Muse 4

February 19, 2016

Peacock departing

Survival of the Collective


The words poured from his flying fingers as his latest story unfolded on the computer screen. Survival of the Collective might be one of his best fantasies if he can get it to the publisher in time; he was already a month overdue. Sara had left a scathing message on his phone machine about not wanting to represent him anymore. She was tired of waiting and also did not like the inference he had been with another woman last week. She omitted the mention of her tryst with her publisher and boss, perhaps to gain some edge in the business. Leon didn’t care anymore.

A solid week and a half passed with Leon writing four hundred pages of the new fantasy, filled with action, surprises and a peaceful ending; he liked happy endings. It was to be his last fantasy book, swearing to get back to serious writing once more. Another publisher Goodwin, Goodwin and Shank took on his book offering less for it than the previous. Leon didn’t care.

“I really like this one character,” said the head publisher. “What’s her name? Oh, yes, Mia. Interesting how you came up with that and the name of the planet called Sha Mato and surprised that you managed to get humans there.”

“It’s fiction; it’s not like I have to explain how they got there or anything.”

“Not sure I like the part about humans screwing up Sha Mato like planet Earth,” continued the publisher. “But it’s pretty solid piece of work from what I’ve seen to date. I’ll see if we can get it on the shelves in a month or two barring any problems with my printer. He’s pretty busy with a ton of material from us and other small publishers.”

“Whatever,” responded Leon unsure what he wrote was worthy of literary notice. “I just need the story to stay intact. Don’t want editors picking it to pieces, hacking it up.”

His story was a simple formula of good guys, bad guys and a potential disaster where evil is cast out in the end. The collective was not a new idea but one, which he managed to capitalize on, assigning various qualities to each of the civilized inhabitants of the planet Sha Mato. The Ooni-ooni were the elevated creatures, the collective of thought and deed, living in harmony on the planet. The Banashki were an ignorant, antagonistic race of beings without maliciousness, spurned on by the humans and another set of creatures called Shunta to eliminate the balance of the planet. Humans would, of course, be able to eliminate the Shunta when their presence was no longer needed. It was an age-old tale of power and greed, dotted with mythical creatures of the imagination, nothing Leon saw as special.

What really preyed on his mind was Mia. He still found it hard to believe she had been real and began to wonder if it was all some kind of hallucination on his part. True, she did give him ideas but was that because she existed or had he created her as an excuse to finally get something down on paper?

Compounding his unsettled feelings he found Sara in his apartment one afternoon, prepared for erotic play. He hadn’t heard a word from her since his dismissal from her client list and Lorenzo-Schutz Publishing. Leon was no dummy. Sara wanted something and was willing to offer her body to get it.

“Maybe I was a little harsh with you earlier,” she cooed spreading her sexy legs, the hint of scanty lace panties making it clear her objectives. “I missed you and couldn’t stay away.”

She was a beautiful woman; most men would not resist a chance to fuck her. Leon was tempted, the base nature of a man saying yes while a deeper sense of wisdom refused.

“Why are you here?” he said. “Things not work out with Schutz?”

“I’m here for you baby,” she answered, sulking unconvincingly. “I really missed you.”

“And what else?” he pressed.

“Nothing,” she returned. “I was just curious if you signed the final contract for Survival of the Collective. The word out is that the story is going to be a hot seller.”

“Signed it a few days ago, Sara. It goes for a quick edit and then to press.”

“Can you stop it?” she asked. “Lorenzo-Schutz will double their offer if you can back out.”

“Sorry, but they dumped me just as you dumped me,” he acknowledged. “Don’t worry about it. Our relationship was nothing but screwing to get what you wanted out of me. It took me a little while to see that.”

“Double the money. That’s a chunk of change. You also get special benefits by signing with us,” she added slipping off the straps to her lacy top, exposing her breasts. “I believe you liked these.”

“Get dressed and please leave,” he said. “And give me back my key to the apartment. I don’t want you wandering in anymore.”

Miffed she pulled up her top and stomped to the chair where her clothes were. Hastily she pulled them on her face turning red with anger.

“You are blind and can’t see the opportunity I’m giving you,” she snapped yanking on her belt. “I’m not going to make this offer again, take or leave it.”

“Just leave, Sara.”

Her pale skin turned a deep red, her eyes flaring with anger. His house key was hurled at him, missing by several inches.


