I spun around and looked to see
who was talking. It was my plumber, Sam, leaning against the doorway of
my office, holding in his massive hands the corpse of our former
garbage disposal unit. “So, um, how much is that going to cost me?” I
“It cost ya nothing for me to
take it out,” Sam said. “And only a couple of hunnert to put in the new
one. Probably no big deal for a big-shot author like you, right?”
“Right.” I didn’t bother to tell
Sam that a writer has to sell a stack of books higher than my chimney
to earn “only a couple of hunnert.”
“So, whatcha reading?” Sam said
I held up an advance reading
copy of Shaving Babbit, a novel that would be
coming out shortly. “A friend of mine wrote this.”
Sam grabbed it and began pawing
through it with greasy fingers. “They sure didn’t waste no money on the
print job, did they?”
I laughed. “Sam, that’s not an
official copy. That’s an advance copy so I can write an endorsement.”
Sam’s eyebrows bumped up a
notch. “Really? You do endorsements just like Michael Phelps and all?”
“Sort of.” I took the copy back
and wiped at the grease stains with a Kleenex, spreading them out into
a disgusting smear. “I read the book and then I say something nice
“What you gonna say about this
I leaned back in my chair and
closed my eyes. “Here’s what I’m thinking of saying: ‘Shaving
Babbitt is strong and true. A deep, powerful, satisfying
read, rich with pathos and humor, with characters that will haunt you
forever. Triumphant and bold.’”
Sam’s forehead was knotted in
tight concentration. “Does that mean you like it?”
“It means it’s very good. There
were a couple of issues with the plot, so you’ll notice I focused on
“I noticed you focused on
double-talk. How come you didn’t say nothing in plain English? And what
the heck does ‘triumphant and bold’ mean?”
“Look, that’s just the way
“I still think you oughta talk
like normal people.”
“Such as what?”
Sam paced back and forth in my
office, dripping oily gunk from the garbage disposal onto my floor.
“How about if you was to say, ‘I can’t speak too highly of Shaving
Babbitt, and I couldn’t wait to get done with it.’”
“That’s, um, a little
“You got to admit it beats the
pants off ‘triumphant and bold.’”
My e-mail program dinged.
Sam leaned over to read it.
“Hey, looks like you scored! This guy wants you to read his book for
endorsement. Who is he?”
I scanned the e-mail. “Somebody
I’ve never heard of. He can’t spell my name, but he believes he’s the
next John Grisham, if only he can find a publisher for it.”
“Wow, really? You gonna give
him one of them ‘triumphant and bold’ double-talk things?”
I hit the Reply button. “I’m
going to tell him that I don’t write endorsements for people I don’t
know, I don’t promise endorsements for books I haven’t read, and I
don’t read books that a publisher hasn’t bought.”
“Well, ain’t you Mr.
Hoity-Toity. How come you’re such a prima donald?”
I clenched my fists. “Sam, do
you have any idea how long it takes to read a book?”
Sam grinned. “Yup. I read one
once, and I done it in less than three months. You read books all the
time, so I betcha you can probably read one in less than a month,
“Have you ever heard the saying
‘Time is money’?”
Sam thought about that for a
couple of minutes. “So what you’re saying is that the time you spend
writing them endorsements is time you coulda spent putting in garbage
disposals and getting paid?”
“Exactly.” I scanned the rest
of the e-mail. “Uh-oh.”
“Whatsa matter?” Sam leaned
down to read it.
guy somehow got my home address. He’s invited himself over for
lunch and he’s bringing his manuscript.” I leaned back in my chair and
massaged my temples. “Sam, how am I going to get rid of this guy?”
The doorbell rang.
“I’ll handle it.” Sam clumped
out into the hall.
The doorbell rang again.
Footsteps. The door opened.
“Triumphant and bold!” Sam bellowed.
There was a shriek, and then
the sound of running, followed by a war whoop from Sam. “Strong and
true! Rich with pathos and humor! Characters that’ll haunt you
I looked out my office window.
The nimble young endorsement seeker was running at full tilt, with Sam
lumbering behind, waving a garbage disposal over his head, but steadily
I went back to my computer,
deleted the e-mail, and typed an endorsement for Shaving
Babbitt. I am ashamed to confess that it included a
“triumphant and bold,” a “strong and true,” and even a “haunt you
forever.” I’d have tried for a little more originality, but my
creativity was shot.
By the time I finished writing
the endorsement, Sam was back, puffing and streaming sweat and grinning
ferociously. “I almost landed a ‘triumphant and bold’ right on his
backside, but he got away in his truck. Had the engine waiting and
“Thanks, Sam, I owe you.” And I
didn’t complain at all when Sam wrote me out an invoice for “three
hunnert.” I figured that for once, he’d earned his money.
Sam had been gone for ten
minutes, and I was sitting down to lunch when the phone rang.
I picked it up. “Hello?”
“This is the UPS office,” said
a man, his voice full of perfect fury. “We have a report that you
assaulted one of our drivers with a garbage disposal unit.”
“Driver?” A sick feeling filled
“And you shouted ‘triumphant
and bold’ repeatedly, along with certain unprintable profanities.”
“That was my plumber. He’s a
lunatic but I assure you he’s harmless.”
“You’ll be hearing from our
lawyer,” growled the UPS manager. “We’re gonna sue you for every dime
The doorbell rang.
I peered down the hall.
A young man in a three piece
suit stood outside holding a thick manuscript.
I set the phone down, leaving
the UPS man screaming, and went to open the door. “Listen, this isn’t a
good time, unless you happen to know a good lawyer.”
The writer flashed an enormous
smile. “Then it’s a great time, because I’m a defense attorney. Did I
mention in my e-mail that I think I’ll be the next John Grisham?”
I grabbed his manuscript.
“John, or whatever your name is, I’ll be happy to read your manuscript
if you could just come in and talk to the gentleman on the phone and
settle a little problem I’m having.”
He grinned and strode in. “Glad
In a minute, he was on the
phone, talking in a calm and professional lawyer voice.
I retreated into my office,
plopped down in my chair, and took a look at the dreaded manuscript.
I have to admit, the title won
my heart immediately—Triumphant and Bold.