A most troubling dream last night. I’m on the beach of Citera,
here on Isola d’ Ischia. Suddenly I see Leila Hadley Luce,
walking slowly on the sand. She recognizes me, but says nothing,
because we had a serious falling out. She furiously condemned me
as a vulgar, horrid betrayer—precisely as she did in real life
a few years ago.
Then in the dream I’m in a publisher’s office and he’s flipping through a heavy three-ring binder full of the images that made up two volumes of my imagenovel trilogy, VITTORIA’S ISLAND. He tells me that Leila just gave him the collection and is passing it off as her own. She’s stealing my work, pretending to be its author.
After our silent beach encounter Leila goes up some steps, and disappears into an apartment she’s rented for a week or two. I know she was surprised to see me there on the island. She never imagined that I would ever be able to visit—much less live in—this exclusive Mediterranean paradise, available only to bluebloods like her.
In the pre-dawn darkness this morning I thought about our first encounter nearly half a century ago, in her office at Diplomat Magazine. At the time I was a copywriter in the syndicate department of Doubleday Publishers on Park Avenue in New York, and I was there to deliver a book excerpt she wanted to run. She immediately put me at ease, and after a lengthy back and forth on language and word usage, I casually gave her a pitch for an article I was working on, about Shakespeare and the bible.
“Tell me more,” she said.
“All right. As you may know, King James I of England in 1607 appointed nearly fifty scholars to work on a new translation of the popular Geneva Bible, which James felt had too much of a Calvinist influence. Shakespeare may have been among the court's translators, and, given his wicked sense of humor, he might have left his mark.
“If you go to the 46th Psalm and count 46 words from the beginning, and then 46 words up from the end, you’ll find the words “shake” and “spear.”
“And in 1610, a year before the translation was completed, Shakespeare was 46 years old.”
To my great delight Leila’s eyes got wide. She said excuse me, and left the room. I imagined that she was in Diplomat’s library, flipping the pages of the James bible and carefully counting words:
Ten minutes later Leila returned, with a dazzling smile.
“How much do you want for it?”
“The going rate will be fine,” I said.
I wondered what path my life would have taken if instead of accepting my article she’d told me, “Sorry, not for us.”