Putting the Face to the Name, or the Cover to the Book

When I first got out of college, I found a part-time job as a legislative aide for the City of Rochester, New York.  It wasn’t exactly the field of my choice, but it did involve some writing, and it served as worthwhile experience.  I was thankful to have the job.

 

I didn’t stay there long–only seven months.  But while my tenure as a legislative aide was brief, it was not without a healthy helping of intrigue, office politics, and political pugilism, as I served as the buffer (i.e., punching bag!) between the councilwoman (who was rarely in her office) and her constituents.  Indeed, one of my job responsibilities was to man the councilwoman’s phone, talking one-on-one with the residents of her district.  Some of the calls were low-key; but many were heated, with angry residents giving me an earful about perceived slights and local policies they disagreed with.  Each new day was an adventure.

 

There was one person who stood out from the pack, though.  His name was Terry, and he called several times per week, sometimes several times per day.  He had a laundry list of complaints, and he wasn’t shy about expressing them to me, usually with a raised voice.  One issue in particular that irked him was a pothole on his street.  “It’s huge!” he’d yell at me.  “You gotta fix it!  It’s gonna wreck my struts.  I ain’t rich, you know.  Tell ‘er that!”  (He always referred to the councilwoman as “she” or “her,” or some variant thereof–never by name.)

 

I listened to him as long as I could, letting Terry vent his frustrations.  Sometimes, though, he would start attacking me, personally.  “Do something about it!” he’d say.  “Don’t just sit there in that cushy office of yours.  Lift a finger for the people in your district for a change!”  I reminded him that I wasn’t on the city council.  I was only an office worker.  I couldn’t make or change policy, couldn’t direct the road crews to alter their service schedules.

 

One day, it was too much.  Terry berated me with four-letter words and insults directed at family members of mine he didn’t know and had never met.  “Sorry,” I told him.  “This isn’t going anywhere.”  I wanted to say so much more, but had no choice but to bite my tongue.  One thing I could do, however, was hang up the phone–which I did.

 

He called back immediately, yelled at me some more.  I hung up again.  He called back.  Yelled.  I hung up.  Finally, the phone stopped ringing. I tossed a crumpled piece of paper into the wastebasket, counted to ten.  Terry had a way of pushing my buttons.

 

I had long since created a mental picture of him.  I’d never seen Terry, but, based on his voice and his very direct and colorful vocabulary, I imagined him to be stocky, burly, with short, sandy hair, a thick, retro’80s-style mustache, and a perpetual scowl on his face.  If I wanted to, I would have been able to sketch a picture of him–he was that clearly defined in my mind’s eye.

 

Consider my surprise, then, when, later that same day, a tall, rail-thin bald guy showed up at the councilwoman’s office.  Of course, the councilwoman wasn’t there.  I was.

“Can I help you?” I said.

And the guy introduced himself as Terry.  I did a double-take.  He couldn’t have looked more unlike the Terry I had imagined.  Stocky?  The man standing before me now was easily six foot four if he was an inch.  Burly?  He had the girth and width of a rail spike.  Sandy hair?  Try no hair.  Mustache?  His face was clean-shaven, not a whisker in sight.  And a scowl?  He was actually smiling!

 

He extended a hand.  Discombobulated, I took it.

“I just wanted to apologize,” he said, looking at his shoes.  “Was in the area just now, and wanted to stop.  I know I got a little carried away on the phone today.  I know you can’t do nothin’ about nothin’.  It’s not your job.  So I just . . .”

I shrugged.  It was hard to find the words.  Finally, I told him not to worry about it.

“I ain’t sayin’ I won’t call again,” he said.  “You’ll hear from me until she does something.”

He smiled again, and this time I returned it.  “It’s good to put a face to the name of my highest-volume caller,” I said.  And it was.

 

Terry called the next day, complaining about the pothole.

***********************************

Books can share certain characteristics with constituents.  They don’t scream at you, the way Terry sometimes laid into me, but they might make you want to scream.  They have value, share opinions and knowledge, and express a point of view.  What’s more, they are incomplete without a face, or a cover.

The Singularity Wheel–the sequel to The Eye-Dancers–is nearing its release date.  It’s still on target for publication at the very end of the year or within the first few days of 2018.  And now, as the day of publication approaches, the cover is complete.

My longtime friend Matt Gaston, who also created the cover for The Eye-Dancers, has worked his magic again on the cover for The Singularity Wheel.  And here it is.

 

Thanks, Matt, for all your help–with both novels.

I think even Terry would approve.

And thanks so much to everyone for reading!

