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Gordon Lish takes a transatlantic call

“Mr. Lish is it?”
“It’s your UK publisher.”
“That’s right.”
“Hello to you, Mr. Latimer.”
“Andrew, or Drew if you like.”
“Hello, Andrew.”
“Trust I find you in top fettle.”
“Yes, yes, feeling fine—thank you. Fettle’s fine.”
“Good, good. Now, Gordon—may I call you Gordon?”
“Please do. That’s right—Gordon it is.”
“We’ll make this quick, you understand.”
“My God, of course, of course. You’re calling from there.”
“I am, Gordon. I’m, you know, here.”
“Splendid, then. Drew is it? What’s up, Drew?”
“Nothing all that much, really. Just a word.”
“A word, Drew. Trouble with a word?”
“Gordon, old boy, we hope to light the fuse tomorrow.”
“Good to hear so. Good for you and your crew, Drew.”
“Well, Gordon—Gord—we’re very happy here indeed.”
“Wonderful, Drew. But something’s up, is it?”
“The littlest thing, Gord.”
“Understood, Drew. What is it, Drew?”
“Gordo, if I may—we want you happy.”
“Yes, Drew. Of course. I also want me to be happy too.”
“Then we are of one mind, are we not?”
“We are indeed, Drew. Yes, indeedy, I believe we are.”
“Good, Gordo, good.”
“But there’s something awry, is there?”
“Yes, Gordo, there is.”
“A nuisance, Drew? What nuisance, Drew?”
“One of the staff here . . .”
“Yes, Drew?”
“One of my team, Gordo.”
“Yes, Drew—I’m listening, Drew.”
“My sweetheart, in fact.”
“Your sweetheart, Drew. A teammate, you say?”
“Yes, old man—Enid’s uneasy with a word.”
“Enid, Drew?”
“That’s it, old boy—Eenie’s a bit uneasy”
“Uneasy you say, Drew?”
“Gordo, just ever so slightly uneasy.”
“Your Eenie’s uneasy about what, Drew?”
“Well, old thing—one of your words.”
“One of my words, Drew?”
“Gor, old spit, our Eenie’s, you know?”
“What, Drew, what?”
“Old sot, it’s why I thought to phone, don’t you know.”
“Drew, what word? Tell me what word.”
“Ah, yes. It’s such a petty matter. Do excuse, old crosspatch.”
“The word, Drew. I’m ready to hear the word.”
“G-man, I am going to spell it. You there?”
“Right here, Drew. Spell the word, would you?”
“Got something to jot it down with, have you?”
“All set, Drew. Go ahead.”
“Want your input, is all.”
“Let’s hear the word, Drew.”
“But of course, old living legend. Coming up, Gor.”
“All ears here, Drew.”
“Second thought, Gord—best we skip it.”
“Skip it, Drew?”
“Look, old missing link, Eenie’s just here.”
“Drew, your Eenie’s there?”
“Just nipped in the door, she did.”
“Nipped in, did she?”
“She did, old bicycle-chain. That’s Een for you, old beak.”
“But Een’s concern, Drew—what is it?”
“Gordie, it’s you who’s the wordsmith.”
“Thank you, Drew. Your Een’s concern, then?”
“Gor, here in the UK we respect wordsmithing, you know.”
“That’s good, Drew. What’s Een upset with, eh?”
“Perhaps it’s a Stroud thing, old shoe. A local thing.”
“Wait, Drew, did you say Stroud, Drew?”
“Second time for me, G-man—Stroud. Just said it again.”
“What’s Stroud, Drew?
“What’s Stroud, Gor?”
“Yes, Drew, what is it, Stroud?”
“Headquarters, old jing. Didn’t you know?”
“HQ, of course. Took me a little by surprise, is all.”
“Old notch, you’re saying it took you by surprise?”
“Just for a tick, Drew. Got it all worked out now.”
“Gordie, it can’t be you forgot, can it?”
“Not to worry, Drew. HQ. Got it now.”
“Stroud, old newt. Where we do the work, light the fuse.”
“In England, Drew.”
“UK, Gor.”
“Okay, Drew. Not well-traveled, you know.”
“Understood, Gordie, understood. Quite all right.”
“Bit of a stay-at-home, Drew. Not a world-wider, no.”
“All forgotten, Gor. Out of mind, out of mind.”
“Eenie still listening, Drew?”
“Een’s just here, Gor.”
“Put her on, will you, Drew?”
“Yeh, yeh, Enid Crackel here.”
“Enid, this is Gordon Lish.”
“Quite exactly, Mr. Lish. You wish to speak with me?”
“Enid, may I call you Eenie? As Drew does?”
“Drew’s proper name’s Andrew—mine’s Miz Crackel to you.”
“Well, hey, Crackel, for Andrew’s sake, easy, okay?”
“All doing very nicely here in the UK, guy, got it?”
“Crackel, Crackel, Crackel, why this attitude, hey?”
“Not attitude. Try ire, fella. Wordsmith, oh gee.”
“Jeepers, Crackel, there’s no need for anger.”
“Is it the American thing? The U.S. thing? Men?”
“Don’t you wish, old permutation.”
“Crackel, I’m baffled. This is just like a book, you know?”
“Yeh, just a book, sure. It’s what Marx said, din’he?”
“Easy does it, Crackel. Mere scriblance.”
“Patronize me—you gobsmack yob, I’ll shit in your ear.”
“No need to call names, Eenie.”
“Oh, sure, that’s what they all say—foothering yobs.”
“You say foothering, did you?”
