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Book Three is Finished.

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 10 Jan 2022


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Big plans

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Back home and happy. Depositphotos Valeri Shranko

She walked into my study just as we finished our conversation, still sleepy-eyed, but resplendent to me in her white camisole and jeans, still barefoot. It was something about the way her hair graced her oval face. To anyone else she might look homely. But I was in love. I approached and gave her the tightest hug and kiss. My manager took note as I left the room, telling her he had some good news for her, and I knew he'd be persuasive.

Back in the kitchen, I could tell by her glow that everything was agreed upon. They mentioned that this was the perfect time for publication, and haste was important.

Everyone in the world was now focused, fixated on this problem, and that means readership, and sales.

Nancy would drive them in the next half-hour into town with my manuscript. Then they'd make their way back on the private jet they flew in on, still waiting.

Nancy went with them to handle the paperwork on my behalf. They still wanted me out of sight and out of trouble. She'd return here soon with more supplies, two fancy computers and a satellite dish and all the accessories imaginable, so we could video conference. Then she'd return to her home, by commercial jet, and tidy up affairs for a long stay here.

As I was running low on food, and the gas for the generator was near empty, I told them other upgrades were in order. I wanted solar panels, a large array, for permanent power. They said they'd arrange it.

The house and its two hundred acres were now mine, along with the million in the bank and the title to the Wrangler was signed over to Nancy in front of me.

Nancy was happy to handle all the details, even a construction crew. My publisher had just told her of the five percent I insisted she get from this book and now she felt like my full time partner, while I considered her my wife. He'd deposit two hundred thousand in her bank account for immediate expenses so she could get things started, buy materials and supervise the crew she'd hire. It was just one more ruse of theirs to get her to stay and keep tabs on me, their wayward son.

Each week she would tally up the costs and send them the receipts. Then they'd refill her account to keep the project rolling. She'd never handled such large amounts of money before, or had complete control over men, and she loved it, finally rising in the world from a lowly, overworked nurse, collecting bedpans or worse, removing diapers, or worse, holding the hand of someone about to die.

It had been a miserable job lately, she told us, a cramped and stinking environment, overused equipment constantly breaking down and dead bodies lifted off beds in front of her every half-hour. Some of them were people she'd known and a few personal friends her age, as it had started to spread to every age group now. Hardest to stomach were the children it infected. It cut into her heart to watch them slowly die.

But she was now in a glow and my agent and publisher too. He was holding the manuscript and looking down at it while she spoke, not listening to her, probably trying to compute the millions it would make him within weeks. And now with a fourth book planned, which I told them I'd begin that day, he considered himself soon to be rich beyond his wildest dreams.

They rose from the breakfast table in a hurry. As I followed her to her room to help her pack a few things she hugged me tight with one long kiss. She was still in love with me she declared, and asked if I was angry at her last, hasty departure. We hadn't had time to talk.

"Of course not", I told her. "And all those scraps on my desk really were most of the book. I just had to finish it on my own. That's the way I write. Without you I would never have finished it. Every kiss you gave me sparked new ideas.

This was in large part the truth, and I knew it would gain me even more love through the fourth volume. Her love motivated me to try harder, to think more deeply, to write more beautifully.

She was delighted with this confession. She left with a glowing smile, saying she'd be back within the week with a convoy of trucks with supplies and everything needed for our solar array. I use the word 'our' because in my mind I planned on marrying her.

She was back in five days, with fifteen men five trucks, a bulldozer and excavator, and supplies to last us a year. They finished the job in a week, sleeping in tents on the land they cleared, working long hours for double pay. Now I had a huge battery bank in the basement, and capacitors that filled a shed, for constant, endless power.

While they were there, as they had all the heavy equipment, we had them clear another ten acres of land, fence it for crops, set up an irrigation system and repair the old barn for livestock, along with several other sheds. This took more trips into town with the trucks and another week but cash was no problem. The book was out and making forty times the money he sent us.

One night she mentioned to me that she'd like a horse. It was still summer and we could have a field planted with grass to feed it. One of our men had a small tractor and could easily do it. The tractor appeared the next day and the seed. That night she asked if we could buy the tractor. She'd already talked to the man and he taught her how easy it was to operate. She always made these queries as we lay in bed, the lights out and her warm arms wrapped around me, naked and face to face. I'd agree and be smothered in kisses. This was her bribery. I didn't mind as it turned into a nightly routine.

