Do you want a job?
That’s what she asked me on that languid night so many years ago when we met for drinks at the late, lamented Rosa restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. But it doesn’t really matter.
The question is what was important. It wasn’t an offer, but a challenge. I was jobless, but with some money in the bank. I had been fired from a job, and probably a career, I hated, and I was biding my time, and slowing the pace of sapping my savings, laboring part-time on the copy desk of a local newspaper.
I parlayed the gig into a weekly column for pay, and managed to secure a somewhat remunerative assignment writing copy for one of those lackluster tourist magazines that litters newsstands and convenience stores. And I was writing feature stories for something like $35 a pop. I was establishing myself as an underemployed, under-compensated freelance writer, but paying more than I could afford to maintain my health insurance from my previous job.
And, of course, there was the meager unemployment check to round things out. I was (barely) keeping the wolf from the door, having reunited with a great roommate and drinking much of what I earned. Same old story, I guess.
I believed I needed a full-time job, back in the newspaper business, perhaps. We talked and drank, eventually kissed, but that eventually led nowhere. Then she asked: Do you want a job?
I began writing a novel in earnest, and then landed a job, owing to the largess of a former competitor and current friend, who put in a good word for me with the copy chief of a Pulitzer-winning daily paper. I had no idea what was afoot, but when the call came, I answered, tried out, and landed on the payroll, which led to a different, though related, and better payroll. And the novel began to die.
It was revived, briefly, but then neglected again. It remains in the 200-or-so-page rough draft stage, where it has languished for well over a dozen years. That is, it is buried.
But a layoff led to another somewhat lucrative contract, then a tidy salary in a field I’d never imagined entering, and where I’ve labored comfortably for six years, now.
Novel is still dead. Dream or fantasy on life-support, at best. The prognosis is not good. But the money is.
Do you want a job?