Click answered the door yesterday. I’ve told him not to do that. It scares people.
It didn’t scare this particular visitor. The Professor was waiting for me in the living room with a well-filled whisky glass in one hand and a fat cigar in the other.
“Ah, good evening,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind me helping myself to whisky. Your assistant said you might be some time.”
“I was clearing a drain in the kitchen.” I lifted a bottle of my current favoured tipple, a 1963 vintage Vacuum Cleaner Salesman, and poured a glass. “My wife insists on acting as though we have a waste disposal unit. We do, but he has his own room.”
The Professor smiled and took a large swig of his whisky. “Funny looking little chap, your assistant. Spanish?”
I rolled my eyes. Click had been watching Don Quixote and as always, had picked up the accent. Fortunately there are no windmills nearby. “No,” I said, “he’s from… out of town.”
“Ah.” The Professor tapped the side of his nose. “Say no more.”
I showed him to a seat. “So what brings you out here in this cold weather?”
“A taxi. I think it was a taxi. Rusty box on wheels with a badly-trained gorilla driving?”
“Yes, that’s the local taxi. I wonder if old Sumpcrack McWheelspin has fitted any brakes yet?” I had never dared risk the taxi. The bus was dangerous enough and it moved at a snail’s pace compared to Sumpcrack. He spent a fortune upgrading the engine in his battered old Citroen but never bothered with anything else.
“It doesn’t seem likely.” The Professor placed his glass on the table. “He stopped by hitting a tree sideways. I think I’ll walk back to the village.”
“Yes, that’s probably best.”
“Anyway, I wanted to tell you I managed to get that ghosthunting book onto Amazon. Just the Kindle so far but it’s a start.”
“That’s good news. I have some books on there too.” I watched the ash on the end of his cigar with some unease and nudged the ashtray closer to him.
“I don’t know yet.” This line of questioning was becoming tiresome. Everyone expects me to be struggling with the weight of my book earnings but it takes a long time to build up and a long time to filter back to me. “There’s another quarterly report due this month.”
“Oh, right. I’ve been going it alone, you know. Self-publishing. It means I have direct access to the sales data.”
“I do that too,” I said. “Jessica’s Trap is traditionally published but the short story books are self-published.”
“Yes, of course, I was forgetting.” He stood and picked up his glass. I hadn’t noticed him finishing it. “I took your advice too, and put up a free sample on that Smashwords site you told me about.” As he strolled around the room, he passed the drinks cabinet with no perceptible pause. When he regained his seat his glass was full.
“Did it help? The free sample, I mean?”
“Hard to say yet. It’s only been there for a week or so.”
“Then it’ll be scrolling down the lists. You’ll need another free one to liven things up again.” My own free samples have been scrolling down too. I would also need to put another one out soon.
The Professor swirled his glass. “Strange world, this writing. We’re doing the same thing on the same sites and yet we don’t seem to be in competition at all.”
“Most people read more than one book in their lives. Even if we were going after the same audience, which we’re not, there’s nothing to stop anyone buying all the books they want.”
We spent much of the rest of the evening in contemplative silence. It’s odd, but those of us who spend all our time spinning words on paper or screen often find that, faced with real people, we have little to say.
Then again, maybe it’s because we feel we’ve said quite enough for one day already.