[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
Frankie the Spook_"Drawing her close to him while breathing heavily withunspent passion, he slid his hand down the small of her back,around to her rib cage, up under her..."_The image of Sir Francis Bacon stopped reading and winced."This is really quite dreadful," he announced firmly."Really?" asked Marvin Piltch.Bacon nodded. "Even worse than the last batch. You have set anew standard of ineptitude."Marvin sighed. "I was afraid of that.""And this reference to a boob," continued Bacon. "What,exactly, _is_ a boob?""A tit.""I beg your pardon?""A female breast.""According to my dictionary programs, it must be a veryunintelligent female breast to be termed a boob.""Well," said Marvin with a shrug, "when you get right down tocases, I suppose it is.""It doesn't make any sense," continued Bacon. "What slang doyou use for the elbow? Do you call it a fool?""Not very often," admitted Marvin."Ah," said Bacon. "Then you think that the elbow is moreintelligent than the breast?"Marvin shrugged again. "I have to admit it's not a subjectthat I've given a lot of thought to.""I know. In fact, if there is a subject anywhere in theuniverse that you _have_ given a lot of thought to, you certainlyhaven't incorporated it in your writings.""Actually, there _is_ one subject that I've givenconsiderable thought to.""Oh?" said Bacon, arching an eyebrow. "And what is that?"Marvin smiled. "You.""Somehow I foresaw that the conversation would eventuallytake this course," said Bacon sardonically."Then you know what I'm going to ask you?""Certainly."Marvin leaned forward and squinted at Bacon's image on hisconputer screen. "Will you do it?""Will the greatest writer in the history of the human raceghostwrite your pitiful little novel?" sneered Bacon. "Absolutelynot.""But you ghosted for Shakespeare!" protested Marvin. "That'swhy I had my computer assemble you.""Marvin, go write limpware and leave me alone.""It's called software.""Whatever it's called, it is obvious to me that you weremeant to work with computers. Your ignorance of the world at largeis superceded only by your ignorance of the English language.""That's why I need you.""No.""But I've got a contract.""No.""And it's got penalty clauses for coming in late.""Then submit it on time.""And if the editor rejects it, I've got to return theadvance.""What is that to me?""If I have to return the advance, I'll have to pawn thecomputer to raise the money.""Good," said Bacon. "Then I'll soon be speaking with someonewho has a serious interest in _exchanging_ ideas rather thanstealing them.""I didn't steal anything!" snapped Marvin."Marvin, I hate to be blunt, but you haven't had an originalidea in your nondescript life." Bacon grimaced. "At leastShakespeare knew he wanted to write plays.""And you helped him.""_Helped_ him?" repeated Bacon furiously. "Who do you think_wrote_ all those plays?" His image made an effort to recover itsself-control. "The man was a fool, a complete and utter fool! Tohis dying day, he never understood why I wouldn't write _HenryIX_! And yet, even now, centuries later, that dimwit gets all thecredit for _my_ work, _my_ creativity, _my_ genius -- and you havethe gall to ask me to become a ghostwriter again?""I didn't know you were so bitter," said Marvin."Did you know that that moron wanted to set _Troilus andCressida_ in Rome?""Rome's a very pretty city, I'm told," offered Marvin."Bah!" muttered Bacon. "Turn me off.""I can't," said Marvin. "The book is due in two weeks.""Rome's a very pretty city, I'm told," echoed Baconsarcastically. "Perhaps you can hide there from your creditors.""You're not being very responsive," complained Marvin."I'm certain that I will regret having asked, but how did aliterary maladroit like you ever receive a commission to write abook in the first place?""My ex-wife's cousin is an editor. I got the assignment whilewe were still married.""Anyone who buys a manuscript from you deserves exactly whathe gets," said Bacon. "Which, in my professional opinion, will benothing.""But I can't return the advance," whined Marvin. "It'salready spent.""A Shakespearean tragedy," said Bacon mockingly."What do you want?""Peace and quiet.""I mean, to write the book?""Go away and leave me alone.""I can't. I have no one else to turn to.""You should have thought of that before taking on such anawesome responsibility. After all, not every artiste can achievethe high literary standard required of...what was the name of this_magnum opus_?""