“If that frog’s DNA would mix with mine, I’d do him,” I say. After two and a half hours of spilling my guts to my interviewee I decide to tell her about my obsession with Kermit. Brag about the letter I got from his creator over thirty years ago when I wrote and begged him for an unpaid internship on the Muppet movie he was making and the only reason I didn’t get the job was they were filming in Canada and he couldn’t take on any more Americans. I framed that letter and it hangs over my desk and reminds me of my unfulfilled fantasies. When I close my eyes at night, I can feel Kermit’s mound of felt against my nether parts and it is a warm, satisfying experience. I know every Muppet movie better than I know my own son. When Henson died, I mourned for seven months and wore my black Animal shirt to stiffened shreds. I had to leave the movie theater when the next movie came out and Henson’s son had done Kermit’s voice. He just didn’t get it right and I couldn’t handle it. Finally they hired the guy who does Rizzo the Rat and he nailed it. My Kermie was back. I tell the job candidate all this and she stares back with a blank look. So I think maybe this is the time to give her the offer. I want her to join my army (that’s what I call my employees) at the Green Frog Publishing Company as an editor. It is a phenomenal opportunity. My publishing company is bursting at the seams. I have authors from all over the world willing to pay me 1,000 dollars to get their book published, but I do have my standards. She passed the on-the-spot editing test. I shoved a red pen into her hand and told her to read a ten-page story and line edit. She passed when she told me there were too many grammatical mistakes to mark them all but I didn’t like it when she questioned how the glass of the lighthouse’s lantern room could be smashed by a broken off in-a-storm tree limb, something about lighthouses being significantly taller than trees. Then she had the nerve to question the phenomenal ending. The keeper re-lights the lantern with a small mason jar of fireflies and the Great Lakes ship does not crash into the coast. She didn’t think an entire jar of fireflies could give off enough light for a ship to see in the midst of a raging storm and I chastised her for not honoring the author’s vision. That story is already published, I said. I like it, I said. Speaking of artistic visions, I said and I gave a lengthy synopsis of every single book I’ve ever written (five now) and self-published plus my three works-in-progress. One of which is a dystopian science fiction novel that I didn’t want her to label dystopian, because there are a lot of those now. See, I can’t decide which kind of writer I want to be so I write it all – memoir, science fiction, romance, poetry. I’m not really sure what she’s writing, there wasn’t enough time. Literary mumbo jumbo of some sort, you know, the hoity-toity kind where nothing ever happens and no one ever gets laid. Once I tried to go to a literary writer’s group and everyone disparaged writers with MFA’s. I made sure to tell her this. See, she just got her MFA from some school on the East Coast, I can’t remember which, and I want to get my MFA too and while she tried to tell me about her school I interrupted because I like all my schools to be online and hers isn’t. That’s how I finally got my bachelor’s degree – online. I think all schools should be online but she said that online doesn’t work for everyone. I guess she might be right about that, but anyway, getting back to me. If she’s going to be a Green Frog tadpole she needs to know about me. I already know she can write. She sent me some samples and I was so nervous meeting her that I told her right away about all the times my ex-husband moved when he went to the University of Michigan. Every semester he would move to another apartment. I think she went to Michigan too, but I can’t remember. She’s a literary writer but she needs to know that I am a writer with a far more promising future. I started a publishing company and published all my own books. She was kind enough to tell me that Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard did the same thing, but I had no idea who she was talking about. Probably some literary writer with an MFA from an East Coast school who didn’t do online. I think she’s very much hoping for a job, something about student loan payments due soon. I even ask if she thinks I can break into the literary end of the publishing world and she thinks so yes, but I might need to create a separate division from the self-publishing one. I think she’s dissing me, but I can’t be sure. So I hand her a copy of our latest literary journal. It is the spring edition so all of the poems, essays and stories have to have spring in them or be about spring. I go on to tell her that fall will have to be about fall and winter about winter and before I get to summer, she tells me she gets it. I ask her to look at it, right then and there, and give me her first impressions. Does she really care about the writers and their artistic voices or is she just obsessed with literary acclaim? That’s what I need to know. She takes a minute and browses through the journal that is thick enough to be an excellent door stop then looks at me and says, “Next time, I’d suggest that in the table of contents, you note whether prose is fiction or non-fiction.” This leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, like the taste I had when Henson’s son did Kermit’s voice but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I don’t like about her because she has hardly said a word. I’m getting the sneaking suspicion she’s stuck-up, even though she doesn’t have a single book published. You know how those literary types are. I mean, she even put it in her cover letter that she writes literary fiction. Woop de doo. Anyway, I’m excited that she might work for me, so I slide across the table an AGREEEMNT. She pauses for a second, staring at the top of the contract as if she has a bug in her eye, and then she lightly taps “AGREEEMNT” several times with the tip of her finger and just looks at me, again with that strange, blank look. She reads the five page contract, sits back (it’s way past lunch and I’m hungry) and says, “This is an Independent Contractor arrangement?” I nod. It is an excellent offer. I know, I know, I told her I had an editor’s position open with my company, but Independent Contractor is the way to go. No payroll taxes. No unemployment insurance. No Obamacare. I already explained to her that she will edit each manuscript four times. I reminded her that the manuscript must be brought up to my standards before I will publish it. The first two times will be line by line working with the author and she asked if the manuscripts are in the same condition as the lighthouse story and I said, “Yes, of course.” And the final two times will be going over galley proofs. She nodded. I thought she fully understood. She slides the contract back at me. Can you believe it? Three hundred dollars per manuscript beginning to end and she has to think about it!!! “What is there to think about?” I confront her. A dark look passes over her face. I’ve not seen this look before and I don’t like it. She says something about how many hours does it take to edit four times a three hundred page manuscript. And I remind her of two things, one - that some of the manuscripts may only be one-hundred forty-nine pages and two - I pay an additional dollar for all pages over three hundred. She raises her eyebrows. So I throw in the kicker to seal the deal. What I know she’s really hoping to hear. I do a little drum roll on the table. “Plus! I will publish one of your books. At NO cost to you, unless it is a children’s book and then the pictures will cost you three hundred dollars. You could be an author with Green Frog Publishing Company. Just like me!” Her mouth starts twitching at the corners a little and she does this funny thing with her eyes, not squinting really and not the dark look, but like she might be very tired. Her hand trembles as she pulls a tissue out of her purse and wipes her nose. “I know right, a very exciting offer. I just made it worth the long drive!” She looks at her watch and says she has to get going, that long drive, and she slides my literary journal back to me and my AGREEEMNT. “Those are for you to keep,” I say but she won’t take them back and she can’t answer. Overwhelmed probably. “I can get you a Green Frog t-shirt too. Next year, I’m going to have sweatshirts.” The way she shakes her head back and forth, slow and lost makes me feel kinda sad. Whenever I feel like this, I throw a Muppets movie in the DVD player and Kermit makes it all go away. I try to tell her this but she’s already out the door.
-- Jennifer Porter holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and her fiction has appeared in the Apeiron Review. She recently joined the staff of the Riding Light Reviewas an associate editor. She lives in Ortonville, Michigan - a small town sandwiched between Detroit and Flint.