I have to admit, things did move along even more smoothly with the new additions. It was really convenient having a copy machine; with three of them, you never had to wait in line. And these did everything, collate, staple, you name it!
Our new reference library was great -- even better than the library's! But my computer terminal just collected a lot of dust. I know they're supposed to be so simple even a child has to love them, but frankly I preferred the good old fashioned pencil.
Davey and Suzie and Mike, however, were a little more adventurous than I. Particularly when they discovered all the software that Mom and Dad had gotten. Suzie found a music program. She'd sneak all the time she could with her headphones on, following the computer's directions as she tapped away on the accessory keyboard. And she spent every other stolen moment downloading music off the internet.
Davey found a choreography program. I had to admit I was pretty impressed -- the 3-D graphics were fascinating and it was like having his own private dance instructor. Mike was devising his own philosophy simulator to test out all his theories about life, reality and the universe.
This is all in addition, of course, to the fact that it was great for writing our chapters. Not only could you move around paragraphs and pages and whatever else you wanted with the flick of key or two, but it could also check your spelling, too (this is certainly one thing my right-brain slanted intellect has a great need fer). I really was tempted, but I refused to give in. Next to a paint brush, a pencil was my best friend.
I did give it a half-hearted try a few times, but there was just too much of a mental block. Artists use pencils and paintbrushes, not computers, end of discussion!
They wouldn't take it away, though. They were all sure I'd break down, sooner or later. You never know. I pushed it over in the corner and tried to ignore it while I wrote my bios the old fashioned way. Still, each day I watched the dust pile up on the cover and I found myself whispering a greeting each morning. "Morning Mac." It was sort of comforting in a way -- like I was accomplishing something important by resisting giving in to the modern world. Just the kind of thing I used to do that pissed Maggie off.
I think the computer started to remind me of my ex, somehow. She could always roll with the punches. When things changed, she changed right with them. Always keeping up with progress. I was sure she loved her computer with all that computer graphics crap she was into now. And she still thinks she's an artist.
After a while, without my actually realizing it, "Mac" turned into "Mag." "Morning, Mag," I'd chuckle, pulling out my trusty pencil -- another day to resist giving in!
My feelings about her were getting even more jumbled than before. I guess I started to think about her more often now that things were dragging out so long. Because after a month, we still hadn't heard a thing about the book.
Tom Morgan had been just as enthusiastic as Uncle Bill, in the beginning. He called Mom and Dad that very first week, on Tuesday morning, ranting and raving about how we'd really shake up the publishing industry. They were going to have a meeting on Friday and he'd present the idea.
None of us could concentrate all week. Friday was even worse. We sat around staring at the phone, but it didn't ring. Mom broke down and called at 2. He was still in the meeting. We waited. 3. 4. She called again. He was away from his desk. Five o'clock passed by, and he didn't call.
It was a long weekend.
He called Monday, apologizing. The idea went over well. Now, Marketing had to analyze it. It would probably take about a week to hear something.
A month later we still hadn't heard anything definite, but we were assured nothing could go wrong.
Meanwhile, we made a lot of progress. By the time Davey started the new school term, we had finished "MICHAEL, Your Name Is Famous," "MARY, Your Name Is Famous," "ELIZABETH, Your Name Is Famous," "SUSAN, Your Name Is Famous," "DAVID, Your Name Is Famous," "GEORGE, Your Name Is Famous," and of course, "RICHARD, Your Name Is Famous."
I have to give a lot of the credit to our help. They turned out to be a really great addition to the team. One of us would give them an assignment and they'd come out of their little office, grab a pile of reference books, and an hour later they'd have this huge stack of material that was ready to be written up.
It was almost uncanny how good they were. Actually, though, I personally found it particularly odd having people working for us.
I remember that first day I was walking over to their office, and I felt really nervous. What would I call Old Fire Fists? Mrs. Fitzenwahler? Feona? I stood there trying to gather up the courage to say anything at all, and then I heard something inside.
It was a horrible sound. The sound a cackling witch might make. Maybe the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, for example. Or...Old Fire Fists in one of my once-in-a-while grade-school-nightmares.
I heard it again, and I knew without a doubt it was Old Fire Fists. I was shaking as I bent down and peeked through the keyhole, afraid to go in.
I listened to the cackle and saw her turn her head. It was her all right, but she was wearing this weird outfit. Odd I hadn't noticed it before. It was a leather teddy over an army Sergeant's combat fatigues. She was holding a long black whip, and as she cackled, she cracked it, and stamped her huge army-shoe attired foot down, and the ground shook beneath me.
I fell back, and dropped the stack of papers I had been carrying. Shaking, I leaned forward for another peek. Their four computer terminals were stacked in the corner, on top of eight filing cabinets and two water coolers, and Felicia was standing high up on top. She was wearing this long white gown and her hair must have grown a little because it was reaching down to the floor from high up on computer hill. "Help, help..." she sighed, and a dove flew from her fingertips with a message in his beak.
It flew across to the other side of the room to Colby who sat sadly on his desk which was stacked up on top of all the others desks, which in turn tottered back and forth above their two copiers.
