Peirene stands in the middle of the office wearing full combat gear: camouflage trousers, camouflage jacket, camouflage cap; magazine pouch, grenade pouch, Kalashnikov swung over her shoulder.
I swallow and hope that the gun isn’t loaded. I wouldn’t want her to accidentally harm anyone.
‘Which writers are you wanting to liberate?’ I ask.
‘Our writers.’ She punches the air with her right fist.
‘Oh no!’ My heart sinks. The smile disappears from my lips. ‘Is someone imprisoned?’ In my mind I quickly go through all our 39 writers and pick out the ones who are the most likely ones to be in danger. Both Uzbek Hamid Ismailov and Libyan Kamal Ben Hameda had to flee their country for political reasons.
‘Not imprisoned. Much worse!’ The Nymph’s eyes fiercely glare at me. ‘Tortured! They are being tortured!’
I jump up.
The Nymph now slides the Kalashnikov off her shoulder.
‘All of them! All!,’ she shouts, waving the gun barrel wildly from one side to the other.
I automatically duck.
‘Peirene, stop that!’ I cry.
She rests the gun up side down on the floor and leans on it. ‘Don’t worry, it’s not loaded. It’s not even real.’
I sink into a chair. The Nymph exhausts me. ‘So, what is this about?’
‘We have world renowned authors on our list. First class creative story tellers. Profound thinkers. And what do you do? You silence them! You publish one book and one book only by each of them ignoring the other masterpieces they have written. Pretending they don’t exist. And-‘ Peirene pauses, catching her breath. She’s clearly had this speech in her head for a long time. ‘And that’s not all. You are at the same time depriving the entire English speaking world of these masterpieces and thereby preventing the world from becoming a better place.’
‘Peirene, you and I are made for each other.’ I’m laughing. ‘Because I’ve been thinking exactly the same. And I’ve already acted upon it. We have just signed a contract to publish Birgit Vanderbeke’s most recent book in 2019!’
For a moment the Nymph looks at me speechless. A number of emotions flicker across her face. Relief, joy, excitement. Then her shoulders slump forward.
‘But… but I was ready to fight. What am I going to do now?’
‘Well, I guess you could return to your desk and make sure that we find as many readers for Birgit’s next book as we achieved for The Mussel Feast. Start by sending emails to the press.’
As Peirene reluctantly puts down the gun and opens her computer, I can hear her mumble something about ‘boring’ and ‘not very glamorous,’ and that she will need time off to return her combat gear to a shop in Camden.
Image by Steve Snodgrass, creative commons.