A man is sitting at the bar of a locally popular night spot. He has barely touched his first beer. He is thinking, ‘Well, it’s Friday night at my favourite pub, and I am sitting alone at the bar. I would like to meet some woman, and start something, even if it is only for a little conversation. But how do I impress someone quickly. I am, admittedly, quite ordinary in looks, job and generally in conversation. My best words are written, not spoken. I need a new strategy.
Here comes someone. She’s coming up to the bar. What will I say?.....Got it;.
“Hello there. If you recognize me, don’t say my name too loudly. I’m not fond of crowds. You see, I’m Billy Irons, author of the crime novels featuring Phil Thomson. Perhaps you’ve read a few?”
She replies, “Yes, I have read all those novels….You do look something like the picture of the author on the back cover. I’m surprised to see you here alone.”
“Well, if you will sit down beside me, I won’t be alone anymore, will I? And I will autograph anything you want, say this beer mat in front of me. You can impress your friends and family with it.”
“I will sit down here then. I would love it if you would autograph the beer mat. My family would definitely be very surprised, even startled. It would not be anything that they would expect me to show them.”
She orders a beer, takes a pen out of her purse, and hands it over to the man sitting beside her. There is definitely a look of anticipation on her face, accompanied by a big smile.
He takes the pen in one hand, the beer mat in the other, and turns it over. In a way that looks for all the world like he’s playing for dramatic effect, he hurriedly scribbles the name down, his writing barely legible.
“There you go, madam. I have signed the mat. It looks like I should have been doctor. I certainly have the penmanship for it, as you can plainly see, but probably cannot read”
She grabs the autographed beer mat, and stuffs it quickly into her purse. “My family is really going to love this. They are all big fans of Billy Irons novels, and Phil Thomson is by far their favourite fictional detective. I can see the look on their faces now when I show this beer mat to them – eyes wide, mouths open. Thank you, good sir.
Now I have a question for you. Are you working on your next novel now? ”
He pauses for a few long seconds and then speaks.
“Well,…I hate to say this, but I’ve run into a bit of writer’s block. I don’t have any idea what the next story is going to be like. This happens sometimes. I’m pretty sure that in a week or two I’ll be driving to the grocery store, or sitting in a bar, just like I am now, and the bones of a story will just appear, and I’ll start putting flesh to it. Sorry for the strange imagery – it’s the way that we writers talk sometimes you know.”
“Why not start right now? My brother and I were watching a crime story on television, and it made me think of an idea for a novel. But he didn’t like it, said that it had ‘too many improbable circumstances to be a proper detective story’”.
She gives off a burst of laughter that turns several heads in the bar, then continuesa
“He believes that he is the only creative member of the family Maybe you will like it, not having brotherly bias.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, he surprises himself by saying, “I’m always open to ideas for a story. I haven’t written in a long time. Spill it. Let it the story flow. I want to hear it….Would you like another beer? My shout.”
She rapidly replies with some enthusiasm. “Sure on both counts. I’ll have a Guinness. ”
He answers “I will have one too. It will bring us the luck of the Irish, a known group of fine story-tellers. Your name wouldn’t happen to be Joyce, would it?”
She bursts out with another head-turning laugh, and says, “No, it’s Fran, but I am a big fan of James Joyce”
He replies with, “So am I, especially The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man….But I proved useless in reading Ulysses.”
The man waves to the busy bartender, orders two pints of Guiness, and tells him to put both of them on his bill. He also asks for pieces of paper, telling the bartender that they are both writers, and have some ideas for a story, maybe a novel. The bartender gives him a look, but soon fetches a pad of paper he uses for remembering things he needs to do during his off-hours.
And so the story began, with beer, laughter, and some very clever ideas for a plot development that is quite different from what is usually found in the detective novels of Billy Irons, the words, thoughts, and deeds uncharacteristic of the tough and gruff detective Phil Thomson. Periodically, when one comes up with an idea for the story, the other one boldly declares that the idea is an “improbable coincidence.” It is then included in the story.
The night is drawing to a close. The pad of paper is filled with writing scribed in two different hands. The dreaded words “It’s closing time” are heard and cannot be ignored. The man pays their bill, refusing to have it shared.
“Well, Fran, this night has been more fun than I have had in a long time. We will have to do this again – maybe tomorrow night? I think we have the makings of a book. What do you think?”
“Yes, I think that we should. I want to. But first I have to say something. This something is the most improbable coincidence of the night, by far. You know that my first name is Fran, but I haven’t told you my last name yet. It’s Irons. