A Guy Can Only Take So Much

Sam Margate learns that Hamlet was right. There are some pretty peculiar things in heaven and earth that even a private dick hasn't dreamt of.

After a quick meal at my favorite Mulberry Street restaurant, I went back up to the office. A guy can only take so much noise and then he wants to shoot someone. I like the quiet. I like when everyone has gone home to their wives — then it’s just me, my work and my Bourbon.

It happened about 8 o’clock. The ringing jangled my nerves. Maybe it was the way it woke me out of a sweet Jimmy Beam slumber, or maybe it was the way it broke into my dream like a stupid dame walking into the middle of a smoky card game when I’m about to cash in a full house. But that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that this call changed my life and that’s why I’m sharing this story with you. There could be a lesson here, I don’t really know. You be the judge of that. But what I do know is that the next time some dame is calling me late at night, I’ll think twice about picking up that phone. A guy can only take so much and, after meeting with this dame, I don’t know if I can handle much more.

She sounded nervous, a bit unsure of her words, like someone was standing next to her, telling her what to say. It was a bad connection and, for all I know, the operator was listening in, making it even harder for me to get her name. I got the Dorothy part but her last name, I don’t know. Maybe Scribner. Maybe Scrivener. That was it, I figured to myself. Dorothy Scrivener. I tried to get her to speak clearly but she was jumbling up her words. All I could make out was that she was mixed up in some sort of business I never heard of before, something she called “word processing.” I thought she was scamming me but no way some dame is going to get over on old Sam Margate. I figured we best meet in person. Then I can figure out if she’s on the level.

“Can you be outside of Shanty’s Clam Bar at 10 o’clock?”

A strange place for a classy dame to suggest for a meeting, being that half the customers at Shanty’s are a bunch of drunken do-nothings.

“Can you do that Mr. Margate?”

“Sure.”

Anything for a dame.

I was probably on my fifth Camel when she finally showed. Good thing. I didn’t think I could take much more of the cold rain and I needed a drink and more smokes. I looked her up and down. The street lights were dim but I could still tell that she was quite a looker. I bet the silhouette of her legs would make a dead wolf howl. She motioned me to follow her into the clam bar. I kept my wits about me. I didn’t know if this was a trap.

We found a booth away from the drunks. I pulled out my pad and pencil and asked her to go through the basics. She inherited this “word processing” business and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. It was good for a Mac.

“Do you have his last name?” She just shook her head. Mac was the only name she had and she wasn’t clear on how he was involved with this word processing business. Then she said this word processing was also good for Windows. I was flummoxed. There’s this Mac guy but she don’t have a last name, and now this business has something to do with Windows. I leaned across the table to get a whiff of her breath. Maybe she’s been drinking some Jimmy Beam too. She could see my face was twisted and confused. I thought of walking out of there but business hasn’t been too good. I was in no position to turn down a paying client, so I asked her some questions.

“Is it like a typewriter like my secretary uses?” Not that I have a secretary but she’ll never know that.

“That’s a good way to put it, Mr. Margate.” She went on. “But it’s more than a typewriter. Let me start at the beginning.”

I tried to jot down notes but she was talking so fast, typical dame, that I stopped and just listened. Then she reached into her bag, pulled out a paper and carefully opened it up on the table like a diamond merchant showing you his newest jewels.

“Take this, Mr. Margate. Have your secretary retype it.”

My imaginary secretary.

My eyes aren’t what they used to be and too much cigarette smoke and too little light made it hard to read. But I wanted to do what’s right for this dame so I read it aloud.

Writing a novel, research paper, script or any long-form text involves more than hammering away at the keys until you’re done. Collecting research, ordering fragmented ideas, shuffling index cards in search of that elusive structure—most writing software is fired up only after much of the hard work is over. Enter Scrivener: a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from that first, unformed idea all the way through to the final draft. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.

(Source: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php)

She handed me an old coffee-stained photograph. It was like no typewriter I’ve ever seen. I didn’t understand what I was looking at and I certainly didn’t understand what I read. But if there’s money involved, I’m still interested.

“So what’s the angle here?” I asked, still puzzled by the whole thing.

“Mr. Margate, I want you to tell the world about Scrivener. Let them know about this ‘word processing.’ People aren’t stupid. They can figure out if they need it or not.”

She seemed pretty sure of herself and pretty sure that most people aren’t stupid, which was not my experience with the human race.

“And you’re still good with paying me my fee for a week? A hundred and twenty-five simoleons is serious money.” With that fur wrapped around her I’m sure she could afford it but I had to be a gentleman and ask.

She pulled out a cigarette. I flipped open my gold lighter, reached across the table and held her sweet ivory white hand as she leaned forward a bit and puffed on her cigarette. Taking a nice long drag, she leaned her head back, showing me her gorgeous neck like a pup showing you its belly. She slowly exhaled, the smoke dancing around the lights above. I asked her again.

“You still good with our deal?”

She nodded in agreement. I smiled and finished my shot of Bourbon.

“One more thing, Mr. Margate.”

Typical dame. As soon as they agree to one thing, they want more.

“I’d like you to —”

I wasn’t waiting around to hear the end of the sentence. I stood up, hat and coat in hand, and headed for the door. She wasn’t going to play me for a fool. She wasn’t going to get me to do one more thing beyond what we agreed. After all, a guy can only take so much.

This fictional story originally appeared on December 6, 2011 on the blog A Writer’s Mind (http://jeffsiegel.us)
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