The writer waited.
The woman did the same.
The writer quickly lost interest in waiting, as patience was not one of his few virtues. “Do you realize I just asked you a question?”
The woman nodded. “Of course I do. I didn’t like the question, so I’m ignoring it. You got another one?”
The writer did not. “Oh. Well, I hadn’t planned on asking you any questions, so I don’t really have a backup. I was just on my way to get another lukewarm beer so I could tolerate a few more minutes on this wretchedly overcrowded beach. And then I noticed you sitting there, and I couldn’t help but wonder what you were trying to prove, so I asked.”
The woman nodded again. “So my plan is working.”
The writer had another question after all. “You have a plan?”
“Do I look like somebody who doesn’t always have a plan?”
The writer fought back his immediate response and settled on another option. “Well, you certainly seem to be invested in doing something, so I’ll give you that.”
The woman smiled broadly, an action that she should probably warn people about before doing so, as the display was quite startling. “I want to be in your next book! I know you’re writing one. A short story collection. And you’re having trouble with chapter twelve. I know you’ve got a placeholder there because you can’t figure out a good transition between the story in chapter eleven and the story in chapter thirteen. I can be your placeholder!”
The writer began to grow somewhat concerned, as the situation was creeping from total-stranger interaction to something with a noticeable bouquet of stalker. “You seem to know a lot of things that I would think you shouldn’t. How did you learn this?”
The woman nodded a third time, which was starting to get annoying, so perhaps we’ll dispense with the more detailed expositional narrative and just let the characters speak. “I got the intel from my radar detector. Her name is Leona.”
Woman: “Yes. Do you know her?”
Writer: “I certainly hope not. I was just thrown by the concept of you naming your accessories.”
Woman: “Anything that makes you happy should have a name. I’m assuming you have a name for your dangle, right?”
She had me there. (Actually, I have multiple names, but this is not the time.) “Point taken.”
Woman: “She’s on my head right now.”
Woman: “Yes. Do you know her?”
Writer, clenching: “No, I do not. Unless I met her in college. Those years are a drunken blur of missed classes and impromptu road trips.”
Woman: “Oh, I understand that. I once woke up in the dean’s office with a goat nibbling on a petunia in my ear.”
Writer, further clenching: “I don’t think we need to know any more about that. What I would like to know is why you think you should be in my book. It’s mostly stories about my younger years and I don’t think I know you. Unless we met in college.”
Woman: “Because I’m already in your book. I’m a minor character in the story-series that begins in chapter thirteen. But I want a bigger part. And it makes sense to feature me in chapter twelve so my cameos in the following series will be more resonant. As a writer, aren’t you all about the long-ass build-up to your eventual point?”
She had me there, again. But who was this person? No bells were ringing. I needed to find out. “I’m thinking we should have a deeper conversation.”
Woman: “Terrific. Let’s go get some beers. Lukewarm is better than nothing.” She ripped the sack off her head and tossed it aside.
Me: “I guess you’re done with Leona?”
Woman: “Oh, that was just a pointless prop to make the story more interesting. But you know all about that, don’t you?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
We tromped across the crowded beach in search of tepid beverages, still not fully trusting one another but determined to make this random post alluring enough that people might actually look forward to my next book. One that may or may not have a resolution for that blank space in chapter twelve.
Previously published, although the original tiny story has been eliminated and replaced with this new and expanded take. Parts of this mini-saga are actually true. I’ll let you decide what is what, although you might need to snatch up the abandoned Leona in order to get the right signal…
Categories: Past Imperfect