The next night she mentioned a second horse, to keep the other company, and we could go riding together, tour our property each morning. She'd already talked to one of our hands to teach us. She always seemed to prep everything to answer any doubts that might spring up in my head. I'd never ridden before and knew nothing of a horse's needs. But she had that list ready too, saddles, brushes, pitchforks for hay, troughs for water, apples for treats. She was efficient and thorough. My answer was always a reluctant 'sure', trying to fathom the responsibilities it entailed, and the work.

Money was never even brought up. She made conference calls on our computer every few days, me standing calmly beside her, nodding in assent to her excited pleas, her whole body quivering with excitement waiting for the 'yes'. And with a deadpan face my publisher had only one question directed at me, how the book was coming along. I'd step forward and show him the pages of another half-chapter completed, to be Emailed right away. The next day another quarter million appeared in her account.

With the solar array complete, the shed repaired and the the fields cleared of stumps, I was beginning to think of making this place self-sustainable, just in case my imaginary ''wave" did come true. They worked a full third week, building stalls and a workstation in the barn, with Nancy ordering every tool imaginable, repair parts for her small tractor, a welding rig and compressor and seeds and everything we might need to make it work. Every night in bed we had passionate sex and talked for hours of our future.

I'd already hinted at the proposal, giving her a ring of my mother's. But that went sour when she left the month before. Now we were more in love than ever, with our talks and enthusiasm in overseeing all the improvements to the place, in total agreement that it should be a world unto itself, a biodome, our private enclave. She agreed to marry me as soon as I finished the manuscript and we flew to New York. That was already arranged for the book launch.

The timing worked out perfectly, our finishing the grounds, now something like a rural estate, sending the crews home and our sly escape to New York, which only two of our workers knew about, because they stayed. They had to.

The night I agreed a self-sufficient enclave was a good idea, just as I was finishing up a chapter of doom and gloom in my fiction, Nancy mentioned farm animals, several cows and chickens and pigs, a goat and finally a large dog to scare away foxes. I agreed that we'd need them for a food supply but also that we had no idea how to take care of them. I told her we couldn't just 'Google' it. She had a ready answer. One of our workmen grew up on a farm and could stay on and handle those matters. He was the youngest of the crew, only twenty two and likeable. We thought of him as a youngster, being both twenty eight.

I talked to the men occasionally, taking a break from my writing for some fresh air. They knew of my books. Nancy pointed out one day that one of the older men there was a fine carpenter. His name was Ted. After a short talk I took him to my study and asked if he could build me more sets of bookshelves similar to those, covering the empty back part of the living room, making it a library.

He said no problem if he could find such nice wood. He was on the next trip into town and brought with him not only the wood but a fine, hundred year old set of chisels in a leather pouch. He told me the chisels were Pennsylvania Dutch. The wood handles were all beaten but the steel looked brand-new and had a bluish tint, razor sharp. I was amazed at their perfection, being so old. He also told me he dropped one once and lost a piece of his toe right through his boot and showed me that too. I began to like the fellow and we talked at intervals as I wrote in my den with the door open and he built my shelves just fifteen feet away.

He must have mentioned to his workmates the story I was now working on. They sat around a fireside every night after dinner and chatted. I told him most of the plot. I found that it clarified itself in my own head as I tried to explain it. He knew my whole storyline even before Nancy.

A few days before they were to leave he asked if I might join them at their campfire. They had concerns. Some of them probably thought me the prophet they'd read about in the papers and all my predictions being dead-on so far.

All I could think to say was that I hoped I was wrong, but if not they should do the same as we were doing, make some enclave for themselves and fence it in, if the epidemic got worse, so they could keep out intruders and stay safe. Most nodded in agreement. Some looked bewildered and admitted they didn't have the means. But I said that if things did get bad, for their families sake, they should pool their resources, join into clans with their best friends, maybe ten or twenty adults, include someone with a remote property, (not hard to do in Vermont), and build there. Most of these fellows were resourceful, skilled in construction and farming. The way they looked at each other in agreement, I could see this was not a problem. Only city folk were in deep peril.

The last thing I ordered was a large arsenal of weapons and ammunition, all kinds, rifles and hand guns and a few automatics, to protect the place. As they carried the labeled boxes to our basement they realized I was serious and that things might go left.

