"The young girl sat perfectly still in the confessional,
"listening to her father's boots scrape like chalk
"on the ancient steps of the church,
"then grow faint, then disappear all together.
"She could sense the priest beyond the grate..."
On that particular Friday afternoon last February,
I was reading a story to my advanced writer's workshop
by one James Leer, junior lit major
and sole inhabitant of his own gloomy gulag.
"She bit the flesh of her lip,
"closed her eyes, mute."
James' stories were about as sunny as his disposition.
I was distracted.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my wife had left me that morning.
Maybe not. Wives had left me before.
As usual, James' classmates,
aware of a writer's inherent vulnerability,
offered their sensitive, gentle opinions.
I mean, Jesus, what is it with you Catholics?
All right. All right.
Let's try to be constructive here, shall we?
Howard, what about you?
I hated it.
His stories make me want to kill myself.
That's not exactly what I meant by being constructive, Howard.
I think maybe we're missing the point.
A talented writer who rented a room in my house.
I knew her to be insightful, kind
and compulsively clad in red cowboy boots.
I had, in fact, never once seen her without them.
He respects us enough to forget us, and that takes courage.
Well put, Hannah. And a good note to end on, I think.
Oh, don't forget about WordFest this weekend.
And those of you who are driving VIPs to the cocktail party this evening
should have them at the chancellor's house no later than 5:30.
Thank you for that. Is he all right?
I think so. How about you?
Me? Yeah. Why?
Turn off the light, please.
It felt good to be in the car.
Alone. Where I could clear my head.
Tonight was the opening of WordFest,
the university's annual three-day "gabathon" for writers and wanna-bes.
My editor, Terry Crabtree, was flying in for the event.
He alone had championed my last novel, Arsonist's Daughter,
and its critical success had put us both on the map.
But that was seven years ago...
and I still hadn't finished my follow-up.
I knew Terry didn't give a rat's ass about WordFest.
He was coming to town to get a look at my long-overdue book.
I had to keep him at bay.
Ah, Tripp. Crabtree, how are you, my friend?
It's good to see you, Tripp. Let me help you with this.
Say hello to my new friend.
Miss Antonia. Sloviak.
Nice to meet you. This way.
I took the liberty of inviting Antonia to tonight's festivities.
The more the merrier.
Terry was telling me about you on the plane.
It was all so interesting.
I was just explaining how a book comes to be published...
what you do as a writer, what I do as an editor.
I sweat blood for five years, and he corrects my spelling.
That's exactly what he said. We know each other pretty well.
And actually, it's seven years.
You know how many times I've boarded an airplane just praying...
that some gal like her would be sitting down beside me?
She's a transvestite. You're stoned.
She's still a transvestite. So, how's the book?
Uh, it's fine. It's done.
Basically. I got a little tinkering I've still got to do.
I was hoping I could get a lookat it sometime over the weekend.
It's gonna be a little tough. I'm at a critical juncture right now.
I thought you were just tinkering.
W- Well, I am, but I have little details I've got to work on.
I'm not gonna pressure you. I just got off the plane.
I mean, I get pressure. You know? I get-
Know what I mean?
What the hell in the hootenanny do you suppose that would be?
That would be a tuba.
You didn't actually purchase this car, did you?
No, I got it from Jerry Nathan. He owed me some money.
Ah! He owes God money.
Including my commission on that faux novel of his.
That perfume you're wearing, Antonia...
that wouldn't happen to be Cristalle, would it?
Um, uh, yes, it is.
How did you know? Lucky guess.
The WordFest kick-off party...
was always held at Sara and Walter Gaskell's house.
She was the chancellor, which meant she oversaw the university.
Her husband, Dr. Gaskell...
was the chairman of the English Department...
which meant he oversaw me.
Isn't that a nice greenhouse?
It's Mrs. Gaskell's. It's her hobby.
I thought you were Mrs. Gaskell's hobby.
Piss off, will you, Crabs? I lost a wife today.
You'll find another. She'll be young, beautiful. They always are.
Oh, hello, everyone. Terry, good to see you again.
Chancellor. Don't you look ravishing.
Oh, oh. Easy. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
It's these goddamn shoes.
I don't know how anyone can walk in these things.
I don't believe we've met. Antonia Sloviak.
Poe, stop! Poe!
That wouldn't be Walter's dog, would it?
Poe! Who's he barking at now?
He's still barking at me. He's blind.
Excuse me, I need to talk to you for a second, Chancellor.
I need to talk to you too.
Maybe you could help me take these coats to the upstairs guest room.
I'd be happy to if I knew where the upstairs guest room was.
I could show you.
Yeah. Oh, yeah. We'll make ourselves at home.
We'll let Poe show us around. Thanks.
That's new, isn't it?
Yeah, Walter just got it back from the framer.