Erhart opened the door of his cottage and noticed that he had left the door unlocked. “Blow,” he muttered at himself fiercely.
Inside his mother was sipping her morning cup of tea. She looked up at him with concerned warm brown eyes. “Where have you been, Erhart?” she asked, her voice hiding worry with sternness. “Did you go to work?”
Erhart gulped, and said in a weak, thin voice, “I am sorry. No.” These were all of the words which surfaced from the ocean of his mind. He knew that he had been in the great depths, exploring. So lost. ‘I honestly do not know where I have been,’ Erhart realised. He remembered a woman with a strange little tilted smile and skin which reflected light. He wondered where the dream ended and where reality began. He needed to find himself once more.
Erhart sank down onto his bed and gazed up at the cracks in the ceiling. Those cracks seemed to imitate his thought patterns. Reaching out. Breaking.
“Erhart,” His mother called up the stairs, “there is someone at the door to see you!”
He sighed, slid off the bed, and stood rubbing his head in disgruntlement. He did not feel like seeing anyone. He did not like the sight of himself. He felt ugly. He wished to disappear.
Erhart shuffled down the hall and pattered lightly cat-like down the stairs. He slowly slithered himself around the corner and into the kitchen.
A strange woman with long black hair and a face with the complexion of tea grinned at him. She put her large black leathery bag on the table and smoothed her long dazzlingly white rain-jacket. All the while she continued to keenly smile at Erhart. “Good afternoon,” she crooned.
“Afternoon,” Erhart half-groaned in return. He supposed that this was rather rude of him; though, he did really need to sleep.
“My name is Mrs. Gruntworm,” she explained. “Your story about a fish lady is really worth something, you know!”
Erhart was suddenly wide awake. ‘A fish lady!’ he thought with dismay..
“I’m your agent,” she seemed to chant as she reached her hand towards him.
Erhart defensively occupied both of his hands with the kettle. He asked swiftly, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
The woman did not seem to like that. Her mouth went into a thin haughty line.
Erhart put the kettle on to make a cup of tea, nevertheless. He was going to need it if he had to deal with this woman. ‘Oh, the woes that I bring upon myself,’ he sighed in his mind.
“Erhart, after the first five pages, I knew that this would sell.” She drew out every word and forced her voice to be high-pitched with appeal. “Of course,” she hummed on, “edits must be made. The audience will not be able to understand the part where the cat dances around the fire, or when the fish lady drowns. I just do not see how that is possible. You need to rework some of it to make it more coherent. Otherwise, I think that it will be a sensation!”
Erhart bit his lip. “Oh,” he murmured. ‘As if that will do any good for anyone,’ Erhart thought, peered down to read her comments, and shook his head. “You do not understand, I am afraid,” he said mildly, and sighed. “I do not think that the story is ready to be published. It is not meant to be a display of entertainment. My mind is not a circus.”
“Now, Erhart Tellegere, let me give you your starting fee,” she said, digging into the large black purse.
Erhart saw me and kept my gaze. I winked. He knew what to do.
“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary,” Erhart said quietly and politely.
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Gruntworm gasped, coming up for air. “What was that?”
Erhart cleared his throat and said, somewhat anguished, “That won’t be necessary.” He bowed his head to make it look as if he were respectfully studying the floor; under the veils of his eyelashes, his lids closed and he imagined the waves flowing up the shore in twinkling blue crests. One wave fell away and the brief light fell on Tesauro pulling her hair away from her ocean eyes. They flashed at him intensely. ‘I cannot let them take away my light. I cannot let them have my dreams in return for earthly money. They shall not distort my love. I will never again stumble, confused and in the dark of gloom.’
“I have decided that the story is too personal to be introduced to the public. I feel that they will not properly understand.” Erhart’s lids fluttered open and he squinted at the woman, hoping to convey his wish for her to be sympathetic.
Mrs. Gruntworm watched him with a blank expressionlessness. She pushed the manuscript into Erhart’s hands, frowning.
‘Fashion,’ his thoughts retorted ‘—a conventional notion. I can have none of that. No, none of that.’
‘I believe that you cry real tears,’ Tesauro whispered in his mind.
Mrs. Gruntworm did not look at all pleased. She abruptly turned and trotted down the hall in her clomping high heels. “Rejecting the corrections after all of my hard work to correct the grammar. In the race of life, you are crazy. Doesn’t know a thing about business,” she grumbled in a scathing low tone which was meant for Erhart not to hear as she walked out the door.
“Everything that happened is real,” Erhart said softly after her, “And no one but I can love Tesauro.”