The next morning they drove away in a convoy of vehicles. But not before I had them gather around as I handed each of them a thousand dollar bonus. They claimed this was the best job ever, double pay, long hours and Nancy even bringing them a large pot of stew or other meals as the sun set, around nine p.m. as it was midsummer. They'd sit around the campfire for a few hours, drink and talk of how wonderful it all was, how'd they spend their money back home, making fifty an hour, with twelve hour days. I was glad to share a pittance of my wealth with them, doubly repaid in the respect they showed both me and Nancy, taking orders from a woman with immediate compliance.

My book finished, our trip to New York was brief, businesslike, lasting three weeks. Because of the near-lock down our ceremony was limited to twenty five, all wearing masks. But the press was outside and we made the headlines once more. The signings and appearances were likewise subdued. I had Nancy at my side almost every minute and she seemed to glow in the fame.

She also kept at bay the flocks of former escorts standing in their provocative outfits, sparkling in the wings, hoping my naive lusts and appetites and wads of hundred dollar bills would flow again and spill out in some dark alley for a line or a phone number. I'd never seen her evil glares before or the ploys of opposing females trying to get close enough to me for a whisper.

My agent also kept close, to repair the mistake she made the last time. She accompanied us to the few clubs I took Nancy to, the few still open and half-empty because of the rules. I wanted her to have a taste of some of the nightlife she'd never seen, and the second day there I bought her the jewelry and outfits for our dates. She wore them for me, but as she gazed in the mirror of our hotel suite, looking like a princess (she came there in jeans), even though I praised her stunning glamor, I could tell she felt uncomfortable and out of her element. So I reminded her it was only for a few weeks, and we'd never come back if we didn't want to, a prophesy that didn't come true. Those days were over and I was glad of it. It never had anything to do with any talent. I use to call it 'dumb luck'.

But I did wonder sometimes. It was like flipping a coin and having it come up 'heads' ten times in a row.

The ceremony and spectacles done, the champagne, the fake smiles at introductions, the T.V. interviews, my fingers tired with signatures, we headed home, more in love than ever for all the interviews and signings and parties we endured together, and now finally home, in jeans again, or half-naked in our house half the morning, the curtains shut. We reveled in being blissfully alone.

I had no more ideas about the book, no care even, as the money was pouring in, and the world more than ever desperately wanting to know where this pandemic was going.

Stock markets crashed then rebounded, with each ebb and flow of the disease. But everyone still had a twenty for my hardcover. The markets crashed again as people read the end of the eighth chapter of my book and I was questioned continually as to why I wrote it. At one lecture some people stood up and called me Satanic. They were members of the new 'Church of Hope'.

My simple answer was that I didn't know. I told the press I didn't like depressing endings more than anyone else. But I came up with the clever lie that my manager suggested it to me, for one final volume, where the final solution would be revealed. He lied too by saying the book was already started and would be out soon. He could have been a barker at a carnival. He also forced my hand. He loved money more than anything else. Making it was his life.

Everyone took his words to mean a final cure, and a reason to write one more book describing the end of it, our beating the pandemic for good. I even added that I would never write another book on the same subject, which I was getting tired of, and of people thinking me some kind of seer. I wanted a fresh story if I was going to continue as a novelist, the only trade I knew, a happier fiction.

There was a novel I'd started and half-finished before I began my pandemic book. But it sort of stalled and I put it in a drawer and out of mind. It was my very first effort in fiction, so it had sentimental value to me and I thought it was coming along well. I revised each sentence and paragraph many times till they pleased me, always looking for the perfect word. It was a story of two lovers, together for a time but then separated by a world war and finally reunited again. But like I said it kind of stalled in the middle when I realized one day that it was just my fantasy, me being alone, and trivial, of no concern to anyone else. So I put it in a box on the top shelf of my closet, just a week before I had the dream.

The strange thing was, Nancy was almost an exact mirror image of the heroine of the story.

Even in this I was prophetic. It was like a curse.

But with this announcement the reporters around me laughed and the news spread like wildfire through all the headlines. The stock markets even spiked the next few days, my book sales too, and everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief. Too bad for the human race I was right once again, one last time, and the 'final solution' was the flip side of the coin, 'tails' the virus winning.

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Home again. Stock photo from Pexels.

 

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Diomedes
Diomedes

B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.


Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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