Andrew sat at his one-by-two metre plywood desk and sighed. He shouldn’t have, sighing made him look forty. Not twenty-seven. Not recently married to his UQ sweetheart. But Andrew Ginnis couldn’t help it because he was behind, and depressed. “Five books a day,” his boss’s voice echoed in his head. “Five. That’s your KPI. You whine again and I’ll turf your ass out.”
He glanced at the slush pile, it was twenty manuscripts high and twenty wide. Then he sneaked a peek at the latest book he was editing, Korean Kings. No one knew if it was going to make it past the legal team for copyright clearance. Hell, Andrew didn’t even know if all the characters had Korean names. He was just hoping they did.
Picking up his coffee cup to distract himself from his worries, Andrew stared blankly at its dark and cold contents. Where did I go wrong? he asked himself. Second in the class, hardworking, teachable. Was it my interview? Should I have been more white? Laughed at the Royal Tenenbaums’ references? Not told them I thought men editing female YA novels was a dumb idea?
He didn’t know, and because he didn’t know and couldn’t solve the biggest dilemma of his working career, Andrew decided to do the only thing he could – make himself a cup of coffee. Korean Kings, with its Miyamoto Musashi cyborg, would have to wait. At least that’s what he believed until Marie slammed his office’s door open.
Marie – Marketing Director, Self-appointed Marketing Director, had a weight problem. Everyone knew about it – Josie, Jean, John, and even Fredrick – everyone except Marie who was sucking in deep breaths of air in a skin-tight, size-18 dress.
“There’s,” she panted, “there’s, this, this, person, to see, you.”
“No-one’s scheduled to see me Marie,” Andrew replied as he swirled the contents of his cup around.
“He’s,” she waved her hand at him, “here, about, a rejection.”
“Have Josie get rid of her. I’ve got Korean Kings to finish.”
Marie stared up at Andrew with the look of a person who had been defeated, died, come back, been defeated again and then had been impaled on a pole just for laughs.
“Really?” Andrew responded to the expression. “No one’s that bad. We had the man who wrote a book on a banana, a child who believed she was Buddha reincarnated and…’
Marie cut him off, “He’s that bad. Josie took an early break. An early break! He’s an arts student who merged with a salesman and a raging fire.”
What Ginnis couldn’t believe was why he was still working in an office with a woman who could crush the precious building blocks of English into a tasteless word soup. Still, he knew he wasn’t getting out of it. And so, after his thirtieth sigh of the day, he replied, “Fine, send him in.”
Marie wheezed a “Thank you” in Andrew’s general direction and dashed out. Thirty seconds later a twenty-something male with blue eyes and a half-grown beard was sitting opposite him. The visitor sat on an unstable office chair and had a yellow cat-eared hat pulled down squarely over his head. To Ginnis the hat’s two black ears looked like they’d been coloured in with a permanent marker.
“How can I help?” Andrew started.
“I was rejected.”
Ginnis took a deep breath, folded his hands together and replied, “Yes. That happens to most…”
“I was rejected. Me. You cannot reject Me.”
“I’m not some half-drunk waif wandering through the literature landscape.” The man flicked his right hand towards Ginnis in disgust. “I am Me.” The yellow hat bobbled slightly.
“I think I’m a little lost,” Andrew replied honestly. “We’re a…”
“Yes, you are what you are. A lowly publishing firm that desperately wishes to emulate, I mean mutilate, the greats. That was why I sent you my Patoo, Patoo novel. It was a perfect fit. It would have launched both our careers.”
“I don’t remember your work.”
“I am Me!” the man responded again.
“You are me?” Andrew raised his left eyebrow. “I don’t think you’re me. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.”
“No you demented corporate shill, I am ME!”
Andrew nodded in agreement even though he didn’t quite get what Me, or the other person, wanted. He was certain, however, that it was something meta and he had always hated meta people. If Ginnis’d had to pick one meta-person he’d hated the most, and there’d been many, it would’ve been Charles. Charles ‘Writing is the Universes way of communicating to us through our fingernails’ Raymond.
With all that in mind, Andrew tried again, “So, Me, or, OK, ME. Fine, you, Me, sent us a book called Patoo, Patoo?”
“Yes, that is a correct assessment.”
“And it was rejected?”
“OK,” Andrew paused and tried to wrap his head around the ME concept. After tapping the side of his coffee cup twice with his wedding ring, he decided to call the person M and E so the constructs of relational-self did not continue to flip in his head. He continued, “So M…E, did I say why it was rejected?”
“Copyright infringement. Which is a total fabrication. I came up with the character by myself in a locked room with the shutters down. The world was closed but the literature universe,” Me took a self-satisfied sigh, “was open. It poured its mysteries and revelations into my soul.”
“But you violated copyright?”
Me stood up and banged the table. “Copyright is a meaningless shackle designed to deny me, and you, the rights we so justly deserve.” Me sat back down, fell off, got back up and sat down again. “That is, of course, if I broke copyright. Which I didn’t. I created Patoo, Patoo and am ready to accept my advance.”
Andrew picked up his coffee cup, swirled its contents around and then thrust it towards Me’s hat. “Is that Patoo?”
“Of course. It is a franchise in the making.”
“I think he has a franchise.”
“Not a true franchise. It does not represent the true soul of Patoo. It is a false copy, a pagan shadow of the true summer that is coming. Patoo is coming.”
Ginnis sighed, picked up a pen with his left hand, scribbled three meaningless lines on his draft copy of Korean Kings, and then replied, “Patoo?”
“Is Patoo a Liberal supporter?”
Me blink three times in rapid succession and replied angrily, “What?”
“He is, isn’t he? You don’t have to tell me. I get it.”
“What you’re doing,” Andrew replied confidently with a smile thrown in for good measure. “It’s good. A sort of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ meets ‘Going Rogue’ with animals. Greens’ll never see it coming. Maybe we could sell a thousand? Two thousand to the right-wing conservative crowd?”
“What are you talking about?” Me snapped at Andrew. “Patooh is apolitical. He goes on adventures with his trainer called Me and saves the woodland creatures from destruction.”
“I know that’s what you think.” Andrew swirled his cup once more. “It’s not what I got when I read it though. I’m thinking ‘Patooh goes to Washington’ but in Australia…and with austerity arguments.” Ginnis tapped his wedding ring on the cup to emphasize his point. “‘Socialism, not in my time,’ Patooh tells the Governor General. I can see it.”
“That’s, that’s not what it’s about.”
“Only book I’ve read with a yellow character which has black ears.”
“Hey,” Andrew cut him off, “maybe you’ve got the wrong publisher. We’re all about hidden messages here.”
Me leaned forward and asked, “Excuse me?”
“It’s a well-known industry secret that we publish books with hidden conservative messages. And only books with hidden conservative messages.” Andrew winked at him.
“No,” Patooh’s creator looked around the room uncertainly and repeated, “No.”
“Oh yeah. I mean, you think the crap we sell makes money? Have you even read one of our novels? Come on. Don’t be stupid Me. You’re a uni grad. Get your head out of the fantasy can. How do you think we make a living? The hard way?”
“No,” Me yelled. “No! You will not have Patooh. Not for your agenda. When I’m rich, and eating cheese rings being fed to me by Anne Hathaway, I will buy your little firm and crush you.”
“That’s a no then?”
Me stood up, slammed the door open and replied, “A firm no.”
Andrew swirled the contents of his cup twice, smiled and then headed towards the kitchen for his coffee.