President Nixon had a
whole team of plumbers working for him...
was talking on the phone with
my literary agent when the line began humming in a funny way. In my
busy household, this usually means that one of my family members has
picked up the phone.
“Who’s on the line?” I asked.
“Something going on?” my agent
“I think someone else just
picked up the phone. I think we’re about done, anyway, aren’t we?”
“Yup. Talk to you later,
“Right, I’ll get that proposal
to you by Monday.” I hung up and decided to take a break. As I walked
out of my office, I chanced to look outside.
My plumber, Sam, was
disconnecting a headset from my telephone connection box just outside
I yanked open the door and
barged out onto the porch. “Sam, what the devil do you think you’re
Sam shrugged and packed his
headset into a small toolbox. “Just doing my job. I’m a plumber,
Something in my brain started
pounding on the back of my skull. I breathed in deeply three times, but
the pounding just got worse. “Sam, since when does a plumber listen in
on private telephone conversations?”
Sam snapped his toolbox closed.
“Look, if you ain’t never studied US History, it ain’t my fault, but
President Nixon had a whole team of plumbers working for him, mostly
“Wiretaps. Yes, I know all
about that. I also know he lost his job because of it.”
Sam just grinned at me. “Look,
no offense, but I don’t think your agent’s doing too good a job for
“I’ll tell him you said so.” I
clenched my fists and resisted the urge to punch Sam in the face. It
helped to know that Sam weighs about three hundred pounds and is as
tough as your average moose. But the more I thought about Sam
wiretapping me, the madder I got. “Sam, get off my property right now,
and DON’T YOU DARE WIRETAP ME EVER AGAIN.”
“I’m just saying—”
“I DON’T CARE!”
Sam scowled at me. “Look, buddy,
I’m just trying to learn a new trade. It’s tough times right now for a
plumber, so I thought I’d take up agenting on the side.”
“On the side?” I stared at him,
wondering what sort of mushrooms they had put on his pizza. “Sam,
agenting is a full-time job and it takes a lot of training—”
“No, it ain’t, and, no, it
don’t. Lotsa agents do it part-time. And it don’t take no training to
be an agent. Any old fool can hang up a sign and be a agent. So a smart
feller like me can do real well at it. Am I right about that, or am I
I groaned. “You’re right that
any old fool can claim to be an agent. But that doesn’t mean any old
fool can actually do the job. It takes years of experience in the
“Lookit, I ain’t one to tell a
feller he’s wrong, except when the feller needs a new agent, and when
there happens to be a new and exciting agent standing right in front of
him, who just happens to have years of experience installing the
highest quality in low-flush toilets.”
stuck his thumbs in his
suspenders and grinned at me. “Just between you and me, I can tell that
your agent ain’t never put in a low-flush toilet.”
I barked a short laugh.
“Probably not, but he knows a fair bit about contracts and negotiations
and career development. And that’s a lot more than you—”
“Now don’t go playing no
comparison game on me.” Sam held up a thick hand. “Lookit, I know I got
some catching up to do, but I figger you can help me over the rough
spots, now that I’m representing you.”
Sam pulled a wad of paper out of
his coveralls and wiped a grease spot off it. “That reminds me, I ain’t
gave you your signed agency agreement yet.” He unfolded it and handed
it to me.
I studied the document. It was
an agreement between me and the SamWise Literary Agency. The language
was standard boilerplate legalese all the way down. Sam’s signature was
at the bottom, right next to my signature and today’s date.
Sam was looking at his watch.
“I’m having my niece Samantha fax that to your agent right . . . this .
. . second. Just so he knows you’re dumping him.”
“I’m not dumping my agent, and
I want you off my property in one minute.” I tore up Sam’s agreement.
“And next time you forge my signature, you need to remember to use my
legal name, not the nickname I use when I sign work orders.”
Sam grinned at me. “Well, maybe
you signed that and maybe you didn’t, but I don’t think your agent
knows which is which. Whaddaya think? What does he know and when will
he know it?”
I turned around and bolted into
my house, slammed the door, locked it, and raced for the phone.
It rang as I picked it up. My
hands were so sweaty I almost dropped the handset.
My agent was laughing so hard I
could barely understand him. “This thing you just faxed me is
Sam’s voice came over the line.
“Hey there, Mr. Never-Installed-A-Low-Flush-Toilet. That wasn’t no
joke. This here is Sam the Plumber, the new agent of your former—”
More laughter came over the
phone. “This is too funny,” my agent said. “And you’ve got a friend on
the line pretending to be Sam? You really went all out. How long have
you been planning this joke?”
I gripped the phone in sweaty
paws. “I . . . uh . . .”
My agent finally calmed down. “I
guess I should have been tipped off when I saw the letterhead that said
SamWise Literary Agency. What a hoot! But the rest of it looked
completely official. You really went all out. You’d have had me except
for that bottom line there.”
“What’s on the bottom line?”
Sam asked, sounding deflated. The rustle of papers came over the line.
Then Sam said several colorful words, which none of my publishers have
ever allowed me to include in my books.
The line stopped buzzing.
I looked out my window.
Sam grabbed his toolbox and
scurried back to his truck, which bore the name, “Sam’s Plumbing and
What was on the bottom line of
that phony agency agreement? I massaged my head for several seconds,
trying to remember what it said.
Sam had signed his own name.
He had forged my signature.
He had even forged . . .
Sam had forged today’s date.
April 1, 2009.