I said I'd make a mess of myself with those (indicating the balls).
They laughed and explained they are for the accountant - a part-time vegan.
I mentioned my daughter had recently turned vegan,
having been sugar-free for three years.
'Soon she'll be food free,' I said. They laughed again.
Everyone was nervous.
They apologised for the owner who couldn't make it
due to some last-minute eye condition erupting.
He was sorry not to meet me, they said.
I did my best to hide my disappointment that the reason was so mundane,
and knowing that my mother, waiting at home, would pounce,
with vitriolic anti-feminist scorn,
upon the fact that the people I'd met with were all women.
She had assumed my publishers, as all publishers, were men,
not believing women could be anything of note at all,
though she had quite liked Julia Gillard (former PM).
We talked about Saturday's storm.
I told them it took my mother's modem out
while we, my daughter and I, were driving up to the mountains
into the hard rain, dodging lighting forks and singing Mamma Mia -
I didn't tell them that last bit.
They got the picture (I was going to be off-line for a while).
They said they'd lost computer connection too;
I commiserated, wondering if they worked on Saturdays
and if so, what that said about the company.
We got down to business around a scratched, dining-room-type table,
the marketing person asking me about my brother and sister,
wanting to know how good they were likely to be at organising a Sydney launch.
I said, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, they would be a 1.
I regretted my sibling disloyalty and client non-cooperativeness immediately,
hastening to explain why, that one lives in the remote upper mountains,
and the other is very distracted with work (and her dog).
There was an awkward lull. I nibbled my lemon slice,
thinking; if there is one situation of all the situations in life when
slice is not a good idea, meeting with your publishers for the first time is it.
Then they showed me my book...
I don't know about you, but the sight of my book in the flesh
standing proud and published - well, almost (it was an advance copy, not quite finished) -
new and pristine upon that scratchy dining-room table,
like it has a right to be a book stood on a dining table as well as any other,
was enough to sweep away all doubts about slices, storms and scratches,
even siblings; even the battle of the sexes. Even my mother.
I smiled like a child, caressed my book like a lover,
and said, like a fool: 'Is this mine to keep?'
It wasn't mine to keep, as it turned out,
I had to send it forthwith to the most famous writer I knew
in attempt to get an endorsement for the New Zealand edition.
When I looked a little lost at the thought of letting it go,
three more copies were promptly added to the first,
making a pile. A pile of my book!
I don't remember what happened after that;
it's possible I committed to handing over 90% of my profits.