The Underground's readership consisted largely of academic circles and beatnik, coffee house crowds. Its pages were usually filled with short stories, poems, and reviews of arty films and obscure theatrical productions. Its office was a single large room on the top floor of a dilapidated brick building. Galvin walked up the cement stairs and opened the door.
Shelly, his boss, was leaning back in her chair, heels propped up on her desk and a cup of coffee in one hand. A fringe of sapphire blue hair hung over her left eye. "Hey." She glanced up at him. "'Nother sleepless night?"
He rubbed the back of his neck, self-conscious. Though Shelly knew about his sleeping troubles, she didn't know what caused them. Didn't know about the nightmares. He didn't want anyone to know about those. "Is it that obvious?"
She blew steam from her coffee. "Those dark circles under your eyes are starting to seem like a permanent fixture. Tried valerian root? My cousin says it works for him."
Galvin shrugged out of his jacket. "I've tried just about everything." He forced a slight smile. "Well, except knocking myself out with a sledgehammer."
"So, what's on the schedule today?" he asked, hanging his jacket up.
"An interview." She sipped her coffee. Her eyes twinkled at him, a strange, knowing expression. "I've been wanting to interview a Chicago author. Guess who I found?"
Galvin sucked in his breath swiftly. "You mean -- "
"Yup. Spike Radcliff. I finally got a hold of him."
He realized his jaw was hanging and snapped it shut. Spike had never done a real interview, never talked about his work. Or himself. Galvin knew, since he'd scoured the internet for information about him. "He said yes?"
He took a deep breath, trying to bring his racing heartbeat under control. "Who'll be interviewing him?"
"You, of course."
Galvin felt dizzy. "Me?"
"I figured you'd be the best person to do it. You'll know the right questions to ask."
"Oh." It was the only word his brain would produce. His thoughts were stuck in a loop. Spike Radcliff. An interview. And he, Galvin Cloud, was going to conduct it. "I, uh -- so what time do I call him?"
"You don't. It's at his place."
"Wait -- he agreed to be interviewed in person?"
She shrugged. "Said he doesn't like talking on the phone." She plucked a sheet of paper off the desk and held it out to him. "Here's his address, along with directions."
Galvin stared, mouth dry, palms moist with sweat. He took the paper with a hand that wanted to tremble and looked at the directions. It was a printout from an online map site. "What should I ask him?"
"Well, that's up to you." Her brow furrowed. She slid her feet off the desk and sat up straighter. "Hey, you okay? You're pale."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." He gulped. "I just...didn't expect this."
"Well, you've still got four hours to write up some questions. But if you're not up to it..."
"I can do it." How could he possibly refuse?
She relaxed into her chair and smiled. "Great." She handed him a small, black tape recorder. "You'll need this. And be prepared."
"I did some research on him. His people skills are awful, to put it mildly. The last time someone tried to interview him, they say it ended with him throwing a half-eaten bagel at the guy and storming out of the restaurant. Apparently, he thought the questions were too personal." She rolled her eyes. "What did he expect?"
Galvin said nothing. He'd heard about the bagel-throwing incident. It had achieved urban legend status among Spike's tiny fan following, but Galvin wasn't sure whether to believe it.
"Anyway, I just wanted to give you an idea of what to expect," Shelly said. She drained her coffee cup with a gulp. "If he rips you a new one, don't take it personally."