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When a Writer Goes All Out, They Pay For It
8 April, 2011
I sat waiting in the café. The twirly-seat at the bar twisted underneath me, sending my long legs sprawling across the expansive linoleum floor (yeah, they were that long). I jammed my fingers into the crinkly package of take-out fries and pulled a few limp beasties from their confinement.
Gross, I thought to myself as I tilted back my head and let those limp fries drop in, one by one. They weren’t exactly gross…I don’t think anyone in their right mind would call soggy, salty fries gross. Of course, you just heard me say “the word”, but that’s different. I was talking about the waitress. You see, she was sitting across the bar from me, chewing on her fingernails and popping bubble gum. It was weird. I thought she was supposed to be getting me that cold cola I’d specifically asked for only five minutes ago. As it was, she hadn’t moved an inch…and things were a little awkward.
The continuous crinch, crunch of her nails as she bit down on them sent chills waggling up my spine.
Perhaps she’s an alien in disguise, I thought as I swallowed my mushy fry-paste that had coagulated inside my mouth. That would explain things, she sits there ogling the side-door like some crazed monster…wait, is that a tinge of green on her skin? Splotches of mottled colour?
The door to the restaurant swung open with a bang. I flinched as I heard glass crack. The waitress jolted from her trance-like state and hopped off her stool. Her black and blonde –bleached hair fell over her dull, brown eyes as she hurried through the swinging door that led to the kitchen. With the sudden commotion, I’d have expected her to attend whoever entered…she must be more psyco than I first thought.
A gust of dry wind hit me square in the back. I grunted and turned around.
What the heck? I thought to myself as I felt my eyebrows involuntarily shoot up a few inches on my forehead.
Standing in the doorway, with the door still wide open and a large crack running down its glass, was some heroic-wannabe. This person stood a good 6ft tall, maybe more. He was fully clad in black. Shiny black boots with silver rims and wicked looking points, black jeans held up by a black belt (which had a silver buckle; it glimmered so brightly from the sun that I thought I might lose my eyesight). The dude’s shirt was black and form-fitting, from what I could see of it, because in the way there was a black cape that hung down to the stranger’s knees. It swirled and twitched with the wind.
I pushed my fries away and glanced at the intruder’s face, but immediately turned away. So handsome! I thought as my chair rapidly spun underneath me and ungratefully dumped me on the floor. Dang it all, I thought as I picked my lanky self off the linoleum and settled back in my seat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as getting back up and sitting down. The chair seemed as though it wanted to turn into a bucking bronco, it twisted away from me as I grabbed the side of the bar and held on for dear life.
Suddenly, out of nowhere (and I recall screaming when it happened), I felt two burly hands wrap themselves around my waist and lift me up. I kicked backwards with my long legs, hoping to nail the offender in the shin, but my useless limbs simply swiped out from under me. If it hadn’t been for that strong grasp I’m certain I would have fallen flat on my face, and I’d have probably remained there from the sheer humiliation of the situation.
“Perhaps you’ll consider choosing a safer seat next time, miss.” A deep, calming voice greeted my ears. It sounded too close for comfort though. I yanked the stranger’s hands off my waist and spun around, spastically throwing my arms in the air to untangle myself from his cape. My legs twisted under me and I fell in a heap on the floor. It was Mr. Hero-wannabe. He offered a black, leather clad hand to me as I untangled myself. I refused it and got back on my feet without aid.
“Who do you think you are,” I began venomously, “grabbing me when you know quite well that I can take care of myself!” My heart beat ultra-fast. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the emo-waitress was peeking out from between the double doors. She held it open a crack with one hand and with the other she grasped my cola. I pointed at her,
She started backing away.
“Hey! My cola please? I’m dying of thirst.”
She rushed through the doors as though she hadn’t been waiting there in the first place; then, she slid the cola across the bar and quickly retreated. Much to my dismay, I watched as the swinging double-doors never fully closed.
Great, I thought as I sipped my refreshment. Now I not only had to deal with Mr. Hero, but also a snoopy eavesdropper.
“Francis.” The hero spoke, his voice a soft and soothing as ever.
“What do you want?” I wrinkled my nose in distaste at his clothes, “Where’d you get those clothes? They’re awful. You look like you should be in Vegas, not in the middle of a desert county.”
Mr. Hero grinned, his teeth were perfectly white…all lined up like sheep in a row, “Well, I can’t exactly go there now can I? Besides, I don’t like Vegas. It’s an awful place. Too much bling-bling for me.”
