I ate his purple liver by candlelight.
“Delicious,” I murmured with a full mouth. The liver had a spicy note to its robust flavor.
“Thank you very much,” said Herman Melville. “I find brandy and cinnamon biscuits flavor my liver nicely.”
I wiped my mouth with a linen napkin. “Cinnamon…yes, I do taste that. It pairs nicely with the rosemary potatoes. But don’t you need your liver? I’ve nearly consumed half of it.”
“You don’t need organs here. We’re all gutted, cavernous, and incomplete.” Melville twisted his glass and then gulped the very dirty martini.
“Where is here? Exactly.”
“They didn’t tell you?” My God, they’re slacking in the Processing Department. Here, my dear…Ms. Chanel Preston…is where some writers go when they die. The writers who edit poorly.”
I set down my fork. My cheeks felt suddenly hot. “I edit quite well. I don’t appreciate…the…”
“Implication that you edit poorly?” Melville laughed sharply. “If you are here then you do edit poorly and you must let go of your ego if you are to survive.”
“How many writers are here?” My voice was very small.
“Oh, thousands and thousands. Some quite famous. James Fennimore Cooper will join us for dessert and James Joyce will pour port by the fire later.”
“So I’m in limbo? What do you all do here?”
“You’re in hell but if limbo helps you cope then, by all means, call it limbo. Every day, for eight hours a day, we edit. The worse prose imaginable. Line by line. Hundreds and thousands of pages.”
“Whose book?” I was bristling with curiosity.
“God. He’s a horrible writer. So much puffery. The egoism is astonishing. He uses the word ‘very’. A lot. I really don’t think it is possible to ever fix his manuscript so that it is palatable to the reader. There really isn’t even a good story there. Lots of magic mumbo-jumbo. Ah…here’s Cooper.” Melville winked.
James Fennimore Cooper wheeled in the dessert cart. I selected red velvet cake.
“Eat, eat,” said Cooper. “Meal times are our only escape from editing. Enjoy the simple process of eating as tomorrow you will begin your time here on page one.”
“How many pages?”
“You weren’t listening. Hundreds of thousands.” Cooper served Melville a black and white cookie.
I gulped and then felt slippery tears slide down my face. I really did hate editing.
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