Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sir Truckalot and the Obese Maiden

Sitting in my favorite Adirondack chair, I looked over the lake tracking the flight of an eagle in search of food. There were footsteps behind me. My neighbor, Darla, came bouncing up the stairs of my deck. She had taken to wearing clothes again, since the hot summer days were behind us, and her pool had become a floating sanctuary for oak leaves.
“Hi, Darla. Have a seat. Would you like some lemonade?”
I poured a glass and set it down in front of her.
She grabbed it and sat in a chair across the table from me. “I came over to congratulate you on getting a book deal.”
Book deal?  “What on earth are you talking about?”
She sipped the lemonade before placing the glass on the table. “Zelda told me all about it.”
Zelda lives on the other side of me. She's our ninety-eight-year-old resident psychic. I had only said a few words to her about my meeting with the Editor-in-Chief of a well known romance publishing house.
I refilled my half-empty glass with lemonade and pushed the vessel away. “Exactly, what did Zelda tell you?”
Darla crossed her legs and started bouncing her foot up and down. Something she does when she gets excited.
"She said you finally got a session with a real editor and she told you that your romance novel was one of the most interesting stories she'd ever read.”
That part was true.  “Did Zelda tell you the rest of it?”
“No, she fell asleep. That’s why I’m here. I want to hear everything.”
 I should have known Zelda wouldn't keep her mouth shut. I picked up my glass and drank about a third of it, letting the cold liquid quench my thirst.
She leaned forward and rested her arm on the wrought iron table. “I’m dying to know which novel you told her about.”
Darla is one of my beta readers, but I had just finished writing the novel the previous week. “You haven’t read this one.”
“What’s the title?”
“Sir Truckalot and the Obese Maiden.”
She rose up and pulled her arm from the table. “Are you serious? Oh my God, I love it already.”
Darla does a lot for my ego as a writer. Her husband, Eddy hasn’t finished reading a single one of my short stories, much less any of my novels. Darla, on the other hand, reads everything I give her, and reaps praises of my prose when I spell something correctly. I felt like she deserved to know the truth.
“I met with the Editor-in-Chief of Rose Pedal Romance.”
“Was she pretty?”
What did that have to do with anything? I knew I might as well answer the question. “I thought she looked attractive for an older woman, in her mid thirties.” Darla is twenty-two.
“That’s good. I was just wondering.”
Since my neighbor appeared satisfied with the editor's appearance, I decided to continue. “I was well prepared for the meeting. I had a copy of my query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters.”
“What did she read first?”
“The query and after reading it, she told me I had two of the characters necessary for romance, the hero and the heroine.”
“Now, aren’t you glad I talked you into writing romance novels?”
“You might want to hold that thought until you hear what else she said.”
"I'm on pins and needles."
I didn't want to mislead Darla. I tried to recall the details of my meeting so I could get it all straight in my mind, when it all came back to me.
“Hi, I’m Jack LaBloom.” I decided to give Miss Prettywell my pseudonym because it sounds more like a romance writer's name.
She offered her hand and told me to have a seat.
“So what’s your novel about?”
“I assumed that much. Why don't you tell me about the main characters.”
I hated to admit it, but I was a little nervous. This was my big chance to finally get published. I took a deep breath and decided to give her my best pitch line. The one I had been working on for more than a month.
“My novel is about a truck driver and a fat woman, who fall in love and live happily ever after.”
She stared at me for a full thirty seconds without responding. From my perspective, it didn't look good. Her frown was a dead giveaway. Estimating I still had four minutes left to make my case, I opted to go with Plan B.
“Before you decide this manuscript is not for you, would you at least read my synopsis?” I held out four pages.
She glanced at her watch. “Sure, it's the least I can do.” She grabbed them from my hand and began reading.
After placing the first page face down on the table, she looked up. 
"Your hero comes across as a complete idiot.”
I gazed at her in disbelief. What was she talking about? The hero has a commercial drivers license.
She held her hands apart. “Who else would ignore a weight limit sign and drive an overloaded truck, full of secret chemicals, onto a bridge that then collapses into a river?”
She had a point, but I had to find a way of getting those chemicals into the main water supply for the vegetable garden at the farm. This is what I get for not letting my beta readers have a look at the manuscript before trying to pitch it.
“I may have to revise that part a little. The rest of the story has a much better feel to it. Please continue?”
She read the second page and shook her head. 
“Are you out of your mind? Your heroine weights 680 pounds?”
At least I had a good explanation for that one. 
“That’s the reason she's forced to go to the fat farm, where she is held against her will. I realize your concerns about her appearance, but don’t worry. She loses 580 pounds by the end of the story.”
That must have allayed her fears about my Heroine. She rolled her eyes and started reading the third page. I held my breath hoping I wouldn't turn blue.
She put the third page down. “So the chemicals spilled in the river cause people to lose weight rapidly?”
I held my hand up and signaled I needed a minute. After inhaling forty cubic feet of oxygen and exhaling it slowly, I was able to respond to her question.
“Not only that, but it shrinks her skin. And helps clear up her complexion as well.”
There was one page left. Knowing she had reached the best part, I smiled.
“You’re going to love the ending.”
She looked at her watch again, before lifting the last page.
While she read, I replayed the closing scene in my mind.
After Joe wrecked the chemical truck, he lost his job as a truck driver and had to settle for working as a day laborer at the fat farm hauling water for the vegetable garden. That’s where he meets Bellynntina, the Heroine. One day while Joe is picking corn at the farm—that’s the only kind of food they served the residents— he spots Bellynntina walking the perimeter of the farm, a quarter of a mile. When she collapses from exhaustion, he tries to help her up, but can't budge one of her arms much less her whole body. She weights as much as a horse. He offers her a drink of water instead. Water he has retrieved from the river. Within minutes of taking a drink, she begins to lose weight right before his eyes. He offers her another ladle of water from the bucket, and then another, until she’s down to a 100 pounds. After five and eight tens ladles of water, it was love at first sight. He lifts her up and carries her away from the fat farm. Later that night they embraced and kissed quite a few times.
When Miss Prettywell finished reading the last page of my synopsis, she placed it face down on top of the others. She looked up. The expression on her face was one of astonishment. She appeared to be taking her time to form her words just right. Finally, after what felt like enough time to have cooked up a pot of vegetables from the fat farm garden, she said, “This is one of the most interesting romance story ideas I’ve ever read.”
I took her comment to mean best-seller. While trying to calculate my royalties, I also planned the layout of my yacht.
Miss Prettywell stood. "Unfortunately, I feel the audience for your story line is limited, therefore I'm going to pass on this one. Thank you for coming, Mr. LaBloom. My assistant will show you out.”
When I finished telling Darla what the editor said to me, she stood and threw her hands on her hips. “I can't believe that woman had the gall to tell you your audience is limited.” She turned and stomped toward the stairs.
I jumped up. “Wait, Darla. Don’t you want to take a copy of my manuscript home with you so you can read it?”
"No, Eddy bought me a new cookbook. I’m diving into that tonight.”


  1. Thank god the water tightens loose skin. I was preparing for one of those YA/fantasy books where the hero has to wander for years, trying to find a pocket of airspace beneath flaps of skin.

  2. Great story, Jack. You took care of that probably about getting a different wrinkle . . .

  3. Thanks, Russell. Those wrinkles were the hardest part to figure out, but the heroine was able to carry the rest of the story under her own weight.

  4. That's a good one alright!