Bling-bling? I scoffed. His vocabulary was pitifully childish.
“Who are you?” I asked as I sucked the last of my cola through a lime-green straw.
“I am me.”
“Duh.” I shook my head and frowned, “Obviously you’re you. And you know who YOU are, but I don’t. I’ve never seen you before. So, explain. If you’re going to make dramatic entrances and save girls like me from vicious chairs you’d better have some kind of explanation.”
Mr. Hero scrunched up his brow, “Shucks,” he said, “I’d never thought of it that way before. I simply believed, since we know each other so well, that I’d be able to butt in whenever necessary without having to go through this whole questioning sequence again.”
“Again? My gosh, am I dealing with a schizophrenic or something? Don’t you get it!? I’ve never met you before!” I felt heat rise to my face as my heart pumped blood through my veins at a steadily accelerating lub-dub-lub-dub.
“You’re mistaken.” Mr. Hero sidled up beside me and flicked my hair behind my ear. I recoiled in horror.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing???” I backpedaled straight into the bar counter. The stainless steel embraced my vertebrae with about as much love as a knife has when it embraces an orange.
“Oh that’s gotta hurt.” Mr. Hero leaned against the bar, one hand propped against his increasingly good-looking chin, the other mindlessly rubbing the trigger of a pocket gun.
“Ok then,” I said as I tried to control my temper, “let’s assume you’ve never seen me before. How would you introduce yourself?”
Mr. Hero raised his eyebrow…funny how it looked just like my own characteristic move.
“If you insist.” He grinned, “I am Sir F. Liam Boiant Lovesey, but I usually go by Florin. The F. in my first name doesn’t actually stand for anything. Well, ok, if you really want to know, it stands for Finigan, but I prefer Florin.” His voice lowered to a chilling whisper and he leaned closer, “I’m not an actual person, of course. I’m part of you. I’m, I guess you could say, a personification of your flamboyant and loving characteristics.”
I gaped at him, shock was written all over my face (or so I was told, later),
“Why then,” I fumbled for my words, “why are you a guy?”
Florin’s smile was instantly wiped off his face, “Oh. That. Uh, well, you see…” He coughed and wrinkled his nose (again, something I always do; I don’t see why my character personification had to copy my every move).
“Spit it out. Claiming to be part of me is a serious … a serious thing to do. I need an explanation, Florin.” Suddenly, I found myself quite comfortable. At least I was in control of this conversation now. I reached inside the greasy paper bag for another fry but realized they were all gone. My glass of cola was empty too. Oh well.
Florin rolled his eyes, such a childish move for someone so awfully cute.
“I’m a guy because that’s what you want me to be.”
“I want you to be a guy? Since when? Since when did I say, oh I want my personality to be masculine. I’m NOT that type of person…this is awkward.” I twisted my torso and cracked my back.
“Hey, I can’t exactly control what you do to characters. You wanted a hero, I’m here. You wanted flamboyance, I’m here. You wanted some strength…well,” Florin flexed a muscle, “I’ve got it. Plus…you wanted some good looks too, eh? Well, I’m pretty sure you endowed me with more than I can handle.” He finished this statement with a wink that made me blush. What? Blushing at myself? That made no sense.
I reached over and stretched out my hand, “We’ll be friends then, eh?”
“Oh, more than friends.” Florin grinned and grasped my hand. Then, he rose up and drew me into a rather warm embrace (I never knew characters had warmth…I always thought that, if they are part of my mind, they can’t actually emit heat). I let myself relax…I was only hugging me. It seemed so awfully weird, but then again, if I imagined Florin out of existence he’d simply return to being me. Or maybe I was extrapolating myself out into this individual. Hmm, strange.
“So then,” I broke the embrace and returned to my seat, “tell me what I’m thinking?”
Florin grinned, “You’re thinking about how weird this whole thing is and…huh? You want the 27th of April to hurry up? Why? Oh dang it all, you blocked me from that…you shoved it into your unconscious. Come on, what were you thinking?”
I grinned and forced my brain not to remember but it popped up anyways. So much for keeping things from myself. Florin’s eyes widened and then he chuckled.
“Thanks a lot.” I grumbled and toed the leg of his stool with my sandaled foot. He shook his head and let his chuckle grow into a full belly laugh. It was too contagious, I couldn’t help it, so I started laughing along with him.
When we’d finally managed to finish our hysterics, I noticed that most of the folks in the little dive of a restaurant were looking at us. Actually, now that I think about it, they were looking at me. The double-door entrance to the kitchen was crammed with three pairs of eyes. I turned to Florin; his face was lit up with a lopsided grin.
