Yes, but, as we discussed, there’s also the issue of timing. Usually, an advance is paid on delivery of a manuscript, not before it’s written (pause) except for established big sellers.”
“Didn’t ‘Blackbird’ sell pretty good?”
“One ‘Blackbird’ selling five thousand units (“… and counting”, Robin tossed in), and counting does not an make an established author.”
Bill looked at his plate while he sorted out the right balance of pride, humility, and practicality. Robin, a poor conversational starter, but a good finisher, found the balance point for her partner.
“We’ll have to top up the trip anyway, right?”
“You’re gonna give up your job anyway, right?”
“So, in for a franc, in for a euro.” (tolerably smug smile)
“What? I mean pardon me?”
Robin leaned forward slightly. “Tell the publisher that you’ll take the money, but as a real advance, meaning you’ll pay back the $5,000 or however much if you don’t deliver a manuscript that’s up to their standards.”
Bill leaned back slightly in his white painted wooden kitchen chair, smiled, and replied. “Why not, Gee, are you that confident that I can deliver? You’re willing to take the risk, not just the five grand risk, I mean the whole risk of me giving up my job, which is probably my career at this stage?
“Don’t be silly, you’re only 39?”
“Pharma moves like lightning. (Bill was a senior sales associate for a drug multi-national.) In a year I’ll be completely out of touch.”
“Baloney! Anyhow, who cares? I’m still working, and you can do anything. Hell, you sold five thousand copies of your first novel.” Robin gave a pantomime negative shake of her head and a wag of her finger – in self-satire “You just sit up young man, and finish your supper. And put down that paper, there’s no reading at the table!”
Bill straightened up as ordered, then leaned forward, flagrantly put his elbows on the country style kitchen table, rested his chin and cheek in his right hand, and let out a heavy sigh His left arm joined the right in cradling his head. He wiped his dry face by bringing both hands forward until they clasped together in unconscious prayer fashion, with his thumbs pressed to his lips and his cheeks puffed. After a five second interval, Bill moved the clasped hands to support his chin, and then spoke, in a serious, soft, and seeking voice. “Robin, can’t you and Bonnie come with me?”
Robin Constant imitated his thoughtful posture and tone of voice, and spoke from atop her folded hands. “No dear. I have to keep my job, for security. Bonnie can’t be uprooted for six months. It makes no sense. Besides, you’re the writer.”
Bill changed his posture, sitting up straight, with hands clasped in front of himself, on the table – the ‘good morning teacher’ mode. “I am, aren’t I! Oh jeez, where will it all lead?”
Without a pause, without hesitation, and without in even the smallest measure revealing her fears, Robin carefully and emphatically pronounced “Paris”.
The road to Paris began in Toronto, in a new condo that the newlyweds of three years vintage had purchased in the old neighborhood of Church and Wellesley, a few blocks south of Bloor, and a few blocks west of Yonge, not far from Robin and Bill’s alma mater, the University of Toronto. Maybe more properly it started in Robin’s childhood home in Mississauga, or in Bill’s birthplace of St. Boniface, the French(ish) suburb of Winnipeg. Or more properly it began in the Psych class at U. of T. where they met. Or in the little chapel in the corner where they wed one sneaky cold early spring Toronto day, or the Convocation Hall where they were handed their diplomas (She - BA, He – MA) that very same day in 1989. A girl child appeared just as the scene was shifting from temporary quarters in a Mississauga basement suite, to the two- bedroom condo referenced above. The purchase of the apartment had been facilitated by the generosity of parents and the empowerment of the attainment of permanent employment (She – HR administrator, He – Pharma sales rep).
The young couples inability to conceive during the first two years of marriage, despite enthusiastic, conscientious attention to the project, had led Bill to research medical matters, first reproductive and then general, as the interest bug bit. Modern medicine is one part surgery and six parts drug therapy. A reasonably intelligent person, even one without a maths and science background can, with some effort, come to sufficiently understand the biology and the chemistry behind therapeutic drugs. About seven years and one marriage later, Bill Constant came to realize that he had an interest in, no, a passion for drugs – healing drugs. So what was a History and Politics major to do about that? Swallow his pride, give up the search for a job in his field, and take what was possible in the field he now cared about. And what was available was sales. Sales is always available to anyone with the heart, the determination, and the sincerity to try.
Bill and Robin took stock together. They were without child, without separate address, and without immediate prospects for better. Robin was temping. Bill was tramping the streets, vamping at Home Depot, not one tack closer to the far shores of success. What better time to come about, and to run with the prevailing winds. Big Pharma was expanding on the strength of newly discovered blockbuster drugs, and would pay an unseemly amount to successful sales agents in newly established territories in the Golden Horseshoe around Metropolitan Toronto. By God, or whatever young semi-seculars swear by, he’d do it. He did it. They struggled for the first year as Mr. Constant got his sea-legs. There’s a certain way for one to think, to speak, even to feel, in order to succeed in sales. Some sales guys are born, many are made, all are self made. By the time of bonnie Bonnie’s birth he had made himself - upright, self-sufficient, content, and respected, at least by the small circle that surrounds almost all of us, inside the immense universe of those who know nothing about us and care less.
I am sitting in bed in my pyjamas (ya gotta love retirement!), having just finished ‘repainting’ the last of the chapters of my new novel, The Tourist. There are now 102 chapters. The ‘last’ chapter is written, but the novel is not finished. I still need to bring the stories of all the characters to a conclusion, somehow or other. The story ends with the main character (the tourist) returning home from his travels, geographical and psychological. Besides plot and other normal features (character, moral, grammar, style, etc.) that need to be brought to a finished state, I need to complete the work of polishing the structure of the book on quasi-poetic terms. See The Tourist (1) to The Tourist (10) for what this means.
The next step in that process will be printing the manuscript. The paper draft will be reviewed in the normal way, to eliminate bad or unnecessary passages, to fix the rest, and to add what’s missing. As well, the paper chapters will be compared to one another, where earlier chapters have been ‘repainted’ for use as later chapters. The chapter lengths and particular types will also be reviewed in light of the graphs I created to review these features. Again, see earlier blogs for an explanation.
How much work is left? Something between a few months and a year or more. Hmm? Maybe I’ll just put the covers over my head!