_Meter Maids in Bondage_."Bacon grinned. "Do have fun.""I'm begging you!" said Marvin desperately."And I'm refusing you.""Name your price.""What possible use have I for money in my present condition?"replied Bacon."What _can_ you use?""Solitude.""What else?"Bacon stared out at him for a long moment, his eyes narrowed,his lean fingers rubbing his chin thoughtfully."If I agree to write this book for you, I will want a favorin return.""Anything.""I intend to write my autobiography, which will end thecontroversy concerning the authorship of Shakespeare's plays onceand for all. It will be your obligation to make certain that it ispublished and publicized throughout the world, until every newedition of Shakespeare names me as the true author.""That could take decades.""I'm more than 500 years old," replied Bacon. "I have a fewdecades to spare.""But _I_ don't," protested Marvin."It was nice knowing you, Marvin. Be sure to turn out thelight when you leave the room.""You wouldn't settle for a nice plaster bust of you in thelocal art museum?""Good-bye, Marvin.""How about a poster? I've got a friend who owns a silkscreenplant."Bacon merely stared at him and made no reply."All right, all right," said Marvin in resignation. "It's adeal.""I have no way of forcing you to keep your promise," saidBacon, "but as there's a God in Heaven, I'll haunt you every dayand night of your life if you should break your work to me.""I said I'd do it.""All right," replied Bacon. "I'm going to need a littlebackgrounding before I start writing.""It's just a sex book.""It won't be when _I_ get through with it."Marvin shrugged. "All right. Anything you need, just ask. IfI don't have it, I'll get it.""Let's start with some information.""Such as?""What _is_ a meter maid?"* * *Bacon finished ghosting the manuscript in nine days. Marvinchanged eleven words that he didn't understand -- the only elevencorrections the stunned copy editor made on the manuscript beforesending it off to the printer -- and then decided to take a monthoff before looking for a new way to make a living and fend off hiscreditors.As it turned out, he only had to wait 19 days.* * *"It's a hit!""Plays are hits. Books are blockbusters," Bacon correctedhim."Well, whatever it is, we're rich!" Marvin paused. "By theway, how the hell did you learn a word like blockbuster? Theydidn't have blockbusters back in your time.""I'm cooped up in here all day and all night with a bunch ofword processing programs," answered Bacon. "So, having nothingbetter to do with my time, I read the dictionaries.""Oh," said Marvin. "Well, getting back to the news, weactually got reviewed in the _New York Times_! They called it amock Elizabethian erotic masterpiece, and said it was even morebitingly satirical than _Candy_.""It was more bitingly satirical than _Candy_ halfway throughPage 1," said Bacon contemptuously. "And there was nothing 'mock'about it." He paused. "What else?""They say I'm a genius, and that I've -- _we've_ -- donethings that have never been done with erotica before. The few whodon't mention Shakespeare" -- Bacon's image winced -- "keepcomparing me to Voltaire!""A decidedly minor talent," sniffed Bacon. "Still, what docritics know?""We're Number One on the bestseller list, and we've gone backto press six times in two weeks.""Only six?" said Bacon. "I overestimated the intelligence ofthe American reading public.""Yeah?" retorted Marvin. "Well, almost three million membersof that public have forked over six bucks apiece to read apaperback original by Marvin Piltch!" Suddenly he shifted hisweight uncomfortably. "With some slight assistance by Sir FrancisBacon, of course.""_Some slight assistance?_" roared Bacon. "Why, you self-centered, egotistical--""Watch your blood pressure," said Marvin."I don't have any blood pressure, you imbecile!" raged Bacon."I'm a computer simulacron!" He paused for electronic breath."Such ingratitude! At least it took Shakespeare five or six playsbefore he convinced himself that he was the author!""I apologize.""You had bloody well better apologize!""I do.""Humbly," demanded Bacon."Humbly," agreed Marvin."That's better.""We're friends again?""We were never friends.""But at least we're not enemies?""I suppose not," ... [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]