Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Working Title

Prepare yourself to enter the world behind the scenes of books.  Read on, and discover the true nature of the publishing world.

            Toot!  The whistle to begin the workday sounded its cartoonish noise, and the workers immediately began their assigned tasks.  Edward It, the foreman of the operation, looked at his watch:  8:00 am.  Time to begin patrolling the stations and check up on his little worker bees.
            He strolled out of his office and past his secretary’s desk.
            “Ready for the day, Ed?” she asked.
            “Ready as ever,” he replied.  He sincerely meant it.  He enjoyed his job and believed in their product.  No, this is not a fictional exaggeration; it is the truth.  Ed It walked through the office doors and into the open air.
            First stop:  the Cutters.  Known to their fellow workers as the Tree Killers.  Mr. It had nothing to say to them.  Interrupting their concentration could have disastrous consequences, anyway.  A felled tree in the wrong place could bring on a barrage of lawsuits, something the Boss definitely did not want.
            Mr. It then proceeded to the Binders.
            “Hello, Mr. It.  Would you like to check the binding we just installed?” asked the Binder crew leader.
            “Ah, very good,” said Mr. It with a grin as he tugged on the leather.  “Excellent craftsmanship.”
            The Binders glowed.  Mr. It must be in a good mood, they thought, if he actually paid them a compliment.  And he was.  He loved his morning patrol of the grounds.  There was something satisfying in knowing he had control over the quality of the company’s output.
            Mr. It walked along a path he knew well to get to the next area, where the Straighteners worked.  He approached a tall crane lifting words up into the air.  He paused as he observed its remarkable acrobatics, gently dropping one word in place then quickly swooping down to retrieve another.  After each word was placed on the Cutters’ finely cut paper, a team of men—the Straighteners—ran over to make sure it was level.
            “How are the lines looking?” asked Mr. It as he approached the overseer of this impressive operation.
            “Straight as ever, sir,” reported one of the Straighteners.
            “Good.  I don’t have to remind you about the complaints we got last week after the abundance of sloping lines.  It hurts the eyes.”
            “Yes, sir.  We remember.”
            “Very good.  Carry on.”
            Next on Mr. It’s (or should that be “Its?”) list was the Printers.  They were a finicky and delicate group.  Their careful precision was wonderful for the company, but it did come with a peculiar standoffishness.  Mr. It entered into a warehouse.  He could smell the strong, chemical scent of ink.
            “Printers?  How is your work going today?” asked Mr. It carefully.
            “Are you asking because you think it might be going bad?  If it’s going bad do you really care?  Or are you asking just so you can fill out your reports and retire to your comfy office?  Do you care about our contributions?  Do you?”
            So much for avoiding confrontation.  Mr. It silently sidled away from the head Printer, who had not even looked up from his work.
            The Printer continued babbling:  “You come and ask the same question every day in your oh-so-polite manner, but we know it’s just a front!  All you care about is efficiency!  You don’t care about the art of printing!  You would lop off a serif without a second thought!  You would….”
            Mr. It was relieved when he could no longer hear the Printer’s nasally voice.  He decided to switch his order and pay the Numberers a visit.  They for sure would not verbally assault the foreman.
            They worked in an adjacent warehouse to the Printers.  The buildings used to be connected before the Printers sealed the door between their departments.  The Numberers’ workspace consisted of a dozen long tables lined up, each with a moving tread on top.  Every space on the table was occupied by sheets and sheets of paper.  It was not anything pretty to look at, but it certainly got the job done efficiently and effectively.
            “How are you, Mr. It?” asked Numberer 3.
            “Nice day today, isn’t it, Mr. It?” added Numberer 203.
            “I am so bored.  I haven’t done anything in weeks,” mumbled Numberer 945 to himself.
“I’m fine, thank you, boys,” replied Mr. It with a smile.  He knew how repetitive and mindless their work is, and how much they appreciate even the smallest respite.  “Well, I should let you get back to numbering.”
“No need to leave,” said Numberer 134.  “It’s 23’s turn now, so the rest of us higher numbers still have some time to spare to chat.”
“I’m very sorry, but I must continue on with my rounds.  I have to get to the Writers before lunch.”
“Okay.  Be sure to come back soon!”
