Just having a quick drink with my old friend Lloyd the Bartender and telling him about the progress on my newest story, HorrorCon, which is about a young girl with a tragic past who meets a mysterious author at the horror convention where she’s vending. Don’t want to be a dull boy, you know. That could be bad. Anyway, feel free to listen in:
Me: “Say, Lloyd, how about a joke and a drink. I’ll let you pick the order.”
Lloyd reaches under the counter and produces a half-empty bottle of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, which he understands to be my favorite. I ignore the coincidence that it was right there in front of him as he pours about three fingers worth into a rocks tumbler.
Lloyd: “I’m all ears, Mr. Norton.”
And he kind of is, if I’m being honest. Lloyd bears a striking resemblance to Joe Turkel, who played “Eldon Tyrell”, owner and founder of the Tyrell Corporation which produced ass-kicking replicants in my all time favorite film, Blade Runner. Maybe that’s why I visit him when I need a sanity break. I also accept that it may also be because he’s the only one there. This, I decide, is not important.
Me: “Alright, Lloyd, I’ll tell you one of my favorites that also happens to be mercifully short: what’s brown and sounds like a bell?”
Lloyd: “I would say ‘a brown bell’, but then, that wouldn’t be very funny, would it?”
Me: “No, Lloyd, it would not. The answer is dung. Get it?”
Lloyd: “Yes, I do. Very funny, sir. Will that be all?”
Me: “No, Lloyd, that will not be all. I actually wanted to tell you that I’ve just finished the first of what I can now see will be a total of three acts of my story, which ran exactly…and I mean exactly…thirty-one pages. Since the events take place at a weekend horror convention, I’ve entitled these acts…wait for it, now…Friday, Saturday and Sunday. What do you think?”
Lloyd: “I think that makes perfect sense, sir. Might I say that it sounds interesting, as well.”
I empty the tumbler by one-third, a sip I’m calling “Friday”, in honor of…well, you should know that. I study Lloyd’s eyes – those overly large, always moist, soil brown orbs – for the slightest betrayal. He’s been a bartender forever, and blowing smoke up someone’s ass for a good tip is pretty much their number one stock in trade. But I’m a writer and I like to think I know people. I figure Lloyd would let me down easy rather than lie to make few bucks. It’s either because of that or the fact that I don’t really care at this point if he’s playing me that makes me keep going.
Me: “Thanks, Lloyd. I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea to make the three acts also represent the core of what happens. It breaks down like this: thoughts, talk, then action. Makes it easier to wrap my head around the narrative, you follow?”
Lloyd: “A little, Mr. Norton. I’m not a writer.”
I knew it. He’s a straight-shooter. I crown that realization by dispatching the Saturday third of my whiskey.
Me: “That’s alright. Didn’t mean to go over your head, there. Anyway, I’m starting to realize what the story may be about. Not what happens, you understand, but why I’m writing it. The theme, you could say.”
Lloyd: “Themes tend to be personal, don’t they?”
Me: “Personal? What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
Lloyd: “Nothing, sir. Don’t listen to me. Like I said, I’m not a writer.”
Me: “No, no…go on. What’s some little girl who meets some old guy who might be a vampire and they sort of relate to each other in ways that correspond to their secret anguish and inability to cope with life in the wake of a horrible event have to do with me?”
I hold up the glass.
Me: “I’m feeling no pain!”
I throw the last of the Kilbeggan back and Lloyd gives me that fucking look that he always gives me when I lose my cool. I can’t quite make out what it means, but it always makes me feel like I’ve given something away the way only a good whiskey and a good listener can get me to do. I’m not mad at him, really. I guess I’m mad at me. I was doing so well, there. I thank him with a counterfeit smile and slide the vanquished tumbler into his hand. I’m ready to take on Saturday, I tell myself.
Anger always helps.