Ed Dowdley and I were having coffee downtown and ended up discussing a series of stories he had written. Now you must understand that Mr. Dowdley is a relic of the bygone age. His books are self-printed, devoid of blurbs or cover art, and rarely read by anyone I knew of. I think he shipped them to college bookstores in Canada or something; certainly he never made any effort to publicise them locally. It doesn’t matter if anybody ever reads his books; but history will record him as their author, and whoever may care to look will find copies sitting in the Library of Congress, their generic covers attracting dust and generally doing everything they can to avoid attention.
“There is something about having it printed in a newspaper that cheapens it, though.”
“You’re putting it in a paper? I thought you were printing it yourself.”
“I would, I would; but the newspaper pays my expenses, whereas the print shop incurs them.”
A fellow with as lean a face as you, I thought, really ought to incur more expenses, with a special attention to culinary expenses.
“I once believed it was destined to be an epic narrative tapestry, with a whole chapter devoted to our mutual friend Wasserman’s rise to power in the Imperialist party. Instead it has degenerated into a loosely connected series of anecdotes, to be wasted on some twenty-odd Saturday editions of the Conifer & Gazette.”
“It’s the story of my life,” I muttered. Mr. Dowdley gave me a look. “What was that? You can’t say that. You’re not nearly old enough. If your whole life were a book you’d only still be in the introduction by the author’s friend.”
“Still,” he said, as he stirred his cup with an annoyingly loud rattle, “your remark may prove remarkably prescient.” I was suddenly and briefly impressed with the virtues of an early death.
Our mutual friend Wasserman was an innocent old fellow whose glasses were thick enough to stop a bullet. He was bald, cheery, and utterly without any concept of guile. This last point proved to be his downfall in the world of small-time politics, into which he was unwittingly thrust. He was, it was widely opined, a victim of his own gift of brilliant oratory, which had led him into paths for which he was never destined. I agreed his story would have been worth at least a whole chapter, maybe a book of its own. He deserved, maybe, his own biographer. As it now stood, Wasserman would probably end up as little more than a name in the ‘W’ section of an index somewhere. But we knew him and appreciated him; and besides, there is no lack of great and curious personalities. They are always being born somewhere.
“I almost hit a deer the other night,” volunteered Mr. Dowdley. So had I, and I said so.
“I just missed him. Nicked him with my rear bumper.” A slurp of coffee. “I won’t be so lucky next time. There’s no shortage of deer.”
Was he in reading my mind? or had they put something in the coffee? They might call it “Fatalspresso,” or perhaps “Dark-Roasted Reverie Grandé.” In any case, we had exhausted our capacity for conversation, and I knew it, and he knew it, and we both knew it. At length we put on our gloves and left.