“It’s a fresh look, based on Google’s material design. The design is responsive… see? It adjusts to your mobile or tablet device, so the site looks as good on your phone as on your computer. It’s social, so you can share it on facebook and twitter, add it to readers like Instapaper or Pocket, And it still maintains the design elements of the old site, including the stone background and torn paper but with improved material shadows and buttons…”
My agent and manager, Tor Rabban, looked at me like I was insane.
“The design is beautiful, Oscar,” he said. I thought, however, that I caught a nervous hint about his tone. “Excellent touches, really. I especially like how you ditched the old wax imprint logo and used the ink splotch instead — it’s so much more consistent with the rest of the site.”
I beamed. He finally seemed to get how cool it was. Then his face dropped.
“But you know what it still needs?” He asked, his voice teetering on the edge of something sharp. I turned my head slightly to the side and raised my eyebrow to let him know he should continue. I shouldn’t have.
“It needs to be a goddamn book!” He yelled, and threw the dry-erase marker in his hand clear across the room. I ducked instinctively even though he’d thrown it several feet away from me. It bounced lightly off the wall and onto the cheap carpet floor with barely a sound. I steadied myself, and blinked a few times.
“I know it’s not a book,” I said.
“Really?” He said with the elves of sarcasm dancing on his face. “If you know it’s not a book, then why did you make me a website when I asked you for a book?” he asked, leaning over his desk.
I stood my ground firmly. “This is going to get our readership up again.” He fumed, his nose wrinkles forming just as his fist tightened.
“You jackass! Our readership isn’t gone because our blog doesn’t look good! We don’t have readers because you guys aren’t fucking writing anything!”
“Exactly,” I said calmly, knowing that while I could convince him of this, he held all the reason in the room, in spite of himself. “But we’re narcissists and we love to see our shit flashed in lights,” and I let that satisfying message sink in a bit.
“This will get us writing again,” I finished. His eyes were ablaze with ice and fire and he breathed in deeply, holding his breath for a second as if he wanted to suffocate me by removing all the air from the room.
I can’t fault him — a lot had happened. Grad school, families, death, life — things had evolved, as they will, and it had apparently, been the end of our old publication. I had taken a bit of a sabbatical to get myself rewired, and while I was out, I thought I’d try my hand at writing a novel. A terrible idea, of course, but how could I have known? Besides, it was bound to happen, regardless of the outcome, and it was time I stopped fighting it.
In the meantime, Dylan had vanished after the last election cycle and hadn’t surfaced yet. I thought he’d turn up when Jon Stewart ended his run on the Daily Show, but no one had heard from him or knew where he was, not even our editor.
“I don’t know, Oscar, I’m sure he’s fine.”
“Shouldn’t we be looking for him or something?”
“Oscar, I have a steady job and normal-person shit to worry about, ok? Things like 529 accounts, string beans and chicken, and a whole host of diaper-related things you don’t wanna know about… I can’t have Dylan-fucking-Cormack to worry about, man. The guy has been to Fallujah and back. I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll turn up when it makes sense for him to turn up.”
And he’s probably right. Besides, when Trump wins the republican nomination in a few weeks, I’m sure we’ll hear from Dylan. Or if not, we’ll hear a howling animal somewhere in the world, and at that point it won’t be difficult to find him.
But the site. It was nice. I was sick of paying a company to host it, so I moved it to Github Pages, learned Markdown and Liquid and got to work torturing myself with CSS. I’d stayed up late for weeks on end, adjusting themes and tweaking templates. I don’t know what people did before Stackoverflow, but I swear to god it’s a stand-in for a low-grade computer science degree.
I was satisfied with it and I thought the new site would give me an incentive to start writing again, if I could just get some volume back on the damned thing, some traffic. And that’s where Tor Rabban came in. Nobody could turn traffic like him.
“Fine, Oscar, fine. Get writing again. I’ll do what I can. Just, goddamit…” he didn’t finish.
“You still want the book.”
“Of course I still want the book, I need a prop if we’re going to publicize this.”
“You know, writing a book is really hard, it turns out.” His shoulders sunk.
“It’s the hardest dollar there is,” he said while he exhaled. “Now go get me some readers. And for fuck’s sake, make sure you put Google Analytics on it and track engagement — I want to see more than just pageviews.” I couldn’t argue with him there, but I was already ten steps ahead of him.
“And don’t come back in this office without a book. I swear to god…”
But I was already closing the door with a smile on my face. It’s good to be back.