I didn’t know I even had an agent. He was a nice guy, big and bald and told me happily that he thought he could sell my novella, The Female Construction Crews of Myanmar. $3200. I accepted and signed without a thought.
“There’s one thing I don’t understand.” He folded the contract and gave me a check. “Why doesn’t he know who he is?”
The truth was I didn’t remember writing the book; I didn’t remember anything about it. “It’s a reflection on his state of mind.” I scanned the text quickly. “He has the drinking problem too.”
I read a random selection: The roads in Myanmar are slow and narrow, spotted with gaping potholes and long stretches of dirt and gravel. As slow as the traffic slowed, this afforded him time to see the road construction crews, almost entirely of which were made of women.
I scanned ahead, through a long journey down a winding descent and then the character, “I”, boarding a horse cart, and suddenly, in front of his escort, trying to self-fellate. I couldn’t understand how this worked, why this was being published, but was desperate to understand before I had to give it back, just so I might write more of it and sell something I might remember.
Smashed rocks had been loaded into baskets and the women walked past, these baskets on their heads. The men minded the boiling tar in flaming drums, back-breaking work, as the horse cart jostled ahead and we headed on our three-day trip.