Writers have moments when they hit the bottom of their collective barrels desperately trying to come up with ideas for stories. When that happens, some may turn toward a muse to help get the ball rolling.
Calliope is the muse for poetry and while I am more a writer of prose, perhaps she wouldn’t mind giving me a hand. But how do I conjure her up? Do I just sit at my laptop, focus on her name, and she’d suddenly appear with arms wide open ready to assist me? Probably not.
So, as I stared down at my keyboard my finger automatically rested on the letter ‘M’. Within seconds my computer screen went black. Slowly, from the top far right edge a tiny pinpoint of light began to move diagonally down the screen, growing larger and larger.
The little beacon grew and suddenly a female figure emerged in the middle of the monitor. She was dressed in a bright red print tunic, black tights and purple high top tennis shoes. Big round black-framed glasses covered most of her face. A blue tooth poked out the side of one ear. She was tapping her fingers across a flat purple pad, and talking non-stop into thin air.
Could this be my muse, or are am I in another world? She wasn’t quite what I expected although I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to speak but courage was stuck firmly in my throat. Finally, I managed to blurt out, “you must be Calliope. What an honor to—”
“Wait a minute sister, what gives you the idea that someone of her stature would pop up on your screen and hand you an idea?”
The crisp tone of her voice took me down a few pegs. Totally embarrassed I stammered “Oh, er, sorry. I didn’t mean to…ah, then, who are you?”
“My name is Myopia, I.A. That’s Idea Advisor, West Coast Division.” Her blue-tooth lit up. “Hold on, I’ve got a call coming in. Yes, Mr. King, I suggest you try something with a haunted ship guarded by a grey whale.” A pause, then, “you’re welcome, Stephen, anytime.”
“Wait a minute! Stephen King doesn’t live on the west coast,” a modicum of confidence beginning to show on my face. No way was she going to take me for a dunce.
“Yes, of course he’s not.” She flipped back a curl that had fallen down on her forehead. “I used to run the entire 50 states back in the 70s. But, since we have a plethora of writers in all four corners of the country and then some, thanks to the computer age, it was entirely too much for one person to handle. So, Ideas Inc., my company, decided to split my division into two parts.”
“That doesn’t quite explain…”
“Let me finish!”
“Okay, sorry.” I really wasn’t, but needed to be nice so as not to cause her to leave without helping me.
“To continue,” Myopia peered at me through those huge glasses, “since I’ve had tenure in this business, I was able to keep some of my old accounts.”
Oh! Well, I…”
“Hurry up, now. Tell me what you want, and make it snappy, I haven’t got all day.”
Just as I started to plead my case, she interrupted me again.
“Excuse me; I have to take this.” She pressed a finger to her blue tooth, and spoke in a motherly fashion. “No, no, Mr. Grisham, you’ve done something like that a few years ago. You’ve got to get out of the courtroom once in a while. Why don’t you take a break for a couple of months? Do something else, go fishing.” Pause. “That’s what I’m here for.” She signed off, shaking her head. “These big time authors can be so demanding. “Now, you were saying?”
“I need help. I looked into my well of ideas and hit rock bottom. Can you give me some suggestions?” I hoped that my plea sounded earnest.
She put down her pad and gave me a snooty look. “I don’t take just anyone that calls for help. I only advise the well-known writers. I delegate other assistants to work with the newbies. And you, my friend, are a class C writer.”
“Look, I know I’m new, I just didn’t know how or what to ask for.” I was a little hurt by her snide remark, but pressed on. “Well, then could you suggest someone in my class that could help me?”
She ran her fingers over her pad, mumbling to herself. “Sorry, looks like there’s no one available at this time. I’m afraid I’m going to have to put you on the waiting list.”
“Oh, please, can’t you find somebody, anybody? I’m really desperate.” Tears began to sprout out of my eyes and plop onto the keyboard.
“Okay, okay, quit your sniffling. Let’s see. Ah, there’s one muse that’s just getting over some abandonment issues.”
Great, I thought. What kind of muse has abandonment issues? I’ve got enough of my own without adding a muse with problems. So, I gave her one of my poor pitiful pearl looks hoping she’d have a change of heart and help me herself. She didn’t buy it.
“That’s all I’ve got, take it or leave it!”
I surrendered. “Okay, tell me about her.”
“Not her…him! Name’s Ralph. He and another advisor Alph, used to team-muse writers. They worked quite well together until one day Alph took up with a cute little sprite and split to New Jersey leaving poor Ralph to muse all alone. He was devastated. Never worked solo before.” She studied her pad then pointed a finger at my face. “You know, it’s possible that if he’s given an amateur writer to work with, it just might help him over the hump of losing Alph. You might be just what he needs.”
What he needs? What about mine? I wanted to say, but instead I sighed, “when do I get to meet this Ralph?”
“Simple. After I leave, press the star button and the letters AR on the keyboard. That’s Ralph’s muse code. It really should be just ‘*R’ but he hasn’t had the heart to eliminate Alph’s letter just yet.”
“Okay, but if I’m not satisfied, can I still be on the waiting list?”
“Sure, sure,” she hid a snarky grin while checking her black pad. “Sorry, times up. Gotta go; I’m late already for my psychiatrist appointment.”
“After what we muses hear all day, we really need therapy. Buh-bye.”
The screen turned back to black as Myopia scurried toward the edge of the screen, once again becoming a small speck on the monitor.
I stared as the screen returned to its sky blue color. Myopia’s words washed over me like a sneaker wave reaching the shore, then retreating back out to sea, leaving one word on my keyboard, Ralph. I rested my face between the fingers of my left hand, thinking sarcastically. I should be so lucky getting a muse, with issues.
Sad to say, I really needed some kind of assistance, and if it was Ralph, then so be it. My right hand crawled along the edge of the keyboard. My fingers hovered a moment, then typed in *AR. Then I waited.