Book Signing

As predicted Survival of the Collective was a big hit, young adults and older snapping up the novel as soon as it hit the stores. Goodwin, Goodwin and Shank had promoted the book with the residual followers from his previous books spurring sales. Several local bookstores requested Leon to make personal appearances, signing books for customers and answering question they most certainly had. He had three engagements for talks on the development of his story; the subject of his muse would not be a part of that, though he owed his success to her. Was she real?

University Bookshop sold thousands of books a month, Leon’s latest novel among them. He had been scheduled to sign books on Saturday from noon to five with a few breaks in between. The bookshop wanted him to stay until eight since there might be a few late shoppers wishing to have their book signed and meet the author. There was also an offering of supper before the late night signing, courtesy of University Bookshop. His earlier depression had lessened, though bits of it lingering, his mood being raised by the notoriety he was receiving. It wasn’t clear what was causing his depression but he felt a little like a cheat when he took complete credit for his writing.


Without Mia I would never have been able to do this, he thought. How can I act so smug when people tell me what a genius I am? How can I even believe she existed when she disappeared so suddenly?


By noontime the line of people waiting to have their book signed was thirty deep and building, the University Bookshop adjusting the line so it wouldn’t interfere with the other best sellers on their shelves. Though the shop was air-conditioned the scent of humanity stuck in the air, the line of eager readers marginally dealing with the heat of the day outside.

He was stunned by the various age groups passing his desk, preteen kids, old ladies mixed with ages in between. A few of the young women passed small notes with their names and phone numbers written on them, hinting at what might be seen as an invitation to better know them. One or two men did the same, the ambiguity of Leon’s sexual preference not obvious. It didn’t surprise him since his biography printed on the back did not indicate a married status.

“I loved the part where Mia, the Goddess of the forest bathes naked in the pool of water,” whispered one young woman. “It’s almost as if you really saw her, the way you described her in the book.”

“Thank you,            ” replied Leon.

“I’d love to talk about it with you some time,” she added placing a folded piece of paper in front of him. “Maybe at dinner? I’m an excellent cook.”

Judging by her substantial girth, he was sure she was definitely proficient in the kitchen. Dinner, lunch and brunch were the offerings on many of the notes, a steady stream of meals and whatever.

The afternoon wore on, several folded notes and many admirers voicing their opinions on various parts of the book, Mia a popular character to most of them. Encouraged by the store manager, Leon only allowed a few minutes for each person, being congenial as much as possible, considering the length of the line.

It was five o’clock; time for something to eat. The bookshop ordered out Chinese food for him and gave him twenty minutes and access to a private office to eat in peace, employees of the shop banned from bothering him during his meal. The computer screen on the desk had a screen saver with a jingle dancing around. ‘Don’t Allow the Impossible to Interfere With the Possible,’ it said as it moved from one corner to another. A good saying for a fiction writer, no doubt.

Returning to the signing table the line had become shorter, though people drifted in over the next few hours. Leon was beginning not to see the people he signed books for; rather he turned himself into an automated signing machine answering the same questions and asking the limited few of his own. How would you like me to sign this? What’s your name? People would go home and boast about meeting Leon Shore in the flesh, he wouldn’t remember any of them.

Manager of the bookshop came up to Leon informing him they were going to lock up though they would let him finish the people already in line. This suited Leon fine since his signature was becoming more and more of a scribble. He glanced at the small stack of folded notes smiling to himself.


If I were just some average guy on the street no woman would ever think of giving me these little folded notes, he thought. Write a few books and suddenly you’re somebody. Funny how a little notoriety changes the way people react to me. I should dump these when no one is looking, don’t want to offend any of them.


A man with thick glasses stepped forward, an obvious employee with a name tag attached to his shirt. Leon couldn’t help but snicker when he signed the man’s book, addressed to Oliver Twispin. He thought about making a snide remark but decided not to be unkind. One never knew who might or might not have influence at the store. Now he was down to the last person in line barely peering up long enough to recognize man or woman standing before him.

“I knew it was going to be good,” said one woman at the very end of the line.

He glanced up at the woman, shocked at who he thought he saw.

“Mia?” he managed. “Is that you?”

“Gee I’m flattered but no,” replied the woman. “Funny though, my name is Gina; my family call me Nettie, silly nickname doesn’t make any sense, I know.”

