"End of a period." That's what she said. "A period of failure due to a falling behind." Now he's firmly roped in. Hog-tied. No way now he can ignore her rather ungentle prod. No way he can drop out or leave this Publishers and Writers Action Pod, (PWAP), she's put together. Him among them. Which is - not natural. But still... .
Her work is a call that he now believes will arouse hope across that long languishing and all-but-dead industry. And, despite his best efforts, somewhere along the line over these past weeks, hope arose in him. Against his long-cultivated cynicism. Now that is quite clear to him. No matter the comforts of his retirement. No matter this woman's really unattractive manner. No matter the many sloppy, neurotic, ego-crazed attitudes that abound among the publishers, editors and writers gathered here in this group - this "pod" - he is going to have to join with her. With them.
His own publishing house had gone down the drain. Resulting from the lethal combination of a bad economic down-turn together with the fast and furious advent of the electronic brave new world. All those on-line books and newspapers. The blogs. The read-it-on-your-wireless-cellular-whatever-doohickey-thingamabobs. In the end, after his own publishing house began first to falter, then to shrivel, and was finally forced to close its doors, laying off, ultimately, some 400 people, he'd taken an almost black delight in watching it all go to hell.
Watching 'em all, the great and the small. Too many of them. Publishers, reporters, writers, editors. Their kids or their kid's kids if not themselves. Hitting the breadlines. Now called Soup Kitchens. How kitschy! Soup kitchens, indeed. And Shelters. Shelters! Where people get robbed of their goods and raped of their self-respect. God! Better to sleep on the streets and beg. Well, easy for him to say. He doesn't have to do any of that. His millions are safe. Invested in the stodgiest of stodgys. Intact. Also true of his home. All paid-off. House and automobiles.
No. He is set. So how had he wandered into this place? With these people? To listen to That Woman? He'd never taken to her. She had ever and always been 'pro-activating' about something. He'd often thought that someone should take her home and impregnate her. Give her a real bawling peeing needy tiny human being to look after. See how proactive she could still be with an 8 pound gift of heaven on her hands.
Oh! Not he! Lord no! Not himself. He wasn't about to impregnate any woman ever again. As for home and hearth and marriage? No. Thank you very much. He's a fully immunized Marital Survivor. All paid up, his dues. He's been there, he's done that. And shamefully, he admits, he'd done it atrociously.
But he did come here. To hear her ideas. In fact, he'd come here every Wednesday night for the past 4 months now. It had been - addictive. At first he'd thought of it as you do that really bad road accident. The one you drive past, like a good chap. Never stop. But can't help staring. And hoping traffic won't speed up again too soon, so you can stare a bit longer.
Well, he'd stared. And the thing is, she's much better than he thought she'd be. Much, much better. And now, despite his reluctant-virgin attitude, he's been properly seduced. She does have a masterful plan. He is - he admits - strongly attracted to its possibilities. Unlike other gimmicky subversive selling jobs he's endured -- and snickered at -- this one he believes to be the real deal.
For starters, she doesn't want anyone's money. No. She doesn't want money. She wants hearts and souls. And she wants those hearts and souls put to work in the service of the group's intuition and belief that there is hope. Hope, he's always thought, is for children. They need it, God knows. But now? Now, well, now there is a new NOW. Hard to explain.
He can tell himself that he has nothing better to do. Which is nothing but the honest, skinned-down, ragged underwear-ed truth. Has had nothing better to do for at least 3 years now. You've got to walk the dog. He's happy to play poker with a bunch of other old farts every month. Happy to take his ex-wife or ex-lover or ex-partner or even ex-shrink to dinner each month. Play some backgammon with his too soon old and too late smart son. And put up with that daughter in law, that child-woman his son married. Piece of work, her.
No. This is something else. Against his will, against every fiber of his curmudgeonly antipathetical misanthropic persona, the hopeful curly-headed boy he once was is tugging at his gonads, for Christ's sake, and begging - begging, forsooth - that he get up and put on his worn-out faith - that thing he'd tossed in the back of the mudroom closet - pull up his socks, wipe his nose, polish his glasses, clench his dentures, and go out there and win one for --- .
Jesus. It sounds so green. So - naive. So - to quote his word processing thesaurus (and yes, he'd looked it up): "innocent, unsophisticated, artless, ingenuous, inexperienced, guileless, unworldly, trusting; gullible, credulous, immature, callow, raw, green; wide-eyed, wet behind the ears, born yesterday." Cripes! All that. Possibly more. Doesn't matter.
The bald headed, odd, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction fact is that he is going to get off his arse and move forward. Not only that, he wants to get off his arse. He is going to help. He's not even shocked to find that he wishes to help. He wants to reach out and get pulled right in. Way, way in. Over his head in. In on the ground floor of this woman's vision. Help make it real, this mind-boggling concept. This nascent, blind, struggling and totally new thing. This to-be new era in book publishing. This new Now.
Trouble is, he believes. God help him, he believes in the possibility of it. He believes he can help establish a new publishing epoch -- a new era in tbe history of the publishing game. It sounds... . It just sounds so... . It sounds so fine.