More from “Western Waste”

10 Oct

Here is another excerpt from my first novel, The Epiphanies of Western Waste*.

Since his big promotion to Group Publisher, [our publisher] Alan had basically stopped coming to the office. He made frequent trips to Omaha to check up on a whole slew of Mid-Western trade publications that had fallen into his lap.  They served, of all things, the veterinary medicine industry, and were apparently among Simkins’ most profitable trade magazines.

“He’s up to his ass in brood mare insemination techniques and bovine diarrhea vaccinations,” guffawed Derek. “What could be a better match for a man of his talents?”

# # #

After one of Alan’s particularly long absences, Derek decided that we needed a firm course of action to steer our somewhat rudderless ship of a publication.

He called Stephen and me into his office.

“We have a publishing crisis on our hands,” he intoned gravely. “We haven’t had a publisher in twenty-two days. Twenty-two working days.  I’ve kept track of them carefully.”

“Therefore, we need to create a publisher, or rather publishers, to make up for the one we are supposed to have, but don’t.”

Derek had a way of making ridiculous and outrageous proposals sound completely normal. Stephen and I glanced at each other with a look that read: “Why not? It’s a slow news day.”

We watched as our boss slapped two packages of rainbow-colored children’s modeling clay on his desk. “One for each of you,” he said.

“Your assignment this afternoon is for each of you to create a clay publisher. That’s so we always have a publisher on site, even when Alan, is uh, out of the office attending to his many important duties.”

Stephen and I picked up our respective packages of clay and trudged dutifully back to our cubicles. I spent a half-hour or so shaping an approximation of Alan out of mine.

My version of the clay publisher had lime green hair and a cobalt-blue face, and was a pretty fair job, I must admit. I used a pencil point to poke tiny holes in the cheeks, approximating Alan’s freckles, and drew a scarlet spot on the nose with a red razor point marker to indicate substance abuse markings.

Derek was delighted with our sculpting efforts.

“Our antipodean friend, Lord Kevvy, owes you both a nice lunch soon,” he said.

This was one of Derek’s favorite lines.  He would often take us out to lunch on the company dime, and then later submit the bill on his expense report, claiming it was a meal with an advertiser or industry big-wig. It was the kind of thing you had to do when you worked for a cheap-ass Kiwi bastard like Lord Kevvy, he always claimed.

Derek later stationed the two Clay Publishers on his bookshelf just behind his Veri-Typer terminal. He saw them when he turned his machine on in the morning and again, when he turned it off at night. They were always watching over the Weekly Shipper’s esteemed editor-in-chief, their symbolic Plasticine protection extended over his editing efforts.

Alan eventually started showing up at the office again, at least a couple of days a week. Derek swore that his nose had been surgically reconstructed in the time he was away, but I was convinced that was just an uncharitable speculation, all too typical of Derek.

Shortly after Stephen and I made the Clay Publishers, Alan ducked his head into Derek’s office, while he and I were discussing a snout** for the First Call of a ship belonging to the People’s Republic of China.

“You wanna go make nice with the Commies, or should I send Stephen?” Derek asked.

Alan’s eyes alit curiously on the two Clay Publishers stationed behind Derek’s Veri-Typer terminal.

“What are those things?” he interrupted. “Creepy little buggers, aren’t they?”

Figurines, Alan. Those are figurines,” Derek replied, admirably deadpan.

Alan shuddered. “Don’t know why you’d want to put them on your shelf right there near you like that. Damn, those things give me the creeps. I wonder what weirdo you guys met on the street inspired them—I really do.”

That story traveled around the office, and for a long time afterward, Derek could make me and several other people double over with laughter simply by repeating the word “figurines.”

# # #

* The Ephiphanies of Western Waste, copyright 2012, by S. K. Cole. All rights reserved.

**a snout: jargon for an industry reception where copious amounts of free food and booze usually flowed, to the delight of underpaid trade journalists.

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One Response to “More from “Western Waste””

  1. Adil J Cole October 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Pretty funny. Got a laugh out of the guy playing himself out – jokes on him.

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