Will smiled, “Well, the main character, Lorna, goes on this twisted, epic, years long bender of getting pregnant and having back alley abortions to satisfy her baby murder lust.”
Butch screwed up his face, “I don’t know, Will. Sounds awfully close to propaganda. ‘Oh, look at the evil woman who gets abortions because she wants to kill her baby.’”
“Babies,” Will corrected.
“Babies,” Butch said, “The thing is I don't think people who’d agree with the premise really read this magazine. It’s too gruesome.”
“It gets worse,” Will said proudly.
Butch sighed, “I’m sure it does. My point is this is right wing gore preaching.”
“Well, all horror is conservative in nature.”
“We’re not having that debate again.”
“I’m just saying.” Will started to juggle a pen with his fingers.
Butch leaned forward on his desk, “Look. First off, it's not. Second, go back, crank out some voodoo, and I’ll toss in twenty bucks as a bonus.”
“You mean a bribe.” Will glared at the floor.
“Fine. Whatever makes you take it. But this.” Butch slapped the pile of pages onto his desk, jabbing a finger into them for emphasis, “Is not going in the magazine."
Will nodded. There are some fights you know you can’t win. He collected the pages off Butch’s desk, thanked his boss for the time, and went back to his desk to jabber at a keyboard. ‘At least I get paid to do this,’ Will calmed himself and started to type.
Drums sounded throughout the swamp. Gary steered the row boat as best he could. The night gave him no ease. The old man at the dock, as Gary cast off, had warned that “gators can jump right out, flip the boat, and snatch ya.” In the dark, every splash made Gary think of approaching a gators. And he preferred this lesser fear to what he rowed towards.
Butch pinched the bridge of his nose. Squeezing his eyes shut he held up the fresh story from Will. Butch asked, "Is everything alright with you, like at home?"
Will shrugged, started to chew on his pen.
Butch said, "I'm only asking because -- and don't get me wrong it's a good story overall..."
"But..." Will snorted.
"But this scene here: Professor Flambeau took hold of the onyx blade. In one deft motion he sliced open Lorna's belly, spilling her child onto the swamp. Paralyzed by poisoned darts, Gary could only watch the grim spectacle unfold.
"Seriously, Will, what the fuck?"
Will said, "I get where you're coming from, Butch, I really do, but you are forgetting the baby comes back to life."
"As a quote unholy demon Lorna then has to burn to death."
"It's an emotionally charged moment."
Butch nodded, "That is one way to put it."
Will clamped down on his pen. Folding his arms across his chest he inquired, "How would you put it?"
"I would say... here's the deal, bump the kid to a teenager, leave the kid's abduction out but say something like Lorna and/or Gary didn't like to think of the nightmarish way their child had been stolen -- you know what I'm talking about, all open ended but full of grim implication -- then you can have this Lorna broad melt her kid with acid for all I care."
"I don't know if it'll have the same impact. Frankly, most parents would understand killing their teenager."
"Believe me, I know. But we can't have Lorna killing her baby."
Will coughed into his hand, "First amendment."
Butch leaned back in his chair. Some buttons are easy to push. And in the past there certainly used to be a time when he'd fight for even the most outrageous prose. However, his fighting days fell behind him as soon as he got married. Responsibility dug in deeper after his children were born. These days, what with the McCarthy hearings, he couldn't risk losing his job, let alone getting blacklisted. It was hard enough putting out a simple horror pulp. Every day he received at least one letter from somewhere complaining about how he corrupted the youth of America. Not that he minded, but Butch knew there were plenty of people looking for any excuse to shut guys like him down. As much as he wanted to side with Will, Butch wasn't about to set off the powder keg.
Will said, "How's this for a compromise: I'll rewrite the way you want, and as a bonus I'll even act happy about it provided you give my zombie story a chance."
Knowing better than to immediately pounce on the offer Butch said, "That depends on which zombie story."
"The one in Europe."
"Those weren't exactly zombies."
Will rolled his eyes, "Rotting corpse vampires. Whatever. These piddling details are why no one comes up with new monsters."
Unsure why he'd rejected the story in the first place, but not wanting to seem as if he lacked omniscience Butch said, "If I recall, that was something of a bloodbath."
"Tasteful bloodbath. Classy even." Will grinned, "The kind of bloodbath you take home to your mother."
"All right." -- Butch threw up his hands -- "I will back you on this zombie-vampire thing, but I need this story fixed quick as you can."
Will snatched the pages off Butch's desk, "No problem chief." At the office door he paused to mention, "And could you not say 'fixed'? It implies there was something wrong with the story."
Butch pointed at Will with a red pencil, "Don't push your luck."
"How else am I going to know how far it'll go?"