I finally finished Mr. Putterman and read it over one more time, thinking of it as the test it was. Afterward, I realized I was more nervous about Archie's reaction than Mimi's, which seemed wrong. I decided to give it to her, without showing Archie first.
She read it overnight, and called me into her office the next afternoon. She held up her perfume and I submitted my wrists.
"This is really fine work, Jane," she said.
I said, "Thanks."
"Where's the letter?" she said.
Slowly, she said, "The letter to Putterman."
I thought, You even want me to write the letter you'll sign?
She went on explaining that the letter to the author should describe the changes "we'd" made to the novel, as well as "our" enthusiasm for the project.
"Almost finished," I said, and took the manuscript back.
Really fine work, I said to myself on my way home to Archie's. Really fine work.
After dinner, I gave the manuscript to him to read. He took it right up to his study. When he came down, he said, "It looks good, honey."
I said, "I need to know if you think I will ever be really good at this."
He seemed to be considering.
I said, "I need to know if you think I can ever be a fucking great editor."
"Yes," he said. "I think you are fucking a great editor."
I glared at him. There were a dozen cruel remarks I could've made.
He said, "Your aunt Rita always said that the best editors were invisible." Editors worked behind the scenes, he said; it wasn't a job you did for praise or glory--that belonged to the writer.
"You get glory," I said.
"Inadvertently," he said.
I said, "Isn't that what you'd call 'understated self-inflation'?"
He looked at me.
I said, "I don't think there's anything wrong with glory."
He said, "Join a brass band."
"Shut up," I said.
"Snappy retort," he said, and got up to do the dishes.
In bed, in the dark, he whispered, "I'm sorry I was so hard on you." Then: "You need approval a little too badly, honey."
"I know," I said.
He said, "But you really did do a fine job for old Mr. Putterman."
I said, "Mimi said, ' Really fine.'"
He turned and faced me. "You gave it to Mimi before showing it to me?"
"Yes," I said.
He sat up and turned his back to me, and lit a cigarette. "Why would you do that?" he said, and his tone put me in the third person.
"What you said--I need your approval too much." I lit a cigarette myself and said, "I rely too much on your judgment."
I could tell how angry he was by how he smoked--deep drags with too brief intermissions. "I rely on your judgment," he said. "I ask you to read my editorial letters."
"You don't need me to, though," I said.
"Of course I do," he said.
I said, "But if I wasn't around to read them, you'd be fine."
He said, "You planning on going somewhere?"
Mimi called me into her office. "You did a wonderful job on the novel," she said. "But I am a little surprised that it took you as long as it did."
"Oh," I said. I thought of the time my Girl Scout leader told me that I hadn't earned enough badges; she'd said, "You have to work at scouting, Janie."
Mimi said, "I didn't mention it yesterday because I didn't want to diminish the work you'd done. I probably wouldn't mention it at all," she said, "if you didn't also take so long reading submissions."
She was looking at me and I knew that she was expecting a pledge of future speed.
But I just said, "Yeah." And, "Yeah," again. Even to myself, I sounded like somebody who smoked cigarettes in front of the drugstore all day.
I was sulking in my office when my mother called. She never called in the middle of the day, so when she said, "How are you?" I said, "What's wrong?"
She said, "Everything's fine." Then she told me that my father had pneumonia and had been admitted to the hospital.
Mimi told me to take as much time as I needed.
Archie left work and met me at his house. He sat on the bed while I packed. "It's going to be hard in Philadelphia," he said. "I don't want you worrying about us."
In the cab to the station, he told me that when he was growing up he'd see a look of pleasure cross his mother's face and ask what she was thinking; she'd say, I was just thinking of your father. "That's how I want us to be," Archie said.
I said, "I was just thinking of your father."
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