Down those mean sentences I walk alone
I was sitting at my desk in the old Intelligencer-Argus building the day she walked in. It was late afternoon on a rainy day, and my hand had strayed more than once toward the dictionary in the bottom desk drawer. I heard footsteps approaching, and when I looked up, there she was. She was — lissome.
“Mr. McIntyre?” she said.
“Take a load off, lady,” I said pushing a chair, the one with the loose armrest, toward her. Cheapskate publishers. “What can I do for you?”
“Mr. McIntyre, my name is Martha Brockenbrough, and I need your help.”
“What’s the problem, sis?”
“Well, a dear friend of mine is married to a man — he’s a hard worker and a good provider, I don’t mean to say anything against him — but he’s so rigid.”
“What’s his game?” I asked, with a suspicion dawning like the morning sun over the penitentiary down the street.
“He’s a writer.”
“I know the type.”
“No, you don’t,” she said, lifting her stubborn little chin.
“He’s a good writer. Well, most of the time, anyway. It’s just that he’s fallen into some bad ways.”
“Tell me about them, doll,” I said.
“He positively insists that none can only be used as a singular."
“And once he threatened to strike a grocery clerk in the ‘10 items or less’ aisle.”
“He got so angry once over my ... my friend’s placement of only in a sentence that she was afraid she would have to call the police.”
“Baby, I’ve met a million of ’em. This place used to crawl with ’em before the bottom fell out of the paragraph game. But why are you coming to me about this bozo?”
“Well, I heard, Mr. McIntyre, that you’re a highly professional copy editor.”
“I’ve nailed the errant adverb in my time.”
“I thought you could talk to him, work with him, help him somehow.”
“Toots, I’ve got it soft here. Twenty an hour, and I don’t have to furnish my own pencil. I don’t need the aggravation.”
“But Mr. McIntyre, National Grammar Day is almost here. It’s March 4, and I’m so afraid for him, and for my friend, that if he isn’t turned around by then, something terrible might happen.” She sobbed softly into a dainty little lace thing she’d plucked from her purse.
It was the tears that got to me, against my better judgment. I should’ve known better. I did know better. Always a sucker for any sweet dame.
“All right, Ms. Brockenbrough, you’ve got yourself a green eyeshade. Let’s have his name and address.”
“Oh,” she said.
“There’s a problem.”
To be continued …