Romanoff and Stanislov descended the flight of stairs in no particular hurry.
“What is it you think she desires of us this time, comrade?” said Stanislov.
“I only hope she is not demanding the massaging of her wickedly ugly feet,” said Romanoff. “I am not much more wanting to feast my eyes on the hairy bunyons.”
“You are thinking my thoughts,” said Stanislov.
“It is enough to churn stomach of entire Russian army!”
Madame Tourdo stood at the bottom of the stairs with her arms folded, like a deranged genie about to make someone disappear.
“Ah, it is Romanoff and Stanislov,” said Madame Tourdo to Edgar Hathaway. “I thought perhaps the buzzer had malfunctioned and we would not be seeing them anytime soon. But it was good of you both to show up in your own good time.”
“We are here to offer our services, once again, to the kindly Madame,” said Romanoff. “How is it you are wishing to use us on this day?”
“Well, gentlemen,“ said Madame Tourdo. “This is Edgar Hathaway, and in his possession is possibly the greatest contribution to the arts since last Shakespeare held a feathery quill.”
“Oh, Madame Tourdo,” said Edgar. “I --”
“You are only about to give the world what it has been longing for!” interrupted Madame Tourdo. “A sense of purpose. I can see the book blurbs now, dear sir, ‘Indispensable!’ ‘To be placed alongside your bible!’ ‘You’ll want a copy in every room!’”
“And as I repeat myself,“ said Romanoff. “How is it we are to be serving you?”
“You two,” said Madame Tourdo, “Are to carry Mr. Hathaway’s jewel of a novel to the editing room, where it will be scoured and scrubbed by our staff of highly trained editors. Though I’m sure it will be the easiest work of their lives, as I’m doubting there will be nary a misspell in any of its 5,087 glorious pages.”
Romanoff and Stanislov gave each other the usual perplexing look that occurred any time they were doing business with the unscrupulous Madame Tourdo.
“Where is being this masterwork we are to be hauling,” said Romanoff.
“It is there on the long sled of Mr. Hathaway,” said Madame Tourdo.
“This is being a very long book, madame,” said Stanislov. “How are you to be reading such a book? Must need pretty big lap for balancing such as this.”
“It is the gentleman genius’s life work,” said Madame Tourdo. “Thirty years in the making.”
“I’m thinking thirty years in the reading as well,” said Stanislov. “Must be quite the plot.”
“Please, “ said Madame Tourdo. “Just take the book to the editing room, then get back to your massage parlor.”
Romanoff and Stanislov lifted the plastic-wrapped bundle and carried it to the editing room where they placed it next to the vacuum cleaner and the brooms.
“What sort of editing room only have cleaning products, comrade?” said Stanislov.
“Madame Tourdo is once again milking the teats of the gullible cow,” said Romanoff. “I’m smelling more dollars that are, once again, not being placed in the pockets of Romanoff and Stanislov. We are what is being called the hapless saps of this adventure, my dear Stanislov.”
“You are figuring this out once again, comrade,” Said Stanislov. “It is perhaps better to stay drunk and not to be thinking of all the hoodwinking going on over our heads.”
“You are speaking the Russian truth, my dear friend,” said Romanoff. “How much vodka we have remaining?”
“Enough to stay hoodwinked for incredible amount of time, comrade,” said Stanislov.
“That is all I ask,” said Romanoff. “Let us be up to our rooms and fool ourselves into oblivion.”
“I can’t walk quickly enough, comrade,” said Stanislov. “Let the fooling begin.”
Madame Tourdo asked Edgar Hathaway to indulge her in a complimentary reading.
“Please have a seat, my dear Mr. Hathaway, and give me your hand.”
“This is exciting, Madame Tourdo,” said Edgar.
“I’ve never engaged in any activity of this sort before.”
“You are in for a treat, my dear Mr. Hathaway. I have been known to astound the most skeptical of souls.”
“Then I am ready to be astounded,” said Edgar.
“Quite an interesting hand you have, Mr. Hathaway. Most have only one life line. But your life lines are tripled. Meaning that you are three times as likely to succeed than the rest of us. I am amazed. I am also quite envious. You must hail from a long line of accomplished people and are no doubt very wealthy? I don‘t mean to pry, my dear Mr. Hathaway, but knowing about your vast fortune might help me to better grasp your future. A poor man’s future I have no problem forecasting. But a genius and his fortune is another thing entirely! Your future has endless and grand possibilities!”
“I shouldn’t boast , Madame Tourdo,” said Edgar. “But a Hathaway has not had to hold down a job since 1835.”
“Ah,” said Madame Tourdo. “And what grand thing was accomplished in that amazing year?”
"That was the year my greatest of Great Great Grandfather’s discovered Mrs. Hathaway. She was an oil baroness and a widow, and Great, Great Grandfather was her buggy driver, main source of solace and eventual husband. The rest, as they say, is history. For here I am, about to embark on a fortune of my own making. For the first time in its history, a Hathaway will have created his own source of income!
“You see, Madame Tourdo,” continued Edgar. “Our families wealth has always been a source of embarrassment to us all. As silly as it sounds, Madame, I, for one, didn’t learn to tie my own shoelaces till I was twenty one. That was the year the nanny quit and our drunken chauffeur decided to commit suicide by plowing the family limousine into the Hudson River.
“Forgetting, we were to assume, that mother and father were in the back seat, thinking they were on their way to the theater. That’s the year I started my novel. April 21, 1981. And I am now ready to show it, and myself, to the world.”
“Fascinating!” said Madame Tourdo. “You must tell me more, Mr. Hathaway. I’m all ears. And will not let you out of my site for a moment. You are in very good hands.”
“Did you hear that, comrade?” said Stanislov, as they made their way up the stairs. “He is in her very good hands.”
“Clutches is better to describe what is holding the gullable cow, my dear Stanislov,” said Romanoff. “Long, clinging clutches.”