2 Dogs, a Cat, 9 Fishes
By Dan Akinlolu (South Africa)
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Getting a job was as difficult as securing the old one. It was another experience entirely after working as Sales Executive in a bookselling firm and wanting to become an editor for a publishing firm. Actually Claude had a flair for editorials, so he had to experiment first as freelance editor while working as salesman. It was actually difficult to determine whether book editing could be taught (perhaps a B.A honors in editing would have gone a long way) or a matter of talent and experience could help, but Claude had this weird interest and inordinate desire to be called writer and editor. Although, Claude was fortunate to have had a book published to his credit, he really loved to boast about it. That actually made him a little popular after many years of rejection slips but what was important to Claude was to be referred to as writer and editor; therefore he needed to fulfill his dream as an editor.
Fortified with his published novel “2 Dogs, A Cat, 9 Fish” and a letter for interview at a reputable publishing firm, Claude felt his dream was sure. That Monday morning he decides to wear a tie less shirt with double-breasted suit and a pair of loafers; clean-shaven and smelling of Dior cologne. He wasn’t a novice in the book industry
“I am an author with several years in sales department” he thought. Besides his insatiable desire to win that editor’s table meant he would stay more in the office than outside. He had this confidence that no matter what he would be considered after the interview. Claude glanced at the letter again and smile only to imagine what it had cost him to get the letter.
“I deserve this,” he muttered as he straightens himself in front of his huge mirror. How he wished he had a girlfriend to celebrate with. Claude soon walked out of his apartment and smiled gorgeously at fellow residents in the elevator to the ground floor.
8:15 A: M, Claude was at the bus stop, holding his brief case, a newspaper and a copy of his novel. He was really excited. The bus stop was unusually crowded and the weather, a little hazy. There are quite more people waiting to grab buses and cabs to their offices. No one took any notice of him especially that he decidedly show off his new book. He took a deep breath of fresh but hazy air and glanced at his wristwatch.
“The cab had better come” he murmured inaudibly and was beginning to get impatient. The fear of losing his dream job was the beginning of wisdom. Though he initially contained his fear and excitement but the next thirty minutes determine his fate. Time have always determine man’s fate. Claude notices a bright lady in red skirt suit, with peach lipstick, there was something pretty about her. She looked like someone who had a Monday morning problem with her car and couldn’t fix it but had to board a public cab. There was something commanding and youthful about her. Claude felt a little excited but wasn’t sure if she was looking at his book. Fortunately a cab arrived and the luck was that the lady boarded the same cab with him. The driver was a middle-aged man who appeared in an old thread bare suit but he drove with a little touch of intellect and class. The lady sat beside him at the back.
Claude was really excited, he liked meeting strangers especially ladies who have special taste for skirt suit. They give him mental torture. He wished he would talk to her but was a little shy about it. Claude glanced at his watch, the interview starts by 9:00 am, he had about thirty minutes to himself. There was more time to flirt in a dialogue with a pretty woman in her late twenties. Claude opened his novel and read in pretence. The intention was actually to show off the back page bearing his picture and biography. It was really bold enough for a shortsighted victim to identify him as writer. All the while the lady was silent, a little meditative. Claude wished he could do something to win her attention towards the book.
“ A writer should be smart enough to start a dialogue,”-he thought
“ That is a cool novel.”-Claude looked up from the book.
It was the driver, Claude saw him peeping at the rear mirror.
“ What? You mean this novel?”-Claude asked to be sure he heard him right.
“Hmmm”-the driver nodded.
He never looked like he could read a novel.
“ I wrote it”- Claude replied and that was what he’d been waiting for. To introduce himself as a writer was pleasurable desire for him. It often somehow create an undue attention. It worked; the strange lady glanced at him and smiled.
“ Really?”-she asked.
“Yea!”-he replied proudly and showed her the back page with his picture around the blurb.
“ Not bad. I’ve read the book too”
“And how do you feel?”-he asked smiling with dignity.
“Nice but not good enough”-the driver responded.
“You are not suppose to say that, you know? Writers make life and kill them on the pages of paper”-Claude replied him.
“ But he is right”-the lady reacted
“Are you a writer?”-Claude ask the pretty lady.
“ Then why would you suggest another man’s work isn’t worth it?”
“First the book isn’t a novel…” -she continued, “ It is perhaps a genre of novella. Besides, the suspense was really lacking sufficient imagery because the language was unattractive. And the style is rigid.” -She finalized and raised her eyebrow.
Claude drew back in utter shock, he felt deflated and hurt. He felt he couldn’t stand such insult especially from a mere lady in her late twenties with peachy lipstick and with support from a middle aged driver in a thread bare suit.
“ Why would this idiot stranger destroy my reputation right in my presence?”-he thought and decided to get back at her.
“You know…”-Claude started, “you don’t have an idea of what it takes to be a writer, to create imaginable scenes on paper. So why would you think you are the best judge of bestseller? In fact I am not suppose to be talking with novice like you”
“But novice are the best judge…they have simple minds to determine classic and bestsellers.” -The driver argued
“ Don’t tell me that, you old man! I have written one of my best works and that is it! If it wasn’t good enough my publisher wouldn’t even touch it!” -Claude snarled and was getting mad at the two strangers who seemed to be hurting his ego.
“People write books and not stories”-the driver insisted
“ Don’t put your mouth into what you don’t know!” -Claude threatened. He really was getting mad and wished he hadn’t opened his mouth to start a dialogue.
“You‘ve never written a page and destroy one who has written a book!” -Claude fired back in uttermost vengeance.
“That is exactly what I am saying” -the driver was stubborn!
“Anybody can write a book but very few can do stories”
“That is true a good writer should stand critics,”-the lady added.
Claude wasn’t comfortable with himself. He felt like throwing the driver out of the car or rather break the lady’s neck.
“Writing stories take lots of effort with adequate skills and reading other works,”-the driver advised.
“Get me out of here for God sake!”-Claude screamed.
The lady gave him a flirting look but Claude wasn’t seeing anything beautiful about her again except criticism and analysis.
“Who the hell is she anyway?”
He thought and swore he would deal with such individual who brings manuscripts for assessment and evaluation. Editors determine writer’s fate in this world.
“I said stop the car!”-Claude shouted so much that the driver suddenly slammed on the brake, the car screech to halt throwing the passengers a little forward.
“I thought you are one nice lady, good for a dinner date, you prove otherwise”-Claude said rudely straight to her face and banged the door behind him. He wouldn’t mind trekking the few meters to his destination. Claude murmured and regretted boarding a cab with strangers that spoil the day for him and deflated his ego.
Claude was the third on the list with several others behind him. He tried to catch his confidence when they called him into the office. His sweaty palm on the door knob, breathe in and out several times then swung the door open into the conference room. He came face to face with panel of publishing executives. At the head of the conference table was a strange lady in red skirt suit in peach lipstick. She looked up from a file in her hand and smiled
“You again?”-she said.