He couldn’t take his eyes off of her, the face, the similar auburn hair and the body strikingly comparable to Mia; her voice had that same ring he remembered yet it was obvious she was not the same woman when he scrutinized her closely. Unnerved by the comparison, he saw she was very attractive as he fumbled for something to say.

“What are all those little pieces of paper on he table?” she asked.

“Oh, these?” he answered. “Notes that people leave me, I guess.”

Nettie smiled and added, “I’ll bet there are a lot of names and phone numbers in there. I bet they’ll keep you pretty busy for a long time.”

“Ah!” he exclaimed. “I’m not interested in any of these.”

Leon scooped up the notes and tossed them in a nearby wastebasket. They tumbled into the basket mixing with the pencil shavings and bus transfers. Interesting to think with all the available technology and electronic devices people still used pencils.

“Uh, this may sound tacky but I’d like to have your phone number,” he blurted. “It sounds terrible, I know; but I’d like to see you again. You remind me of someone special.”

“No, I’m afraid I haven’t got one yet,” she said. “Just moved here a few days ago. Thought I’d check out the bookshop since I like to read. Actually, I was surprised that you were doing book signings here, so I got in line.”

“Do you have a book I could sign? You’re the last one and I’d hate to not sign it.”

“Oh, I don’t have the book,” she reported. “But I know the whole story.”

“Well, here! I’ll sign this display copy on the desk. Can’t send you away without something,” he volunteered. “I have that one and mine, which I use for notes I like to make from time to time. I guess I’m always thinking of revisions and new stories.”

Leon scanned this woman, trying to compare the differences that existed. She looked a lot like Mia, too much to dismiss it entirely, the same brown eyes and pleasant figure, the face similar yet altered in some small ways. He scrawled his name on the inside cover of the book jotting down his phone number in the event he couldn’t get hers. Maybe it was crazy to do such a dumb thing but he didn’t want to lose track of this woman.

Nettie leaned over to read the signature, her hair falling forward. “Hmm! Interesting!” she said with a grin. “I can see you leave a few phone numbers in the process too.”

“No, no not at all,” he protested. “I just did yours like that. I don’t know why but I have a feeling we’ve met before.”

She tossed her hair back over her shoulders a flash of pink on the base of her neck, too fast to get a good look. There was something familiar about that as well.

“It’s a small world,” she answered. “We may have met but I doubt it.”

“How old are you?” he pressed. “I hope you don’t mind my asking.”

“I really don’t know,” she answered. “I never knew my parents; I was raised by a couple of old women who took me in, very sweet and supportive. I consider them the closest thing to parents I have, though I had several foster parents when I was quite little.”

“Odd,” said Leon. “Haven’t you always wondered where your real parents are or who they are?”

“No,” she answered her face bright with energy. “I think it’s more important to love the people who care for you.”

Leon was beginning to wonder if he was really going over the edge thinking this woman could be anything like Mia, especially if muse existed at all. He was making a fool of himself with this woman and needed to derail his inane chatter before he came across as a total idiot.

“I’m finished here,” he announced. “Would you like to go out for coffee or something? I don’t know this part of town very well but I’m sure there’s someplace still open.”

“Aren’t you going to finish the one in front of you?” she replied. “It’s still steaming.”

Another dumb move on his part was amplified by his unsettling attraction to her.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I guess it is.”

He had to think quick or this woman might be gone forever.

“It was pretty bad coffee,” he declared. “I didn’t want to tell them and be rude.”

“Well, not tonight but maybe another time,” she answered her smile indicating a genuine interest, though Leon did not want to read too much into it. “I’m still settling into my new place.”

“Oh,” said Leon, sad, she couldn’t take him up on her offer.

Nettie started to leave, winking at Leon as she turned. “We’ll see each other again for that coffee, I promise.”

The manager came over a minute later asking Leon if he needed any help packing up. The bookstore was going to close soon and they were going to have to lock up shortly.

“Did you happen to notice that last woman?” he asked. “The attractive one with the brown hair. Notice which way she went when she left?”

“Uh, there hasn’t been anyone for the past ten minutes, definitely no woman,” reported the manager. “Oliver, our information desk, was the last one you saw. He locked the doors right after.”

Was Leon seeing things? Perhaps he was tired and dozed off. There had been some writers who had gone over the edge, a little crazy or flat out nuts. He wondered how many of them remember having a muse during their creative process.



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