Colby read the message and he jumped up. The copiers far below him began flashing, and as the platens moved back and forth, the hill of desks fell to the ground. But Colby leaped up for the chandelier and swung across the room. I hadn't realized the ceilings were that tall, and come to think of it, I didn't remember their being a chandelier anywhere in the house, let alone in their office.
"I'll save you, Felicia, my darling," Colby bellowed in his Tarzan outfit.
Meanwhile, Veronica was hissing and clawing the air as Old Fire Fists cracked her whip and commanded her "Back, back..."
I couldn't help thinking how sexy Veronica looked in her tiger leotards with stripes painted on her face.
I must have been leaning on the door a little too hard, because it suddenly flew open, and I tumbled inside.
The four of them looked up from their desks, surprised. I smiled awkwardly as I realized the office was back to normal, and I struggled to my feet. "Ummm...here's some more Roberts we need researched," I stuttered. I scooped the stuff off the floor and Colby and Felicia ran over to help.
"Thanks," I smiled, swearing to myself that I was going to cut down on caffeine!
"Oh, here, Rick," Veronica called as I turned to go. "Could you give this to your sister, please," she purred. I had to do a double take, because when I turned to take the pages from her, at first I could swear she looked like a tiger again, but when I blinked, she was wearing a plain, but pretty sweater and skirt. Still, she seemed just as sexy.
"Sure!" I beamed. I glanced for a ring, didn't see one, and headed straight to Mom's office upstairs to find out Veronica's marital status.
Turns out she's separated, too.
"Don't worry, Mom," I assured her when I saw the dirty look she gave me. "I'm not ready to go out with anyone just yet. I'm just wondering, that's all."
"You know," Mom said, turning back to her computer. "Maggie hasn't really been out with anyone either, since you broke her heart by splitting up..."
"What! She's the one...Oh, never mind. Whatever. Well, guess I'd better get back to work now."
I sulked back to my desk. Great, even if I had the courage to ask Veronica out, I'd have to face the wrath of Mom. Eh, it's better not to date employees anyway. Particularly good ones. Still, that didn't stop me from daydreaming, right?
Of course, I passed the strange keyhole adventure off as a hallucination caused by the eight cups of coffee I had downed that morning. But that night I had a horrible dream. And... they were all in it...
I was a little kid again, and my mom was taking me to the zoo. We saw the elephants and the giraffes and the zebras and then we went inside to the Primate House. It was dark and chilly and I didn't see any monkeys. The first thing I saw as we stepped inside was Veronica in her striped suit, meowing sexily behind bars. She held onto them, begging me with sad tear-filled eyes to help her.
Mom tugged lightly on my hand and led me along. Felicia was in the next cage. She was lying asleep on a marble table with a poison apple in her hand. I turned across the aisle and saw Colby reaching his hands through the bars on his cage. "Felicia! Felicia!" he cried desperately.
"Mom, we have to help them," I whispered, looking up to my mother.
But her face had changed. It wasn't my mother anymore. It was Old Fire Fists. She started cackling.
I tried to wrench my hand free, but she was dragging me down the corridor to an empty cage. "No, no!" I screamed, and a hundred monkeys climbed down from the ceiling and lifted me up into the air. Old Fire Fists kept laughing and snarling as they threw me into the cage.
"Let me out!" I screamed, and then I woke up in a cold sweat.
The next day I avoided their office all morning. "Give this to the staff, please," Mom said after lunch, handing me a stack of pages.
"I...uh..." I stammered. She gave me one of those looks, and grumbling, I tried to put the dream out of my head.
I stood in front of the door, and there was that cackling sound again. I took a peek in the keyhole, and it was exactly as it had been last night. Veronica meowed sadly in her cage. Felicia was asleep on the marble table. Colby was crying out the name of his beloved. And old Fire Fists was creeping towards me, snarling and cackling.
The door fell open and I tumbled in again. Of course, the room was just an office when I picked myself up.
"You've certainly gotten awfully clumsy over the years," Mrs. Fitzenwahler snorted as she peered at me over her glasses.
That wasn't my last eavesdropped hallucination. Every once in a while, when I least expected it, I'd be standing in front of that closed door and I'd hear something odd going on inside. But when I opened the door, there they were, sitting quietly at their desks, cutting up xeroxes, or tapping notes into their computers. And although Mrs. Fitzenwahler never actually cackled or snarled at me, still it seemed she always had something nasty to say to me. Well, maybe I did tend blow things a little out of proportion in my head.
Somehow we got through the next few weeks. Then Uncle Bill called.
"Oh, Bill," Dad beamed and he waved us all over. Everyone stood there in anticipation; even the employees held their breaths. Then Dad's face went blank and we listened while he "uh huh"ed. He handed the phone to Mom and walked off, staring into space, muttering, "I need to go look at a loud noisy clock, fast."
Things were not looking good.
Mom talked for a few more minutes, and we looked inquiringly on. No one said anything as she hung up the phone.
"Apparently, Marketing decided against the project," she said softly as she turned and walked zombie-like after her husband.
We sent the crew home early and we just stared at each other in disbelief with the longest faces I'd ever seen -- the kind we used to wear four months ago, before we started this whole Names thing.
"What do we do now?" we wondered.
No one had the slightest clue, and as the curtain closed on our excitement, it seemed inevitable that we'd be in for more disappointments in the next few chapters of our life.