I become aware that a woman next to me has been making eye contact. 

Like all insurance conventions, this one is well-stocked with booze and coffee.  I pull myself a tall cup of French roast and secret five airplane bottles of Bushmills into my inside breast pocket. The unofficial credo of insurance agents has always been Loose but Tight.  Crazy enough to enjoy the night, sane enough to calculate stats, ratios, and deductibles at a moment’s notice.  What are the actual chances that a man my age would be injured, dismembered or killed in this activity, and how do I leverage premium and payout? 

I become aware that a woman next to me has been making eye contact.  I glance down at her name tag, then back up to her eyes.  “Hello, Susan Smith of Guildcrest Home and Auto.  How can I help you?”

She smiles.  “I saw you in the BIPs presentation.  That was pretty eye-opening wasn’t it?”

“Indeed it was,” I say.  “So often what we do rubs elbows with ethical conundrums.  It’s really refreshing to see someone take it head on.”

“Ooh, head on,” she says, “I like that.”  Almost imperceptibly she pinches her upper lip between her teeth.  “Have you seen the new Progressive Insurance commercial?”

My ears prick up, and I look around to see who might be listening.  Seeing no one paying attention to us, I lean toward her and whisper, “I like how Flo seems willing to help everyone.”  I look around again, “But this isn’t a good place to talk.  Let’s…”  I motion toward the service doors that lead to the conference center’s innards. 

She follows me through the swinging doors, and I turn to face her.  She reaches out and rubs the flat of her hand against my chest and stomach, and down.

Susan Smith,” I say, as if to reprimand her, but she knows my words ring hollow. 

“Sorry,” she says, “the BIPs talk got me pretty worked up.”  She clears her throat.  “But there will be plenty of time for that later.”  She glances around, confirms that we are alone, and says, “It’s going down at eight PM, room 314.  The watchword is Earnest.”

“Earnest,” I repeat softly.  “Got it.”

We step into the hall, and I recognize a loud guffaw.  I know who it is before I look and can’t decide whether to move toward or away from the conspicuous laugh.  I decide to hurry away, but a great, heavy hand lands on my shoulder.

“Is that Yevgen Butterworth?  Is that? Yevgen? Butterworth?

I turn and smile, “Good to see you Alvin.”  We exchange conspiratorial smiles and shake hands. His enormous paw swallows my hand.

“You still holding down the fort at Hegemony?” he asks.

“Just made senior partner,” I beam.  “Hey, check it out.  I got my new cards already!”  I fish in my pants and hand him a card.

He studies it closely.  “Ivory with a clean, aquamarine font.  Razor sharp. I like it.” 

He hands me his own card, which reads Alvin Merrick, Providential Insurance, then leans in closely.  “Have you seen the new Progressive Insurance commercial?”

I nod and wave my hand to show him that he needn’t go on.

“Nice,” he says.

The next hour is a swirl of Bushmills, coffee, and guarded conversation.  I have a sense of who is here for actuary business and who for fun, but I am afraid of slipping up, so I keep my own counsel.  Each session is interesting in its own way, but I find it difficult to focus.  I try to avoid meeting the eyes of my fellows, and kill time by counting ceiling panels and carpet swirls. 

At last I steal down the back corridor making sure no one is watching.  I sprint to the service elevator and leap inside.  I select the 3rd floor and try to steady my heartbeat. 

———

REVIEWS

Part action, part thriller, all comedy, The Librarian at the End of the World fires on all cylinders. Fans of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace will revel in the ridiculousness that is Miller’s America.”

A constantly surprising picaresque journey through cultural darkness”

A most unique rollicking story that careens from the almost familiar instantly into a world of what is happening here?

Not so much a novel as a perpetual- motion machine: part road-show, part parable, careening between surrealism and comedy”

Laugh out loud rambling tale of the future/present”

Prepare to be blown away”

On the cutting edge of audacious literature”

Takes madcap to a new level, blending Preston Sturges and Philip Dick”

Outrageous and thought-provoking”

Just blown away.”

Fantastic and bizarre”

Lovecraft turns Beatnik and drops acid”

One of the absolutely most freakishly odd books I have ever read”

It’s like E. L. James, Larry Flynt, and Hunter Thompson somehow merged their DNA”

Even Carrie Fisher (yes, her vagina is in here) isn’t safe from this menace!”

If you are looking for a completely unique book, this one is hot!”

Funny and intelligent”

Filled with hedonism, erotica and hilarity.”

Only for strong and fearless readers.”

Wild, trippy, fun, and sometimes profound”

I found myself engaged, disconnected and overwhelmed all at the same time”

No one would ever expect this”

Imagine a world where Thin Man was co-written by Tim Leary and Douglas Adams and set in the Office staffed by assassins”

Brilliant, raunchy, hilarious, heartfelt, and by the end, breathtaking”

 “Social satire at its best”

In the end, this romp becomes something else. It becomes a work of art, moving and funny and memorable.”

Editor’s note: Technically it is her vulva, not her vagina.

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