It didn’t take long for the taxicab to reach Cambridge. Crow paid the driver his money and got out of the vehicle in front of the Starbucks across from Publishers Alley. He needed caffeine because of what he just went through, and for what he believed he was about to go through at the meeting. He still had a solid ninety minutes before the meeting started. He thought it a good enough time to enhance his calm, so he could get his focus back up by using a charged up liquid piggyback. Typically, Crow loved his Dunks, but you can love your beer, but still need some Bourbon from time to time. He approached the counter and waited for his turn. The barista greeted him and took his order. Being cheeky, he told the barista that his name was Alphonse. He remembered that name for a porn movie he saw on VHS when he was just a kid. In the pre-internet times, you had to get your smut via the medium of video cassettes, instead of being able to instantly download content as is done now. The particular porn Crow enjoys invoking for Starbucks sobriquets was called “Tittie Committee II” and had a scene wear a meek fellow that seemed to be the perfect personification of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Marvin the Martian, was filmed being cuckolded by his Cosmopolitan wife and a used car salesman. Throughout the scene, as she was enduring rigorous “exercise” she kept making contact with her husband and asking him ‘Are you watching, Alphonse?’, ‘Do you like seeing your wife being taken by other men, Alphonse?’
No one got more of a kick out of Crow’s musings, than crow. He just hoped that his Starbucks stunt didn’t backfire on him, as his tossing up the homeless man had earlier in the day.
“Alphonse? Venti Cafe Mocha with two extra shots? Alphonse?”
A smile of victory came over Crow’s face. It still got him, every time.
He sipped on his drink until he could feel his temples vibrate. He then knew it was time to head over to the Publisher’s office to wait there. He quickly finished what remained in the cup and dropped it in the trash on the way out the door.
He cut across the four cornered street diagonally, as he didn’t have the patience to wait for the little white man to tell him he could go through the crosswalk.
He dodged a turning Mercedes, that leaned on the horn letting Crow know he was in the wrong for not being in the crosswalk. Crow flipped him the bird, and the Mercedes pumped the brakes as if they were going to stop, but then continued on.
Crow saw the old building, and ducked in the revolving door that entered into a surprisingly large lobby, given the building s appearance from the outside. He walked to the security desk, and asked them where to find Hickarado Publishing. The guard pointed to the left elevator bank and told him to take it to the fourth floor and take a right off the elevator.
Crow loved riding elevators. He was the only one in the elevator, and he still had twenty minutes before the meeting, so he hit the second, third, and fourth floor buttons. He decided that he had two other chances to duck out if he changed his mind on the short trip up to the office. As the elevator rise, it surprised him with a vintage elevator ding sound. The doors opened on the second floor, and there was a gentleman standing there fanning through what looked to be a manuscript. Crow thought that he must be going down. The man looked unamused. The doors closed. Ding! The doors opened, there was no one there. Crow stepped off, and spun around, just as the elevator door was about to close on him, he stuck his leg in to stop the doors from closing. The doors shot open and he rushed back inside. His heart rate was up again, and he pushed his back all the way agains the wall opposite the elevator doors.
Finally, he arrived at the fourth floor and vacated the elevator, turning right as the security guard had told him to do. He arrived at the Hickarado Publishers door, and placed his hand on the knob. He took a deep breath and turned the handle, moving at once over the threshold and into the office. He was greeted by the receptionist, and was asked to sit in the waiting area until Sandy was ready to come out to receive him. He found a seat closest to the door, and started perusing old copies of the New Yorker that were left on the waiting area table. His habit was to always skip to the table of contents and find out three things: where to find the fiction piece, where to find the poetry, and where to find the cartoons.
Before he could flip to the featured fiction of the issue he was holding, Sandy called out to him as he was approaching the waiting area.
“Good afternoon, Crow. Sandy. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you as well.”
“Thanks for coming in. We’re so happy to finally meet you. Why don t you follow me to the back? I have someone I want you to meet.”
“Sounds good, Sandy.”
“Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Water?”
“Water is good.”
The person I’m bringing you to meet is C.P. Hickey. He and his wife Lissette Alvarado, started this publishing company fifteen years ago.
“Yup. Just fifteen.”
“Wow! That’s impressive.”
“They’ve killed it in the last eight years.”
“Lissette wanted to meet you as well, but she is in Paris on a book tour with another client.”
“Yup, they even have international presence now.”
The gentleman walked down the hall to the back of the space. Crow’s heart was nearly jumping out of his chest. As they approached the office door, Crow noticed the sound of music playing unexpectedly loud. He couldn’t quite make it out, but it sounded familiar.
“C.P. loves the Beatles.”
“I knew I recognized it. But, I wasn’t sure.”
“Hold on, let me go in and let him know your here. Be just a minute.”
Sandy pushed open the door, and the song rang out through the expanding opening, “Paperback Writer” was playing, and Crowell took this to be a great sign, or one hell of a coincidence. Sandy was in there for a few seconds and then poked his head around the door nodding him into the office. The song slowly trailed off, and the unmistakable bass riff stuck in Crow’s head. He almost thought it would be funny to come into the office singing “Pa-per-back-Wri-ter-Wri-ter-Wri-ter…” But then thought better of it, after the morning he had.
