My Encounter with a Publisher (Part 2)
15th October 2020
Inside the tiny publishing house, ensconced in Fremantle’s suburbia, there was a waiting room with a sign that read, "Ring Bell."
"Hello? Is someone there?" said a woman's voice from down the corridor. “Hello!?”
"Yes. Hello," I said.
A lady in jeans and a floral blouse appeared. She stood at the entrance and looked me up and down. "Yes?"
"Hi. I'm Jayden." I bent down and rummaged through my backpack, retrieving my sample book, otherwise known as a physical copy of my heart and soul. "And I'm already self-publishing and I just wanted to give you this"—I became nervous—"so, you know, to see if this is something you'd back at all."
"We only accept digital manuscripts. You should read our website."
"Yes, I've read the website. I just wanted to have a conversation and find out more about the people who decide what to publish. You know. So I can make life easier for them.”
"Mmm. Can't tell you that." I didn’t respond and after a while, maybe because of the unbearable tension, she changed her playact and said. "But I'm Francine. I’m just the receptionist but you can know me." She laughed nervously and hung out her hand.
Confused by her gesture I was slow to respond. By the time I went in for the shake, she'd retreated, and by the time her hand returned, mine was beside me. We went back and forth like this, becoming paralyzed by awkwardness.
Finally, I caught the edge of her palm and, after a series of jerky movements to correct the grip, proceeded to shake her finger. "I'm Jayden," I said, forgetting I’d already introduced myself.
"Oops." She made an exaggerated 'O' shape with her mouth. "Probably should've done this one." She held her elbow out, referring to the whole coronavirus thing. "Am I right? Haha."
Now I was the suspicious one, but she didn't stop there.
"Oh. Better wash now. Haha." She lept for the hand-sanitizer and jokingly made the action of pumping the bottle. "Am I right? Haha."
Silence befell the room and I didn't know what to do with my hands. In a panicked moment, I went for the sanitizer. As if I hadn't already built the social-equivalent of the Great Wall of China between us, the pump was blocked, so instead of the sanitizer dropping into my hand, it shot out the side and onto Francine's face, an inch from her eye. Her head flung back.
"Oh. My. Gosh. I am so sorry," I said. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she said, wiping liquid off her cheek. "Haha."
"Well, I won't do that again. Haha.”
“Thanks for everything, anyway. Sorry. Thanks," I said leaving.
Outside, I hopped down the stairs. Snapshots from the encounter already began to haunt me. I unlocked the car, opened the door, turned on the ignition. From the compartment, I grabbed my phone and texted my mother, saying, "Went to publisher."
"How'd you go?"
"Really well," I wrote and, with the book on my lap, I drove off.
. . .