was talking on the phone to my friend John when a pickup truck turned
into my driveway. The sign on the side of the truck said SAM’S PLUMBING
AND VAMPIRE REMUVAL SERVICES.
“Hey, John, gotta go. Looks
like a problem brewing.” I slammed down the phone without waiting for
an answer and went outside.
My plumber, Sam, came striding
down the walk, a big grin lighting up his face. “I don’t suppose you
got any vampires that need removing, do ya?”
I shook my head. “Sorry, they
all moved out when the werewolves started camping in our back pasture.”
“Hey, that’s great! Show me the
way. I been needing to interview a werewolf anyways.” Sam flung open my
door and steamed inside.
“Sam, wait! That was a joke! We
don’t have any—”
Sam was already at the back
door, scanning the back pasture and putting on brass knuckles. “Now you
just stay inside and I’ll take care of ’em. Werewolves can get a little
messy, but they ain’t no match fer a feller that installs low-flush
toilets, with his eyes blindfolded behind his back.”
I went into the kitchen, grabbed
a Classic Coke out of the refrigerator, and came back into the dining
room. I popped the tab, sat down, and took a long pull. “There’s just
nothing like a nice Coke before getting down to hard work. You go on
ahead and take out those werewolves. I’m going to go write me some
fiction—as soon as I finish this Coke.”
Sam stared at my Coke for
several seconds, then walked into the kitchen and opened the
refrigerator. A minute later, he was relaxing on a chair across the
table from me, slurping Coke.
Sam drained the last of his Coke
and belched with a noise like a sewer drain. “Betcha can’t guess what
my first novel is gonna be about.”
Nothing Sam says surprises me
anymore, so I tossed out the most ridiculous answer I could think of.
“You’re writing an action-adventure, teen-angst, romantic suspense,
Western comedy with vampires, werewolves, witches, and blue-skinned
Sam shook his head. “Close, but
ya left out the part about the Aimish.”
“Aimish?” I said blankly.
Sam grinned. “Aimish people.
Them little bonnets they wear is pretty cute, ain’t they?”
Business had to be really slow
right now. “So, how’s the plumbing going these days?”
“Busy, busy, busy! Just . . .
not as busy as usual, so I got to thinking about how you just set
around in a chair all day and type stuff and then sell boatloads of
copies and get rich and it just didn’t seem fair. So I figgered I’d get
in on it. And you got to admit, ain’t nobody grabbed the nishee I’m
going for, right?”
I took a long swig of my Coke
while I puzzled that one out. “Nishee?”
Sam gave me a pitying look.
“N-I-C-H-E. It’s just basic marketing that you got to be first to grab
your nishee. Didn’t you know that?”
“Niche,” I said.
Sam pulled out a small book,
flipped pages furiously, and ran a thick finger down it. “You mean,
‘nix.’ Means ‘no’ in Aimish. Well, don’t feel bad if ya don’t know
nothing about marketing. After I get famous, I’ll help you out, take ya
under my wing, so to speak.”
I have moments now and
again—roughly once every five seconds when I’m around Sam—when I want
to punch him in the face. I closed my eyes and thought about happy
things until the moment passed. Finally, I took a deep breath. “So tell
me about your story, then.”
“I already explainified it to
ya.” A note of exasperation hung in Sam’s voice. “I just looked at all
the stuff that’s hot and put it all together. You already guessed it
all, except you put in Western, which has been dead for ages, and you
left out erotica.”
Right in the middle of a long
pull on my Coke, I choked when Sam said ‘erotica.’ The soda shot up my
nose and spurted out my nostrils. Which was a good thing, because it
gave me an excuse to cover my face an instant later when I began a
laughing fit that lasted for five full minutes.
When I could see again, Sam was
helping himself to a plate of leftover lasagna that he’d found in my
“Sam . . . have you thought
about that? If you’re going to write erotica—” I coughed intentionally
so I could cover up the grin that was threatening to split my face in
half “—what are all your family members going to think? Your sister?
Your niece? Your mother?”
aheadaya on that one.” Sam forked in a chunk of lasagna the size of a
baseball. “You’re a big shot author, so I’m surprised you ain’t never
heard of Sue the Nymph.”
He was right. I’d never heard of
Sue the Nymph. I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms.
Sam rolled his eyes and chewed
methodically on his lasagna. “Lookit, you got a dictionary, same as me.
But if you ain’t figgered out how to use it, then there just ain’t no
helping ya. Sue the Nymph means a phony name.”
. . . pseudonym?” I said.
gave me a strange look.
“That’s what I said, ain’t it? Anyways, that’s what I come over for
today is to get some idears from you on a good Sue the Nymph fer me.”
With a massive effort, I kept a
straight face. “What sort of name are you looking for? Do you want to
use a name that suggests anything in particular? Scary? Funny? Erotic?”
“Well, I made me a short list.”
Sam flipped to the end of his small book. “How does Stephen Kling
strike ya? Gotta nice ring to it, don’t it?”
“Not really. And it’s awfully
“Um . . . whatever.” Sam
crossed out that entry in his book. “Okay, how ’bout this one: Anne
Sam crossed that off, too.
We worked through Sam’s entire
list. The further we got, the grumpier
he looked. Finally, he snapped his book shut and jammed it into the
front pocket of his overalls, dug a thick chunk of lasagna out of the
gap between his front teeth, and stood up looking huffy. “I guess I
shoulda knowed better than to ask someone like you who ain’t got no
“Savey?” I gave him my blankest
“Oh, right.” I shrugged.
“Sorry. If there’s any other way I can help you out, just let me know.”
Sam glared at me and stumped out
the front door.
I watched him back his truck out
of the driveway and shoot off up the street.
My phone rang.
I went back into the office,
noted the caller ID, and picked up. “Hey, John! Sorry for the
interruption. That was my loony plumber, Sam. You would not believe
what he wanted.” I spent the next ten minutes detailing my adventures.
My phone beeped its annoying
Call Waiting hiccup. I checked Caller ID. The small display read SAM’S
PLUMBING AND VAM.
I sighed heavily. “Hold one
second, John. That crazy Sam is calling and I think he’s mad at me.
I’ll try to calm him down before he does something crazy.”
I clicked the TALK button. “Hey,
Sam, what can I do for you?”
“Just one thing.” Sam’s voice
sounded like he was talking through gritted teeth. “How do ya spell yer
Roughly a thousand questions
flitted through my mind in the next two seconds. If Sam used my name as
a pseudonym, could I sue him? How long would it take to get some sort
of a restraining order to stop him? If he e-published, how would I ever
get all those copies destroyed? If I sued for damages, would he have
any money to pay? How would I ever get my name back if he did what I
thought he was going to do?
“I’m sorry. There must be some
static on the line. What was your question?”
“How do you spell your last
name?” Sam said again.
“Just like it sounds: