Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Chat With A Character (Part 2 of 3)

I had taken the first sip of coffee when I saw Gene’s head rise above the stairs. It was a very good cup of coffee, if I do say so myself. You won’t find anything but the best at Ellen’s. They make their mistakes from time to time, but most of those stay in the kitchen.

“Why couldn’t you get a table downstairs instead of making me climb the stairs? These legs aren’t as strong as they used to be.” He pulled out a chair and sat down. “But don’t let that fool you. I’ve still got it where it counts.”

“I just thought we could talk more easily, up here where it’s quiet.” I took another sip of coffee. Good coffee. “You could have taken the elevator.”

“Not when I’m coming up here to talk about what you’re here to talk about,” he said. “Ellen told me why you’re here. I just haven’t figured out whether you’re here to ask my opinion, ask my permission or just to warn me. Can you tell me?”

“No, sir,” I said, “I’m not all that sure myself.”

“If you want my opinion,” he said, “I think it’s about time for me to retire and let Wayne take over.”

“That’s kind of what I’m thinking.” I picked up a spoon and stirred my coffee. It didn’t need stirring as much as I wanted to hear the clink of the spoon against the cup.

“Ellen told me that you aren’t sure that Wayne will be the one to take my place. Something about the church getting into a fight over it?”

“It’s just something I’ve been considering.”

“Well, stop!” he said. “I’ve invested a lot in that church and I don’t want you going and messing things up.”

“It makes things more interesting when there’s a fight.”

“Things don’t always have to be interesting,” he said. “Some of us like things to be boring.”

“Publishers don’t pay for boring. Publishers want something that people will read.”

“So that’s what you’re worried about. Here we are worried about how we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission and all you’re worried about is how much a publisher is going to pay you.” He took a drink of water. The ice hit the side of the glass, sounding like wind chimes.

“The two are tied together more than you think,” I said. “If people don’t read about you, then your church isn’t going to do your part to fulfill the Great Commission.”

He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then he asked, “Are the publishers in the real world the same as they are here?”

“For the most part,” I said.

“I think I can help you.” He put his glass down and looked at it for moment. “I know a man who owns a publishing company. It isn’t a small operation either. He was telling me just the other day that he’s been talking to Herbert Snow, the president of Thomas Nelson, about buying that company. If he can’t get that one, he thinks he’ll try to get Zondervan. He and I go way back. I’m sure I could call him up and he’ll publish anything you want to send him. Then you won’t have to split the church.”

“I know the same man,” I said, “and someday he’s going to send his niece to a friend of mine for some help with a novel she’s writing, but he can’t do me any good. In the real world, his company doesn’t exist and as far as I know, Michael Hyatt is the president of Thomas Nelson. I don’t know if they’ve got a Herbert Snow over there or not, but I can assure you that our mutual friend isn’t going to be buying them out.”

“Well, if it isn’t true, then why did you let me think it was?”

“It is true, here,” I said,. “though not the part about Herbert Snow being the president of Thomas Nelson. I’ll have to correct that in revisions. Who knows, maybe that’s the name I’ll give our mutual friend.”

“I did wonder why our friend didn’t have a name.”

“I want you to know that I’m all for retiring as long as the problems don’t come with it.”

“You might like to know that you’ve got a few fans who want me to keep you around.”

“You don’t mean as opposed to…” He made a motion with his finger across his throat, like that of a knife.

“No, nothing like that. I won’t be killing you off. I’ll even make you a promise. If Sara ever gets married, you’ll be healthy enough to go to the wedding.”

“That’s good.” He took another drink from his glass. “If you want an interesting story, what you ought to do is tell about Mark and his first wife.”

“I know,” I said, “but I’m not sure I can tell it like it needs to be told.”

“Who else could tell it? You’re the only one who knows the details.”

“True, but it’s such a sad story and I’ve told the most important parts already.”

“I don’t see how that could hurt anything. I has to be better than telling about a church fighting over who they want as their pastor.”

“Let me think about it,” I said.