“I need a deadline. Tell me the absolute last date on which we can send files to the printer and have books in time for GenCon.” Howard said.
I turned away from him and stared out the van window. The red rocks of Arches had vanished behind us. The rocks I could see were just redish-brown, though the cliff formations were every bit as stunning. Vacation was over and it was time to assess the work ahead. The problem was that I don’t like to impose deadlines on my husband. The business manager in me loves them. She wants to schedule every minute detail so that it is all predictable. The family planner loves the idea of working at a steady pace and letting the projects find their own natural completion date.
“April 30th.” I said.
Howard’s face shifts as if he has been gut-punched. It only lasts a second, but I see the expression. I knew I’d see it. I never want to be a source of stress in Howard’s life, but we work together. It is my job to hand him tasks, even when they may be stressful.
“We have to get all the art and proofing done in two weeks?” Howard’s voice has an edge to it.
“Oh no.” I wave my hands a little, as if that could wipe away some of his stress. “That’s the end of your work. The proofing can come after.”
“Give me the final deadline.”
I look down at my shoe, calculating days in my head. Somewhere during this conversation, I’d pulled my legs up onto the seat with me, half cross legged. I was aware that it was an effort to feel safer, less stressed. It didn’t really work. I still had to give out a deadline. I knew the deadline, spoken aloud, would catapult us into several weeks of work-very-fast. I knew that ease would vanish in our scramble to get the book done. I wished that, just once, we could reach the final stages of book preparation with time to spare. We meant to do that this time, but Howard had the winter of unending sickness.
The words were spoken. I could not take them back. Truthfully, my speaking them aloud changed nothing about the realities of printing production and convention dates. The deadline was already there. I’d been watching it the whole time. All that changed was that Howard could see it too.
The scenery kept rolling by outside the window. Howard and I hammered out a plan to get the work done. Then we talked through the months beyond the deadline, hoping to be able to arrange things better for the months to come. I am not looking forward to the stress of the next two weeks. On the other side, there are good things. Far off in October we’ve even penciled in another family trip. There is just a lot to do between now and then.