It was many, many W-2 forms back that I had a job as a production artist at an advertising agency. It wasn’t much of a job, and neither was the pay. But, I met perhaps the most interesting people in my field.
Most of these people worked in the copy editing department. One was a beautiful lady inside and out who moved on to be a television star (oh, yes, Grrl, I called you that). Another was the exotic dude from somewhere in South America that was equally exotic. And there was that hilarious gay kid.
But the one who was to become my muse was Don, and he was the head copy editor. I thought I hated my job more than anyone in the world–that is, until I met this professional wordsmith.
It was a dark and stormy day at the agency, and I was busy making corrections to a big stack of advertisements. A low grumble emanated from the other end of the room. Curious, I looked over the top of my cube toward the noise. Suddenly, a bald, red-faced gentleman sprang from the interior of a cube, and let loose with language that would have made a dock worker gasp and clutch his pearls. This person with the hairless crimson pate was waving a couple of printouts in the air as his voice went from the low grumble to a voracious roar. Apparently, the agency’s client, a large retail chain who will not be named here, insisted on using their own horrifically mangled copy instead of the succinct and elegant prose that the Man of the Rufescent-Hued Head composed. As his paper waving continued, he proceeded to loudly call into question both the intelligence and the parentage of the client, and stormed out of the department, barking out to the account manager.
As I stood with my head meercatting over the top of my cubicle, I calmly watched the Vesuvian eruption spew before me. With all the enthusiasm of Gene Belcher, I thought to myself, “I like this man!”
I got to know the copy editor they called Don. He was one witty son-of-a-gun. We bonded over our repulsion of the agency’s clients and a love of photography. We commiserated over the futility of making good work for a client, only to have them completely FUBAR every aspect of the job. Don was truly a mensch.
It was this very Don who was my inspiration for Don Gerund, Proofreading Inspector. I shared this idea with the real-life Don, and it was the only time I ever saw the perpetual scowl leave his face. He did everything he could to encourage me to commit the tale to paper, but at that time, the only effort I put into it was some notes and outlines.
Years later, I stumbled across my notes while searching some drawers for a red clown nose (please, don’t ask). With a smile, I meandered through the pages, coming to the conclusion that now may be just the right time to craft this silly noir parody.
So, please, enjoy the hardboiled mishaps of Don Gerund, P.I. in a series of tales I will call The Chicago-Style Overcoat.
Ahh, if only Don could see me now….
NOTE: Because the stories are noir, I use a lot of hardboiled slang. If you’re having a hard time understanding it, here’s a few glossaries that may help. Someday, I may make a database of my own, but that would require skill. Real skill.