I wasn’t always a software programmer. There was a time when I was actually employed by a publishing house. You’ve never heard of it, I can pretty much guarantee that and they’ve long gone out of business (well, by long, I mean a decade or so—I’m not that old). It was a decent job though I haven’t the faintest idea why they employed me. I mean, I had just graduated university with an English degree and had absolutely no experience editing anything but my own college essays. But they hired me right on sight.
The managing editor’s office was hazy in the early afternoon light. It smelled almost like cigarettes but was more of a burnt flavor. The fake wood paneled walls with their pastel, J.C. Penney’s mass produced paintings hung on them felt like it was straight out of what I imagined a 1974 office would be like. I wore a simple skirt and my purple blouse (I read somewhere once that purple was the color of royalty and female empowerment; wearing it made me feel fierce). The lounge chairs across from the editor’s desk were mustard color and irritated the backs of my legs, even through the skirt and tights.
His name was Cam, which I guess was short for Cameron. I never found out. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t short for anything. Even the little doohicky thing on his desk said Cam Little. And no, his name wasn’t ironic or descriptive. Normal guy as far as I could tell. Nice enough. Had two kids and a wife of fifteen, twenty years, if I’m remembering correctly. Glasses, thinning hair and the managing editor of The Devil’s House.
I thought the name was cute and edgy at the same time. How cool would it be to have a business card with The Devil’s House on it? At least, that was my thinking when I responded to the ad and how I found myself in Cam’s office. Granted, the lack of a job for the previous six months and the state of the economy also led to my desperate trip from the North End out to Riverside and a thirty minute bus ride to this squat brick building in the middle of a parking lot.
We talked about my brief experience with editing (none, really), how the long commute might be a problem (working from home wasn’t allowed), and what the hours would be (most of their authors were night owls so there were many late nights). I told Cam I was eager to learn and happy to do what was necessary to get the job done; you know, standard fare for any good job seeker.
“Have you ever read one of our titles?” he asked. I told him I hadn’t. “You may want to before committing to a job here.” He took out a book from the shelf behind him below the window letting in the stark winter light and slid it toward me. The cover was a picture of an ethereal woman in a white gown laying on the grass. In flowery type, the title wreated her head: Lover, Lay Me Down.
“We publish hardcore porn novels,” Cam said. I laughed out loud and quickly covered my mouth with the hand not holding the book. “Well, that’s better than the other responses I’ve had.”
“Sorry, you’re serious?” I asked.
He said that he was. That they were looking into starting a more softcore branch of the house, realizing that men wanted pictures and women were more interested in the stories behind the porn. I could understand that, I told him.
“Look, I know you’ve got no experience and this might be a little out of your comfort zone but I’m desperate and I think you might be too. Why don’t you say yes, I’ll pay you a decent salary, and you’ll get some much needed experience.”
I looked at the book cover, flipped through the first few pages, looked up at Cam and said, “Why not?” I started the next Monday and stayed for four years. It wasn’t a bad gig, truth be told. The money was good for my experience. The commute sucked for the first year but I eventually moved a little closer. And the late nights weren’t too bad. Got to meet some real interesting authors and now I’ve got a keen eye when it comes to a worthy story.
Sadly, the company folded about a year after I left. Think the internet was just too much to compete with. People’s attentions grew shorter and shorter and the long build up to a meaningful climax wasn’t something anyone was really interested in anymore. Oh well. Thankfully, I had already moved on to another company.
The writing prompt: Write about a desperate copy editor who takes a job at a publishing company only to find out on his or her first day that the company publishes either (a) hardcore pornographic novels or (b) how-to handbooks for demons and other evil beings. (source)