Excerpt from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman X
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
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    May 2017, 368 pages


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"You make a good point, Al." I hung up, fixed the word, and re-sent the document to Rose. In the cover note, I wrote she could stick the penis in fact-checking's in-box, which I knew she would appreciate.

My phone rang. Rose. "Upstairs wants to see you."

I frowned. "Am I getting fired?"

She clicked her tongue. "No clue. Why don't you gather your balls in your right hand and go upstairs and find out for yourself?" Rumor has it Rose was the mistress of the first Mr. Poplar, and was installed in the art department, as it was originally called, to hide her from his wife. Seeing as that would make her around 80, and she is not that, I doubt it, but clearly she has embarrassing info on somebody. Otherwise, they would have fired her long ago. She has people skills like lions have gazelle skills. I sighed and headed upstairs to face Roberta King, my general manager.

Roberta King was probably around my age, but we had as much in common as a roller skate and a race car. (This isn't the best analogy for either of us but was something my dad always said and it springs to mind. He died last year, but I am keeping him alive by stealing his best material.) Roberta and I had met maybe half a dozen times, at work activities that sought to build community through trust falls and other excruciating experiences, and all I could remember about her was that she had looked as uncomfortable as I had felt.

I was wearing my working-mother-at-work ensemble, consisting of a long skirt over boots (with two different socks underneath, but the skirt covered them), a long-sleeve T-shirt that I had slept in, and a V-necked and somewhat stretched sweater from Target. Roberta was wearing a suit. She smelled of flowers. I smelled of waffles.

However, she was smiling at me as if we were old friends, which of course meant I was about to get fired.

"Hi, Roberta. Rose said you wanted to see me?"

"Yeah, hi, Lili, come on in. Take a seat." She pushed her chair back from her desk and crossed her legs, indicating that this was a casual, girl-to-girl type of thing. I sat at an angle, like you do, and crossed my legs, too.

"How are the kids?" Ooh, a personal question.

"They're good, thanks. You know . . ." Shit, I had trailed off. Why was this difficult? I was a woman, she was a woman, we both worked in publishing, ovulated, perspired, ate ice cream and felt guilty about it, read People at the checkout, wondered what people thought of us. We should be able to be relaxed.

"Two little girls, right?"

I nodded.

"And one dead husband?" OK, she didn't say that. I just added it in my head. People often ask, when they don't know you, "Oh, and where's your husband?" Or, "And what does your husband do?" And it's very hard not to reply, "In heaven, hopefully." Or, "Oh, he mostly just rots." But anyway, she didn't mention him, which meant she remembered he was dead and was being polite and thoughtful. Bitch.

"So, Lili. As you know, things are a little tight in publishing right now. Education budgets are getting cut all over the country, and that's having a direct impact on our business, of course. Poplar's trying to stay ahead by branching out a bit."

I laughed. She paused, frowning a little. I blushed. "Sorry . . . I thought you were making a pun . . . Poplar . . . branch . . ." I swear a tumbleweed blew through the office and bounced over a ridge in the carpet.

Roberta cleared her throat. "Fortunately, an opportunity has presented itself. The Bloem Company is one of the largest seed and flower corporations in the world." I nodded. Even I had heard of them, and I don't know a daisy from a doorknob. "They produced a series of flower guides, and they're going to add a series on vegetables. They've asked us to publish them, because the small press who released the flower guides has gone out of business."

Excerpted from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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