Chad Flemming sits quietly in front of the computer screen planning out his next sentence. It didn’t matter if his deadline was two days from now because Chad was holding out for a better publishing offer. Recently Chad and his publishing firm had been in a dispute over a request to have all of Chad’s work printed on scratch ‘n sniff paper. The entire negotiation process had ended in an icy stalemate. When I arrived at work today, he was almost too furious to work on what he incessantly referred to as a labor of love. He had stayed in the office all night thinking how corporate fat cats were imposing limitations on his masterpiece. This morning he had told me they were contaminating his artistic vision. Chad calls me into his office and asks, “Hey Suze, have I changed doll?”
“No sir, Mr. Flemming. The business has changed.” Upon saying this, I suddenly feel very dirty.
“Thanks doll. That’ll be all for now.”
As I exit, Chad made a reach into the cigar box in his desk drawer and pulls out a Cuban cigar before leaning back in his black leather chair. After a few puffs on his cigar, he began to re-immerse himself in what would inevitably be the fantastically imagined realm of his latest novel. For the next several hours Chad diligently and carefully crafts his story.
I’m in my office outside Chad’s playing solitaire and waiting for his publisher or someone to call and make an offer when I hear Chad scream, “Those clowns pissed off the wrong best-selling author!” I get up from my desk and knock on Chad’s door to investigate.
“It’s okay, Suze. I just got an e-mail rejection from Scandom House. Scandom House is supposed to be my safety publisher! Who do those hacks think they’re dealing with? I’m Chad fucking Flemming, and if I know one thing, it’s that Chad Flemming is about that.”
“Maybe you should take the rest of the day off to clear your head.”
“Oh no, no. That’s just what they want me to do… They haven’t gotten to you too. Have they, Suze?”
“No. Chad, I swear it’s not like that…”
“Take a seat, doll…Ahhhem.” For a moment, all I can think about is the obnoxious sound Chad makes when he clears his throat. He continues, “sometimes I wonder how the world of professional writing became so ridiculous. Among many other things, I, Chad Flemming, have given the world numerous novels about coming of age in times of war and famine and all I’ve received in return is money, celebrity status, and an opportunity to be listened to.”
“That’s a tragedy, sir,” I quip.
“I would’ve gone with travesty, but I suppose both would work…”
“That’s why you’re the writer, sir.”
I leave Chad alone so he can write in peace. Chad’s latest story was turning out better than even he had expected, but the thought of reading it without the ability to smell the same smells as the book’s narrator deprived the reader of the Chad Flemming experience. The thought of millions of readers being deprived of the Chad Flemming experience festers and wears away at Chad until all of the sudden he grabs the cordless phone and slams it down on its charger. I hear him scream, “Who the hell do they think they’re fucking with?!” Chad snatches the coffee mug off his desk and hurls it against the door. I hear the mug impact against the door and shatter. I decide to wait a minute to let him calm down. In his office I hear a primal scream. Curious about the commotion, I poke my head in through the door. Chad’s shirt is torn open and he’s kneeling on the floor with his skinny6 fists raised in the air like antennas. I’m not sure what to think. Chad looks like a miserably failed attempt by Bruce Banner to transform into the Incredible Hulk.
“Is everything okay in here, Mr. Flemming?”
“Nothing is okay in here! Clean up this mess and take the rest of the day off.”
Chad pours himself a glass of cognac. He sips it slowly while facing the window as I collect the shattered porcelain and put the shards and tiny fragments in the waste basket. The sunlight pours in through the blinds and projects lines on his face. He doesn’t sit down or turn back around again until I finally leave the room. He gulps down the last mouthful of cognac all at once and buries his head in his hands. Chad remains motionless for quite sometime. As I’m getting ready to walk out the door, I catch a glimpse of Chad contemplating his next move. The phone begins to ring. I stay an extra moment to listen. I walk toward Chad’s office door, and he answers with a slightly agitated “hello.” I can hear a second voice coming from the speaker-phone.
“Mr. Flemming, several studios are interested in the movie rights to your latest book.”
“Fair enough. What’s in it for me,” asks Chad, trying to play it cool.
“A pay check from the highest bidder.”
“Are we talking here or what? I have an artistic vision and I can’t betray that. Either the movie is filmed entirely by a single camera mounted on the back of a Bengal tiger or I pass,” Chad answers confidently.