thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
BEYOND SECTION THREE
The surveillance itself was trivial. Disney still wanted the sound of the street. Werner would talk to his friends, picking up the latest gossip, and then he would go home and write it all down. This (once embellished by Pete) would be submitted along with a voucher to his Disney rep. Several weeks later he’d receive a cheque in the mail, stamped on the back with his contract.
The contract was short: Transfer of POV to Disney in perpetuity.
Work for hire spying was dubiously ethical, but it put food on the table. Werner tried to forget about the fact that he’d never see a dime for foreign reprints (by far the most lucrative market for his work). Once he’d considered moving to china, but as a college dropout he knew his chances of securing suitable housing were slim.
Pete had graduated.
Werner’s oeuvre was stored in a filing cabinet in his basement. Once a job was completed he’d deposit it into a large manila envelope and, after attaching a relevant label, slot it in chronologically amongst the other like material. Pretty soon it was going to be time for another filing cabinet.
The arrangement with Disney wasn’t ideal, by any means, but Werner just wanted to get his work out there, where people could see it, read over it, glean what they could from what he had to offer. He figured he’d have time to make money later in life. And there was always the chance one of his reports would get optioned for a scandal. An "as reported by" credit would set him up for life.
The economics of the business were, frankly, fucked. Werner had moved out here after Pete had found some success with contract work. Now he was here—where was here?—in Indiana. And what did that mean? At least rents were cheap.
Riding the bus was recreation to be enjoyed from inside his apartment. He’d watch the buildings as they whipped by, wondering what this place had been like, decades ago, before the tall buildings, before it had been swallowed up by Chicago. He didn’t know what he imagined. Probably something with powdered wigs and restless natives. More than likely it was just a bunch of people driving big-ass trucks.