Crow walked through the door and looked upon C.P. Hickey. He was standing behind his desk with a warm smile. He didn’t pretend he was busy, but was standing there with his hand out. He was a large man, with grayish hair, going the way of white and he had a grizzly unkempt beard, and dark rimmed glasses frames. He had on casual clothing ensemble of jeans and a sweater.
“C.P. Hickey, call me Chris. Very nice to meet you”
Crow and Chris stood there exchanging a handshake, and Crow liked that Chris didn’t try to crush his hand, but held firm, and made eye contact. Crow always admired people that made eye contact when speaking.
“Crowell Meanstreet, nice to meet you as well. Call me Crow.”
“Glad you could come in on such short notice. I asked Sandy to reach out to you. I have a flight to catch later on to meet up with my wife in Paris. She wanted to be here to meet you in person. But, she trusted that I wouldn’t scare you away, and allowed me to bring you into the office to talk about the manuscript you sent.”
“Thank you for the opportunity to meet, Chris.”
“You’re welcome, Crow. But, it should be us thanking you. Lissette enjoyed your manuscript very, very much, and she has a knack for finding new talent. I trust her eye, and she’s been right almost one hundred percent of the time. And when I picked up your story, I immediately felt at ease and that it had elements that we like to promote here at Hickarado.”
“I don’t know what to say, Chris. I’m humbled.”
“I’m not one for stretching things out, so I’ll say it plainly; we would like to publish your story. What would you think of that?”
“I’m thrilled. Speechless.”
“Don’t worry, if you’re like me, you’ll think of everything you wanted to say after you leave. I’ve been where you’re sitting, so I get it. We are thrilled to meet you, and in addition to your story being published, my wife has convinced me that you are a diamond in the rough, and she’d like to set up a temporary arrangement between you and Hickarado, until you’ve proven yourself as a viable long term investment. What do you say to that?”
“Again, I’m speechless.”
“It’s funny how many clients have a hard time expressing themselves off of the page.”
They all laughed.
“Well, we can get started with this after legal draws up the contract for the manuscript. We’ll also put you in touch with the production team to get some insight about cover art and style, etc. Also, we’ll have them draw up a short-term incentive based client agreement. Are you okay with that Crow? Do you have representation? We know a few people that could help, if you don’t currently have anyone.”
“I don’t have an agent, at present. But, I feel like I should have one. Sure, I’d be happy to work with any leads you might have in that direction.”
“Sandy, have Clarice give Crow a list of the agents we work with.”
“Oh, in the meantime, I do have a very trusted friend that could help me take an initial look at any documents until I get an agent.”
“Great, we’ll have documents sorted out by the end of the day, and sent over to you first thing tomorrow. Listen, take your time and enjoy this process. I still remember my first book, and all the stuff that happened once it got accepted by a publishing house. I feel that the reason we have success here at Hickarado, is that we respect the process, and allow our clients to enjoy it as it unfolds. We want to publish your book and for it to be a great success. But, we also want you to enjoy this aspect of the industry so you can focus on staying creative and doing what you do.”
“That means a lot, Chris. Thank you.”
“No problem, looking forward to working with you.”
The gentlemen shook hands again, and let their grip linger for a moment, this time, affirming the trust that was developing between them.
“We’ll set up a meeting to sign all the docs soon. Danny will be in touch.”
“Great, we’ll see you soon.”
Crowell turned around and headed toward the door, with Sandy.
“Oh, Crow, one last thing, tell me, this manuscript, have you submitted it anywhere else?”
Crow stopped in the doorway, smiling, and started to regret the fact that Danny lifted a version of his manuscript yesterday to hand over to his ex at the other publishing house.
“No, Chris. This is the only one I put out.”
“Great! That makes it cleaner, and should streamline the process so we can get going on it ASAP.”
Crow gave Chris the thumbs up gesture, and turned around and left the room. No sooner than he did, the Beatles music picked back up again. “Help!” was now playing. Crow couldn’t believe this song was playing at this moment. Once through the door of Hickarado Publishing, he padded down the hall, and pressed the button to call the elevator.
He was full of emotions. But, he needed to take care of a few things first, before he could get wrapped up in the excitement of what just occurred.
He pushed the button to call the elevator, got on and pressed the G for ground floor, immediately recognizing the symbolism in needing to ground himself in the moment. No shenanigans like earlier. He had a chance to finally do something. He traveled down without interruption. The ding sounded and he cleared the doors and got out of the building as quickly as he could.
Once across the street, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and selected Danny’s number. It went to voicemail.
“Listen up! Please tell me you didn’t give my manuscript to your ex. Please listen to what I say…DO NOT GIVE THAT MANUSCRIPT TO HER. CALL ME IMMEDIATELY. Bye. I’m going to fucking text you. If you get this call me right away.”
Crow opened the text messaging app on his phone and began typing…
Dan, CALL ME!!!! ASAP!!!!!