–Mike

43 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ellie894
    Dec 15, 2017 @ 19:34:16

    You have a wonderful way of telling a story Mike. The cover art is beautiful. I can’t wait to read The Singularity Wheel. 😊

    Reply

  2. evelyneholingue
    Dec 15, 2017 @ 22:56:16

    I’ve always loved how you tie your story to another one, Mike. I couldn’t help but smile about Terry and your phone calls adventure. I must say that I was not expecting the last minute twist. Showing up to apologize was cool.
    Since you link to your upcoming book and its cover, I would say that we should probably avoid to judge anyone based on our assumptions like we should avoid to judge a book upon its cover.
    But! Your cover is really good. Very timely to feature female characters. Love that a lot! And I can only assume that the content is a great. Good luck for the last touches and Happy Holiday Season!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 16, 2017 @ 18:05:41

      Thanks so much, Evelyne! And you’re right, of course, about the dangers of judging or pre-judging based on assumptions. My encounter with Terry was a worthwhile reminder of this truth!:)

      Reply

  3. Patrice
    Dec 15, 2017 @ 22:59:44

    Wishing you all the BEST with your new book!! The cover is EXCELLENT!!!
    I agree with ellie894… ‘You have a wonderful way of telling a story’ 😀

    Reply

  4. Lyn
    Dec 16, 2017 @ 05:06:28

    Great cover, Mike. It says so much without giving too much away 😉

    Reply

  5. ritaroberts
    Dec 16, 2017 @ 12:52:31

    Love this story Mike as do all your other friends.I am afraid I would agree with the gentleman’s complaint about the pot-holes but not the ranting and raving of course.Those potholes can be very dangerous and so can manhole covers because many years ago I fell down one of those and damaged my leg. This was because the cover was rusty and rotting away. However,I did claim off the council which does not make up for the problems I have now with that same leg. Wishing you a very Happy Xmas and New Year and good luck with the publication of your book.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 16, 2017 @ 18:07:57

      Thanks so much, Rita! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with that pothole. They are indeed very dangerous, in many ways. I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season!

      Reply

  6. Lara/Trace
    Dec 18, 2017 @ 23:16:38

    I laughed out loud! We all learn this way. Can’t wait to see and read your new book!

    Reply

  7. Ste J
    Dec 19, 2017 @ 13:25:27

    Interesting cover, I like the font, coupled with the spades sign, I have imagined a carnival style story with the vide of Stephen King’s Joyland but I am probably miles out there. That, though is part of the fun! I am impressed by your patience on the phone as well, I couldn’t have been so restrained.

    Reply

  8. jjspina
    Dec 20, 2017 @ 22:20:03

    Nice cover, Mike. Looking forward to reading it! Excited too!! Interesting post! That was a tough job to take with Terry. But it must have gotten better after you met him. Merry Christmas and a healthy & Happy New Year to you and yours, Mike! 🎄 🎁 🤗 🎉 🍾

    Reply

  9. Karina Pinella
    Dec 21, 2017 @ 22:21:06

    Congratulations on your lovely cover. I am left in suspense as to what happened to Terry’s pothole problem. Did the council woman ever do her job?

    Reply

  10. natuurfreak
    Dec 21, 2017 @ 23:24:43

    It was not the job of your life

    Reply

  11. deborahanndykeman
    Dec 22, 2017 @ 17:23:23

    Congratulations! The cover is beautiful! You lasted longer at that job than I would have! I dislike to answer the phone, and having that person on the other end would have really been a ‘challenge’!

    Reply

  12. Steph McCoy
    Dec 25, 2017 @ 16:11:42

    Your friend Matt does great work! The cover is very nice and intriguing. I’ll be on the lookout for the book.

    Reply

  13. 8m33
    Jan 03, 2018 @ 03:45:23

    enjoyed reading this— my gosh I thought the writer was a woman! haha!

    Reply

  14. Teagan R. Geneviene
    Jan 03, 2018 @ 15:06:59

    I had to snort in commiseration at the end. Another marvelous post, Mike. Happy New Year.

    Reply

  15. AlexisChateauPR
    Jan 06, 2018 @ 18:14:57

    Terry sounds like an interesting character. It’s almost impossible to mesh the phone Terry with the in-person Terry. And as we’ve already told you, the cover looks great! 🙃

    Reply

  16. kmSalvatore
    Feb 13, 2018 @ 00:39:35

    I so enjoyed reading this, since I love in Rochester.. well one of the suburbs.
    Imagine the look on my face when I saw the cover:) great read!!!!

    Reply

  17. europasicewolf
    Mar 14, 2018 @ 20:41:29

    That was great reading! I’ve seen people like that when wasting my time at the council offices waiting to vent my own fury😀No wonder they’re such a miserable crowd down there!! Cool book cover too☺

    Reply

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