The phone rang in my Nashville hotel room. “O.K., Bibey. It’s time for serious discussion.”
Dang, it was The Agent. The voice, seasoned by years of whiskey and cigar smoke, sounded like a man who gargled hickory nuts as he spoke. I’d recognize it anywhere. I met him once before. It was late at night at the Galax Old Time Fiddler’s Convention. It had been over a year since he looked at my first rough draft and agreed to take me on if I followed certain guidelines. Since then we had communicated by e-mail or a messenger at times. He agreed to a second meeting- I saw it as a good sign.
“Sure boss. Where do we meet?”
“Train Station, dark-thirty.”
“Not the airport? You ain’t gonna fly in?”
“Good Lord son, ain’t no Agent ever represented any Southern writer and flew around on airplanes. Don’t forget that. If a man tells you he can sell a story about the South and travels by air he’s an impostor. Think about it. Didja ever hear any writer try to wax poetic about a tarmac? Hell no. Train whistles, now that’s different. I can work with that.”
“Hm, I hadn’t thought about it I guess.”
“Well it’s true. No hobo ever hopped a U.S. Air, either. There ain’t one ounce of Southern literature about commercial aircraft so it you’ve got any of that in the Mandolin Case, better get it out.
“Well, no sir. Matter of fact we ain’t got an airport in Harvey County, so not to worry.”
“Good. Now listen here. I’m gonna look different. After you posted that picture I had women from all over the country chasing me, so I had to shave.”
“That one that got after you with the tennis shoe find you, boss?”
“Shut up Bibey. No pictures, ya hear me?!”
“Yes sir.” I hung up and headed for the train station.
Dark thirty. I was right on time. I went back to the Club Car as instructed.
The Agent stood up to shake hands. “Have a seat Bibey.” He poured up an OBAN.
“So what did they say in New York?” I asked.
“They said you were so country they couldn’t understand some of what you said. You have no credentials. They couldn’t figure out how you wrote it. It has it’s flaws, but at the same time they thought it was a hell of a story.”
“You think it’ll sell?”
“It has a chance, at least with me as your Agent. You gotta know the big city, and I’ve got it wired. Here are your instructions.”
I opened the envelope and unfolded the notes. “Back story? I think I understand.” A year ago back story was a herniated nucleus pulposis. Man, had my life changed. “Tell me about that.”
”As you do your last revision, I want you to flesh out the characters on the blog. Your readers may recognize some of them or know some of the Mandolin Case and remember a detail you forgot. I want this story to stand the test of time. You can’t get a single detail wrong. You need to know what kinda smokes these people like, their shoe size, what movies they prefer- everything.
“I know ‘em better than anyone, Boss.”
“I’m sure you do, but you need to down-load brain to blog to where everyone else will too. If you’re gonna immortalize ‘em then you better get it right. The fiction history book demands no less.”
“The fiction history book?”
“Yeah, I’m writing it. And whatever you do, don’t give up my address. I’m gonna winter in New York anyway, but I don’t need every nut in the country chasing me.”
“I guess one of me is enough.”
“Mercy, Bibey. I think so.”
“You know Boss, all I ever wanted was a chance to show what I believe to be true with my story.”
“You’ve shown me that, Bibey. I believe in you. Now I want the rest of the world to see it too. If you get the revision right, I’ll do my best. No promises, though.”
“I”ll do my best.”
“See me in three months. Atlanta. I have to meet there there with Charles Thombley. He’s a negotiator. He’ll monitor your blog along with me for the next quarter.”
“Hey I think I know him. His people made a fortune down there in real estate futures right after Sherman came through.”
“That’s the one, Bibey. I only deal with the best.”
“Hey boss, does that mean you think I’m the best?”
“Hell no, Bibey. You’re my project. But, you have become a good writer. And you have a great story. I’d rather have a good writer with a great story than a great writer with a lousy story. Write character back story on the blog. Start with your next post and keep at it till the first of the year. I think you’ll get there, but don’t give up your day job.”
Heck I like being a Doc anyway, so I was sure I could follow his advice about the day job. We don’t have an airport in the County, but if we did I wouldn’t fly when I went to Atlanta, either. I never liked to fly anyway, and now I realized it qualified me to be a Southern Lit guy, I wasn’t about to start.
Come next post, I’m gonna follow his advice and start to show y’all all about my people. If you spot something I’ve missed let me know. In a way my book reflects what I believe about life- we’re all in it together. If I get published someday, my agent and you guys deserve a lot of the credit. I’d a never gotten this far without you.