Join Our Newsletter


Read a sample mystery every week


 
Letter Man
About the Author: Martin Zeigler writes genre fiction, primarily mystery, horror, and science fiction. A number of his works have been published in small press journals, both in print and online. His recent publications can be found in the journal The Weird And Whatnot and in the anthology Strange Stories: Volume I. Besides writing, Martin enjoys reading, dabbling on the piano, and taking long walks. He makes his home in the Pacific Northwest.


Mel’s at his desk in rolled-up shirtsleeves and a loosened tie, marking stuff up with a pencil. A cigarette’s going in the ashtray. He looks up and sees me at the open door, about to knock.

“Figured you’d drop by,” he says. “Come in. And close the door.”

I look at the ashtray. I make sure he sees me looking at it. “What,” he says.

“Mind if I keep it open? The door?”

“Why?”

“Mel, it’s bad enough, what with most the guys at their drawing boards smoking all day long. But at least the workroom’s got plenty of open space.”

“Yeah? So?”

“So, Mel. Hate to say it, but your office here’s the size of a postage stamp. And the AC unit in the window there makes a big racket but it doesn’t do squat.”

“Kind of like you, huh?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just close the door, will you?”

“Come on, Mel. I know we put out comic books with creatures from other worlds, but I’m still from planet Earth. I need oxygen.”

“What is it you want, as if I don’t know?”

I take a quick peek out at the hallway to see if anyone’s within earshot. “Well, it’s just that I’ve been lettering here at Sweatshop Comics for some time now, and—”

“You want a raise.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Yep, that’s what I figured. You sure you don’t want the door shut?”

“No, a raise’ll be good enough.”

“In that case …” In one quick motion, Mel lifts his rear end off the chair, leans out over his desk, and screams, “Hell! No!”

“Mel, come on, give me a break, will you? I’m good at what I do. My work is clean. It’s sharp. I meet the deadlines. And I’ve been doing this a long time. Long before you came in as editor, even. And not once have I ever got any kind of pay raise, not even for cost of living. And I just thought you’d sort of see things the way I do.”

Mel sits back down and crosses his arms on the desktop. “What is it with you lettermen lately? You forming a union, or what? You planning to join the other socialists and march down Fifth Avenue, is that it? At least your signs’ll be easier to read, I’ll give you that much.”

“I’m no socialist. All I’m asking for is a fair increase, that’s all. It’s like what President Kennedy said the other day—‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ “

“I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but it sure sounds like socialism to me.”

“No, I think what he means—”

“You know what else Kennedy said? He said it once to Khrushchev.”

“No, what’s that?”

Mel’s up off his chair again. “He said, and I quote, ‘Hell No, you goddamn socialist!’ That’s what he said!”

“Jesus, Mel. Simmer down.”

“Simmer down?”

“Yeah. People out in the hall. They can hear.”

Mel, in his chair again, leans back, shakes his head hopelessly. “You guys, I tell you. You’re really something.”

“In what way?”

“You know who Rob Kramer is, right?”

“Course I do. He edits the romance comics.”

“That’s right. The lovey-dovey shit that girls eat up and boys won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Last thing they want to read about is pretty girls giving loser guys the heave-ho. Know what I mean?”

“No, actually I don’t.”

“So just the other day Rob’s letterman comes into his office and—”

“Mike.”

“What? What, Mike?”

“He’s Rob Kramer’s letterer.”

“Whatever. Okay, Mike—you satisfied?—Mike comes bumbling into Rob’s office and gets on his knees and folds his hands in prayer and belts out something like, ‘Oh, Rob. I’ve been lettering comic books since before sex was invented. Can’t you give me just a teensy-weensy bit more money? Pretty please with sugar on it?’ And you know what Rob tells him?”

“I have no idea.”

“ ‘Hell No,’ is what he tells him, only not as quiet.”

“Okay.”

“And the very same day or maybe the day after, Butch Brattick’s letterman does the same thing.”

I’m about to mention his name when Mel warns me with his eyes not to even think about it.



This story appears in our MAY 2020 Issue
(Visit Amazon for a print version)

Buy MAY 2020 Issue

Buy It Now

Digital Subscription

Price $24.75 Cdn

You will immediately receive the current issue.
Future issues are emailed on the 1st of each month.

Reader Discussion


Add Your Comments