“What’s so funny?”
“Don’t you just love it when you play tricks on yourself?” asked Florin.
“Uh, no actually, I don’t find that funny.”
“Well, if you want to know, then listen up.”
Florin got off his chair and circled around me. I followed him with my eyes until he disappeared behind me (I didn’t dare twist my chair around for fear it would buck me off again). I felt his leather-bound hands curl over my shoulders; the warm breath from his mouth caressed my ear.
“If you really want to know?” he phrased the statement as a question. I leaned back into his chest.
“I’m not actually here. I’m truly a figment of your imagination. Everyone thinks you’re a lunatic because you’re talking to thin air.”
Florin stopped talking. I still felt his breathing on my neck. He wasn’t really there? What? He sure felt real. He knew everything about me. How could he not be real?
“You’re teasing me. Seriously.”
“I’m not.” he replied in a deep tone.
“What do you mean by ‘you’re not actually here’?”
“Silly girl, your imagination is so strong you just imagined me. I am you, although not all of you. I have no real gender, because character doesn’t have gender (but your spirit and body do; your character simply conforms to the gender of your spirit and body) so that’s why you can make me whatever you want me to be.”
Florin squeezed my shoulders and then lifted his hands. I leaned forward and took a deep breath, then I spun myself around carefully and…
Florin wasn’t there.
He was seriously just here…I can still smell the leather of his black gloves and hear the swish of his cape. I crunched my eyebrows together and turned back to my original position. Again, I was very careful so that I didn’t fall off my seat.
The manager of the restaurant came out from those double-doors. I caught a glimpse of a very concerned waitress and chef just before the doors swung shut.
“Is there anything I can do to help you ma’am?” asked the manager. His custom-made shirt was lime green with red lettering that read Shmancy’s Diner. It was splattered with ketchup, or maybe something else had been going on in the back of the kitchen. Besides, who called their diner Shmancy’s? What kind of a name is that?
“I’m perfectly fine, thank-you.”
“That’s what they all say.” He muttered under his breath and reached for the phone on the wall.
“What? I’m perfectly fine I said. Although, I think that burger gave me a stomach ache.”
“I’m sorry about that,” he paused his dialing, “but our burger’s have never caused people to hallucinate before.”
“Yeah, ma’am, I’m sorry but, you were talking to yourself quite loudly. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave or I’m going to call the cops, maybe even the nearest mental institution.”
“Cops? Mental institution? What?” I shook my head and offered a nervous smile, “I totally don’t get it, what do you mean call the cops?”
The manager hesitantly put the phone down and leaned over the bar, his oily brown hair shimmered in the low lighting.
“You’re disturbing the other customers, I’m asking you to leave.”
It was then that it all hit me. Florin. The black cape. Mr. Hero. It was all…all made up. I had been imagining it all.
“Oh I see.” I picked up my purse and collected my lime green straw from my cola glass (I like to collect straws, you see). I grinned and waved towards the double-doors.
“Thank you for your hospitality.” I said, rather sarcastically.
“Please.” The manager pointed to the door. I left, thankfully managing to not trip over myself. It was a pure miracle.
When I reached my car, I unlocked it and got inside. After starting it, I sat back and let the cool air-conditioning blow over my warm countenance. I raised my hand and flicked my hair back over my ear; the small gesture brought a smile to my face.
So, this is what life as a writer means, I thought as I buckled up and threw the gearshift into reverse. Who’d have thought my very own personality would show up in the form of a maddeningly handsome character and make a fool of me in front of complete strangers?
My phone blipped and began blaring “Hero” by Skillet. I picked it up and swiped my finger over the touch-screen to answer the call.
“Hello?” I repositioned the device on my shoulder as I maneuvered my car out onto the highway. A very breathy, hissing voice pummeled my ear from the other side of the line:
“Surrender your spies now.” It hissed, “All turkular weapons must be handed over at midnight.” (1)
“Whatever.” I slipped the phone back into my hand and hit the “Cancel Call” button. My eyes drifted upwards to my rear-view mirror where a plump turkey air-freshener dangled, bouncing around as the tires thumped over pot-holes in the rugged road. Life as an imaginationist and writer was certainly interesting.
(1) Jake of Sadaar. A Battle Fought at Midday: Part 1. Blogger, 8 April 2011. http://teenagewritingrocks.blogspot.com/2011/04/personification-challenge.html