Mr. It shook his head in sympathy as he left.  Those poor workers.  But Mr. It couldn’t reside in the Numberers’ sorrow for long, since he was now with the Titlers, who worked just down the hall.  They called themselves the Entitled.  Those selfish pigs.  Mr. It had barely gotten his “hello” out before one of the Titlers began listing their requests.
“And a new stereo for our workroom.  We also want a puppy.  No, make that three puppies.  They boost office morale, you know.  We definitely need more snacks.  We ran out of granola bars yesterday.  And company cars.  We’d really like those.  While you’re at it, could—”
“Stop it!” shouted Mr. It.  His quickly blushed; he was not one to lose his temper.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout, but I must be moving on.  I have to check with the Writers before the lunch break, and I still have one more group to visit.  Good luck with your titling.”
Before the Titlers could add anything else to their list of spoils, Mr. It was gone.  He turned down a hall and went through a set of double doors.  He made another turn, then began to descend a steep set of stone steps.  There were blood red markings, on the wall.  The markings consisted of strange symbols and lines; they did not make any sense to the foreman.  But, they probably would not have made any sense to anyone who read them.  At the bottom of the staircase, Mr. It carefully stepped over a pool of red liquid and crossed the threshold into the lair of the next worker group:  the Typo Squad.
As the foreman entered the dungeon-like office, ten heads simultaneously turned up to face him.  “How are you, this morning?” asked one Squad member.
“I’m doing good,” responded Mr. It shakily.  Being down here always put him on edge.
“Well.  You’re doing well,” replied the member curtly.
“Right, sorry.  How’s you’re editing coming along?”
“Your.  Not ‘you’re.’  One of the most common mistakes.  It’s aggravating.”
“My mistake.  I just got back from the Titlers, so I’m a little stressed out.”
“Please do not end your sentence with a preposition.  It offends the senses.”
“Yes, well, we can’t all be perfect.”
“Yes we can.  That is our job.  To make everyone perfect.”
            “No one cannot be unlike you,” put in Mr. It, attempting a smile.
“You have used not just a double negative, but a triple negative.”  The member was slowly grinding his teeth.  “That is not acceptable.  Please leave before we have to take drastic action.”
“I think that may be in hour best interest,” agreed Mr. It.
“Out!”  The Squad member looked ready to burst.  He was clutching his red ink pen so tightly it looked ready to burst.
“I’m gone!” shouted Mr. It over his shoulder as he scurried from the Typo Squad’s cave.  He ran up the stairs and stepped outside.  He breathed deeply until he had regained his composure.
“I don’t know what got into me down there,” said Mr. It to himself.  “I’m usually so grammatically correct, but I just kept slipping up.”  He sighed.  “Okay.  One more to go before the lunch break.  The Writers.”
The foreman followed a path to the back of the company’s campus until he could see a massive building with staunch white columns that held up a gilded roof.  It was by far the nicest part of the complex.  He walked up the carefully manicured lawn and opened the oak-framed double doors.
Instantly he could smell the strong scent of sweat combined with imagination.  Of wordiness mixed with fictitiousness.  Of pretentiousness on top of fresh ink.  The Writers were hard at work.
Mr. It approached the Writer sitting at the desk closest to the entrance.
“What are you working on today?” asked Mr. It.
“A reworking of the classic hero plot.  I am combining it with elements of the vampire romance, with a dab of the high school drama.  It will be a masterpiece.”
Mr. It moved on to the next Writer and asked the same question.
“An original fiction that follows a dog that is transformed into a cat.  It is written in a modern prose style, unlike anything that has been seen before.  It will be a masterpiece.”
Curious for what the Writers in the far back of the room were working on, Mr. It ventured in between the hundreds of rows of scribbling scribes until he reached the penultimate row.  He asked the same query.
“A violent history novel that realistically portrays all of the wars of the last century.  It will not be for the weak at heart.  It will be bloody, to say the least.  And it will be a masterpiece,” said one Writer.
“I’m afraid the content is too explicit to tell you in public,” said another.  “But it will definitely be a masterpiece.”
Content that the Writers were still maintaining their self-esteem, though oddly intrigued by the last Writer’s work, Mr. It decided his morning checkup was complete.  He left the Writer’s Hall, walked back past the long factories of the Numberers, and crossed the fields where the Straighteners were assembling the product.  The foreman returned to his office, sat down at his desk, and removed a turkey sandwich from a brown paper bag.  He took a bite.  His boss, the Publisher, paused as he walked by the foreman’s office.  Ed It gave him a thumbs up and a turkey sandwich-filled grin.
All was well in the literary world.

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