A Grade A Distraction
The man in question looked unwell, rather like he had mistaken an ashtray for a Pimm's Cup. "I learned that the novel does not write itself. The words do not magically appear unless you are seated at the typewriter and are actively pecking away, creating an ungodly racket and swearing at your pets. Make no mistake, my child: The novel does not write itself when you are playing Billy Bragg songs on the ukulele."
"So the uke has reared its ugly head again."
"I'm afraid so. It is a Grade A distraction and the devil's handiwork. Why have pastors and rabbis not spoken out against it? What I need to do is to give it to someone—say, you—and tell that person not to relinquish it to me, no matter what threats or promises I might devise."
"Then how will you ever get it back?"
"Once the novel is completely finished, revisions and all, I will show you the MS. If it meets with your approval, I may allow the blasted note-maker to reenter my possession. Does that sound feasible? I will of course pay you a nominal retaining fee."
"Your proposal has solidity."
"Shall I draw up the papers?" He found a napkin unmarred by drinking glass stains. In handwriting illegible save for the word "infernal" somewhere in the middle, he made official their agreement. "Sign. And sign."
They shook hands. Lexington tore the napkin's top layer off. He handed Florida the even less legible remainder, onto which some of the ink had leaked through.
—From Chinese Whispers