THE MUSE AND THE MINION
A muse came to me behind the liquor store and put a gun to my head. She told me to write a story.
“Sit down,” she said evenly as she drew the hammer back. Her voice was velvety, masculine, the skin on her trigger finger fair. There was a desk there and a pencil and a pad and the steel of her heater chilled the skin on my forehead and sent a wave of sensation down to my heels so I obliged her command. One of her minions stood close by, a Kalashnikov hanging loosely from his shoulder, holding a quart of Russian Standard and a glass in either hand. He stepped and set the bottle on the desk and the little glass next to it and then poured me three fingers before quietly retreating into the shadows.
“Write,” said the muse. “We’ll wait.” She lowered her firearm and joined her burly henchman along the backside of the liquor store. I could barely make out her figure save for the faint glint of the gold-plated Desert Eagle she held behind the dark veneer that separated us, a macabre reminder of the task at hand.
So I took the drink and I took up the pencil and I started writing.
It was silent and nothing came to me at first except sketches of the city sounds drifting in off the street. I poured another and put it back and then I don’t know how much time passed before there were several pages under my hand and I was finished.
I put my pencil down, its eraser worn down to the aluminum casing. The callous just above the distal joint of my right middle finger was inflamed. My back ached. I couldn’t think of a title so I took another drink and acquiesced.
The muse stepped forward from the shadows and picked up the first page of the story, held it in her ivory hands. She didn’t read much, maybe enough to get through the first scene and then motioned to the dark figure in the shadows. He stepped forward and with two hands brought the wooden butt of his Kalashnikov down on my right foot with a swift strike that easily broke the arch.
“Fuck!” I yelled into the night and then wailed and wailed until I heard some transient echo my expletive back mockingly from somewhere in the broken streets of my neighborhood.
“Write it again,” the muse said sternly, her eyes now aglow. The pages ignited into a gentle flame that hovered above her hand, the ashes dissipating into the night air in an upward swirl. The minion stepped forward and placed more loose leaves on the table.
It was quiet again and I felt so alone. I had the paper. I had the pencil. I even had the bottle. But the muse was ominous and silent and her minion was inhuman and they were there but they weren’t there. I could see them but I couldn’t speak to them and cars were passing in the street but no one saw me and no one stopped. The pain from the blow was creeping toward the upper reaches of my spine.
So I took to it again.
I wrote fewer words. I was precise in my manner. I even thought of a title. I read it and reread it and then nodded my head as I put it down. I took a triumphant swig from the bottle and looked up at the dark duo breathing silently in the shadows before my makeshift workspace. I could see their breath manifest on the cold air, dissipating in to the night sky, eager to catch up with the remnants of my last attempt.
The muse stepped forward and my facial expression faded. She picked up the paper and read the title aloud.
“Probing the shadows,” she said softly, and some time was passed in silence while she read.
“It’s average, like you,” she proclaimed when she finally looked up from my words. “Enough to redeem you this time. But utterly mean. I will return soon and you will produce something better or you will perish,” she said definitively, and turned her hand to let the street light hit the Desert Eagle that she held down to her side. “You’ll not forget me in the meantime.”
The muse stepped back and disappeared into the night. I tried to follow her inky figure with my eyes but her minion stepped into my perspective. I looked up into his blank face and he put the barrel of the Kalashnikov to my knee and I tried to mouth a word of protest but he pulled the trigger and there was a clack and a slam and then I saw stars.
And when I woke up it was day and the muse and the minion were gone and my blood was dry on the street, a scarlet plume where the desk used to be.