The Dude

the-dude-cowboy-hat-316399_960_720The Dude stepped out of the saloon’s swinging doors and stopped short. “Oh, Lord, here comes another one,” he muttered. Chewing on a stalk of hay, he watched with increasing disgust as a wide-eyed young woman stumbled in and out of the businesses that lined the street. She hugged a sheaf of papers, tied neatly with string, to her chest, and one fist clutched a stack of full-color brochures and business cards. The wad of advertising material increased in size with each stop, and her expression drooped at the same rate.

Finally, he could take no more. “Good day, ma’am,” he called to her. “I see you might need some help.”

She smiled and came toward him. “Oh, thank you, sir! I am just about to drop under the weight of all these papers. I’m Annie Abby.”

“You can just call me the Dude,” he said, tipping his white hat. He helped her steady her grip on her papers, deftly removing the brochures from her hand as he did so. Then he sorted through the bits of colorful paper. “Thought so,” he said to himself. Then, aloud, he said, “Why, it looks to me like you might be trying to publish a manuscript.”

“Yes!” she cried. Then, crestfallen, she went on, “At least, that’s what I came here hoping to do. Why, I don’t know the first thing about editing, or cover art, or formatting a book for e-publishing. All of these places will do it for me. But they’re so expensive! Some of them charge thousands of dollars!”

The Dude looked her up and down. “Miz Abby, you appear to me to be of above-average intelligence. Ain’t that so?”

She stood up straight and swept back her hair, exposing a generous breadth of forehead. “Why, yes, I believe I am.”

“And furthermore,” the Dude drawled, “you don’t appear to be particularly flush at the moment.”

Her shoulders slumped. “You are right again, sir. In point of fact, I am what some crude folks might call ‘flat broke’.” Her voice trembled a little on the last words.

“Now, now, ma’am,” he said, shifting the stalk of hay to the other corner of his mouth. “There ain’t no call for embarrassment. We’ve all been down on our luck at one time or another.”

“Oh, Mr. Dude,” she sighed. “I wish I could make you understand. I’m at the end of my rope. I simply must find a way to publish this manuscript!”

“Well, ma’am,” he said, “here is my advice to you. The first thing you need to do is to go on home, and get back on that computer of yours. Then you should get on that internet they have there, and learn to do it all yourself.”

She stared at him, amazed. “A person can do that?”

“Course they can. They call themselves ‘indie authors’. You’ll meet ‘em along the way, and a nicer bunch of people you never did see. Say, you know how you can tell an indie author?”

She blinked her long blonde lashes. “No, sir, I don’t. How?”

He grinned. “An indie author won’t charge you for his advice. He’ll give it to you free.”

She hugged her manuscript in relief. “Oh, that’s wonderful, Mr. Dude! But…why are you helping me? You don’t even know me!”

The Dude gave her a sad smile. “Ma’am, you ain’t the first sweet, innocent thing to stumble down this road. These shysters make their livings off of people like you. It’s all legal, here in the Wild West, but that don’t make it right.” His eyes grew misty. “Let’s just say I used to be innocent, too. And I hate like hell to see people get took.”

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “The Dude”

  1. Excellent story, Lynne. I’ve learned so much useful information from Indie authors. Thank you, all.

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