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The Editor by Natalie N. Aydin



It was 8 a.m. I had to have this entire 300-page book manuscript edited by 5 p.m., and I was already starting to feel the pressure build. Getting it done on time would be somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory though, since I’d probably be absolutely exhausted by the end of it all. But I had to finish this—my job was on the line and I had to get started.
    But first—I made some coffee. Coffee was my ambrosia, you could say—my elixir of immortality. I brought a cup over to my desk and sat down gingerly, looking out the windows that vaulted toward the ceiling in my small but cozy apartment. I stared outside at the gargoyles that guarded the building across the street, projecting out from the gutters. Meanwhile, in the streets below, I could hear the hustle and bustle of New York City traffic crowding Broadway on the entire Upper West Side of Manhattan.
    So I opened the manuscript to page one. Already, I could tell this was going to be a colossal headache. Just by skimming the page, I could already pick out punctuation errors aplenty out of the corner of my eye. Out of pure curiosity, I turned to page two—and saw more of the same. I got on the phone with the literary agent.
    “This is riddled with mistakes. I can’t edit 300 pages of junk.”
    “It’s a great story, though.”
    “I don’t care if it is The Odyssey incarnate, I can’t do this.”
    “You mean you can’t, or you won’t?” There was silence on my end.
    “This is close to impossible.”
    “You said you could get it done in one business day.”
    “Yes, I said I could get it done. But I was presuming the writer knew the basic functions of mechanics.” I treaded carefully here, though—this editing job was worth a thousand bucks, and my rent was almost due.
    “So can you get it done or can’t you?” I bit my bottom lip.
    “Yeah, I’ll do it. Ugh!”
    “Thanks, Rebekah. You rock.”
    “Oh yeah...sure. Have a good day, Charity.” I hung up the phone, somewhat nonplussed. This day was going to be epically difficult. But I knew I couldn’t do this alone. Thank goodness I had an extra copy of the manuscript. A call was placed.
    “Hi...can I speak with Graham Tulane, please?”
    “I’m sorry, he’s out of the office right now.” I tried to be cordial without sounding too bossy, which was a tall order for me.
    “Well, do you know when he’ll be back? This is pretty urgent.”
    “Let me see what I can do. Can you please hold?”
    “Um...yeah, that’s fine.” And...thus commenced the annoying elevator music that plays whenever someone is put on hold. Then again, this wasn’t too bad as elevator music went. It was the Kreutzer Sonata by Beethoven—classy!
    My cat jumped up on my desk, and I was trying to keep him away from my coffee. While I had my phone in between my cheek and my shoulder, I moved the two copies of the manuscript to the island in the kitchen. Then I was taken off hold.
    “Hello?”
    “Graham! How are you?”
    “I’m well, Rebekah...thanks for asking. I suppose the more important question might be, ‘How are you?’ Usually when you call me, it’s serious. So what’s up?”
    “Graham, I know this is a huge favor to ask...”
    “Ask away.”
    “Okay, well—I have a 300-page manuscript that I have to have proofread by 5 p.m. today. And, I’m freaking out because it looks like the book is loaded with errors. I could tell the punctuation was atrocious from the get-go. But, rifling through the rest of the pages, here—it looks like grammar, semantics, and syntax are all going to be issues as well. Like, there’s a comma splice in the second sentence of the first page already, and I am losing my mind—losing it!” I tried not to sound hysterical, but my cat looked up at me and then got down off the desk and left the room to go hide in my bedroom. This was not good.
    “I have an idea, Rebekah. Why don’t we have lunch at Ollie’s on 114th Street and you can show me the manuscript?”
    “No way, we can’t do that—no time for lunch. This is crunch time, Graham. I have to have this completely edited in like...seven hours.”
    “Do you want to meet up at the library?”
    “Can you come over? Normally, I would never call you like this, and I know it’s a big ask, but—”
    “I’ll be right over, okay. I just have to catch the 1 train to 79th and Broadway.”
    “Oh, man—you’re awesome. I hope you can hear me smiling over the phone.”
    “I sure can. Just one thing...do you have coffee?”
    “For sure! You know I do. Always...” I grinned, barely able to contain my excitement.
    “Super! See you in a few, okay?”
    “Okay, Graham. Bye.”
    After hanging up, I fidgeted in the apartment trying to tidy up my living space a bit. I folded the afghan on my little couch, fixed the pillows, dusted the furniture, did the dishes, mopped the kitchen, cleaned the windows, and took the trash out. I couldn’t believe Graham was coming over. He was one of the associate editors at The Paris Review, and he was taking time out of his busy day to see me. We had been friends for years since having been English majors in undergrad at Columbia University. I guess there was perhaps a little chemistry there, but I tried to put it out of my mind while getting my apartment suitable for company. Before I knew it, it was time to buzz him into the building and he was on my doorstep straightaway. I opened the door.
    There he was in all his charming handsomeness. I wasn’t quite sure what to say at first. Graham gave me a hug and picked me up a little bit till I was on my tippy-toes.
    “Hey there, Mister! How are you doing?”
    “Who, me? Oh, I’m fine, you know,” he said, trying to be coy.
    “How did you get out of the office?”
    “I told my secretary I’d be out of the office for the rest of the day. You’re more important.” He smiled. “So where is this book manuscript of which you speak?”
    I went over to the island and picked up a copy.
    “Here.” I put it in his hands. Graham quickly made short work of it, rifling through pages like nobody’s business.
    “Oh my. Am I seeing this right?” He put his reading glasses on for more in-depth scrutiny, perching them on the edge of his nose. “Wow, Rebekah...you have some real work on your plate, here.”
    “I know. I took the job because I need the money, but this seems like a Herculean task to me. Can you blame me, though?”
    “Yeah. I understand.” He paused. “Well, let me ask you this. What if we split this up 50-50. You edit half...I’ll edit half. We can get it done by 5 o’clock, easy.”
    “You think so?”
    “I know so.”
    “I’ll give you half the fee...” I trailed off.
    “No, it’s okay. You keep it. Consider it an early birthday present.”
    “You’re a real gem, you know that?”
    “Aw...shucks. Thanks, Rebekah. You’re sweet.”
    “Here’s your coffee, by the way...”
    “Wow, that’s great...thank you! Well, look...why don’t we get started?”
    “Do you want to take the first half and I’ll take the second half?”
    “It sounds like a plan to me.”
    So we edited together all day. We stopped to take a brief break for lunch.
    I made us some tuna sandwiches with watercress. We also drank more coffee and had some pistachio ice cream to cleanse our palates.
    Four o’clock arrived. We each only had a few pages left to proofread. We hunkered down at our respective command centers—Graham perched on the couch with Mr. Whiskers, and myself at my cedar desk near the windows. We edited furiously. By the time 4:45 p.m. rolled around, I was sealing the galley manuscripts in a manila envelope and handing it off to the courier. I turned to Graham, thankful for all the help he’d given me.
    “Well, Ms. Falls...it seems we got a lot accomplished here today.”
    “Thanks, Graham...I couldn’t have done it without you.” He got close to me before he got ready to leave out the door.
    “Hey, um...I was wondering...”
    “Yes, Sir! What is it?” I asked, curious.
    “Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner on Saturday evening?”
    “I would love to,” I said.
    “Great. Well, I should go...”
    “Graham.”
    “Yeah?” he asked, turning back around to face me.
    “You’re swell.”
    “Well, you’re pretty awesome yourself,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
    After he left, I did a little happy dance, smiling at the gargoyles on top of the building across the street.
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