Joel "El Joe" Ballek always has the coffee pot on. Sometimes I wonder what's in the coffee, though.
"Hey, El Joe. Guess what? I just finished my FIFTH book!" I say, as he offers me a mug of his creosote.
"That's great, E! I'm still working on my first."
"I didn't know you were writing a book!" I say, shocked and amazed.
A blank stare comes over El Joe's face. After a few moment's silence he says, "Writing?"
"Ah," I say, as the revelation sinks in. "Just as I thought."
"You underestimate me, my literary friend," El Joe says, and disappears into the back of the cabin for a while. He returns with random pile of papers. "Feast your photocells on this."
I scan the top page in the pile, which is partially handwritten, partially typed, and partially chiseled in cuneiform. Despite its ratty presentation there seems to be some actual literary merit to the text. I read further.
"This appears to be written by a dog or something," I say, at last.
"Yep. Old Buddy. He's been gone five years now. I've been taking dictation. Might need a little editing, though."
"Uh.....huh. You're taking dictation from a dead chocolate lab," I say slowly, eyeballing my coffee mug suspiciously.
"Oh, Buddy's not dead. He's just in a better place. He just didn't have the words to say what he wanted to say while he was down here. As you can see, now he's actually quite the loquacious feller."
El Joe was the last person on earth who would use the word loquacious. I don't even use the word loquacious and I write for a living.
"Who might be your intended market for this?" I query, vainly trying to get my coffee down the right pipe.
"I was hoping you could help me with that, E. I haven't gotten any positive responses from my queries."
"You don't say, " I empathize, diplomatically. "Perhaps if you sort of .....uh....oh, I don't know......downplay the fact that this was....uh....dictated by a dog....you might make a little headway. It's actually very well written," I add.
"Well, I can't take any credit for that," El Joe says. "It's all Buddy's work. You know me and words. We never have gotten along too well."
"Of course, after workin' with Buddy on this a spell, my vocabulary and erudition have improved dramatically," he amends.
I couldn't argue with the last clause; El Joe no longer spoke in monosyllables. It was the first clause that had me gobsmacked.
"Well...I'll see what I can do with this," I offer. "Tell ya what. Why don't you finish this, and get back to me. You're going to have to have this all typed and properly formatted, you know. Not too many editors read handwriting any more."
"I'll work on that," he promised. "So, do you really think this has literary potential?"
"I really think it does," I say honestly.
That's what really scares me.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.