“And what of it? What if I did?”
“Strange, is all.”
“Oh, sure—we all be strange over here, init?”
“Think, Een—isn’t it I who’s over here?”
“Will you listen to him, then—all spit, he is.”
“Okay, toots, tell me the word that’s troubling you.”
“You just said it.”
“I just said it?”
“You heard me, man.”
“What word?”
“Me name, you crum!”
“Enid’s not a word.”
“Oh yeh, sure, sure, Enid’s not a word.”
“It’s a name. Don’t we refer to it as a name?”
“Don’t we refer to it as a name? Jesus pesus, save us.”
“How bout a joke to cool everybody off?”
“No, no joke, Lish.”
“Come on, Crackel—be a sport. Telling you a joke.”
“Mrs. Feigenbaum says to Mrs. Shmulevitz—”
“Christ, Lish, don’t you ever give up with that yid shit?”
“She says—So, Dora, so how do you feel?”
“Oh man, this is too much. Hang it up, Jack, word out.”
“And Mrs. Shmulevitz answers her. She says—Not good, thank God.”
“Not good, wow! You’re killing me, Lish. Not good!”
“Een—what Mrs. Ess says is not good, thank God.”
“We can’t breathe here, man. Not good, thank God.”
“You don’t find that funny? Be honest, Crackel, no?”
“Lishkowitz baby, let me tell you—it’s a living scream.”
“Eens, I was prepared to take you as a person of taste.”
“Sarcasm is such a pain.”
“Put Drew back on.”
“Fuck almighty, how weird!”
“Latimer here.”
“What can I do, Drew? Did my best.”
“Well, old neckbrace, you do see what I’m up against, do you?”
“I do, Andrew, I do. Want to call it all off?”
“The book, old codpiece, the book?”
“Yes, we could do that.”
“You’d do that for me, old barley corn?”
“I would, Andrew, I would.”
“Deuced sporting of you, old sock.”
“That’s all right, Drew, live to fight another day,”
“Deuced decent of you, old malice aforethought, damned deuced.”
“Way of the world, Drew. We’ll be okay.”
“Gordie, hang on a jig—Eenie wants to talk.”
“Got a joke for you, deal?”
“Two women at a bar.”
“That’s the setup? Two women at a bar?”
“Cut the crap, Lish. Two women.”
“One says, I hear you broke up with your bloke.
The other woman says, That’s right, I did.
Woman says, Everyone said he was so cute, such a catch.
That’s right, he was, woman says.
Woman says, Everyone says he was so kind, so rich.
Woman says, That’s right—very kind, very rich.
Woman says, They saying he was so tender, so thoughtful.
Woman says, True, true—very tender, very thoughtful.
Woman says, They’re saying no bloke was ever nicer.
Woman says, Very nice. Never met one nicer.
Woman says, They’re saying he was good with people.
Woman says, Lovely with people. Never saw lovelier.
Woman says, And a right smart fella, too.
Woman says, Smart all right. Wondrous intellectual.
Woman says, Champion lover, we hear. Tore up the bed.
Woman says, He did, he did.
Woman says, But you know what?
Woman says, What?
Woman says, You’re better off.”
“You’re better off, Enid? This is the joke?”
“No, Lish, you are the joke.”
“Crackel, I was talking with Drew.”
“Talking to, Lish—get with the program, bub, talking to.”
“Please, Crackel—you’ve made your point.”
“I’m wretched aggrieved, old arroyo. You do understand.”
“Sign of the times, man. Watch out for the crossfire.”
“Gor, Eenie’s saying if you’ll—”
“If I’ll what?”
“You let her tell you another one and she’ll—”
“She’ll what, Drew?”
“She’ll back off.”
“Back off?”
“Approve the book and so on and so forth. Let’s jelly the scone.”
“Fine. Crackel?”
“Woman at a bar.”
“That’s your setup?”
“Woman at a bar. Nursing a pint, smoking a fag.”
“Woman comes in. Says was that your bloke out there?
First woman says so?
Waiting outside, he was, says second woman?
Woman says yeah that’s him, what about it?
Woman says punk mosied up and shanked him right in the geezewax.
Woman says stabbed him, did he?
Ya, right through the thing.
Woman says so he’s a goner, then?
Woman says dead where the fucker stood.
Woman says listen, I finish this wonderful brew and smoke—
Woman says yeh you finish and what?
Woman says from a woman you’re gonna hear some terrific scream.”
“That it, Crackel?”
“That’s it, bozo.”
“You’ll let our Drew butter the parsnip?”
“Roger that, Lishco.”
“No hard feelings, Crackel?”
“Oh, listen to the smoothie go on.”
“I’m listening, culo.”
“Be sure to give Andrew my love.”
“You are really a sickening individual, you know?”
“Mr. Ess and Mr. Eff, they’re on the street.”
“This the setup?”
“Eff says to Ess I never saw you look so wonderful.
Ess says thanks, I feel great, got a terrific new hobby.
Eff says it’s doing wonders for you, what is it?
Ess says bees, I keep bees.
Eff says bees, you got a one-room apartment.
Ess says it’s okay, I keep them in a shoebox.
Eff says shoebox, you’ll kill’em keeping’em in a shoebox.
Ess says so fuck’em.”
“Lish, you sick jerk, that to you is wit, isn’t it?”
“The Atlantic Ocean and Nova Scotia, that’s what’s funny.”
“Saying cheerio, Gordie dear.”
“Ta-ta, old sunbeam. Unless it’s old reductio ad absurdum?”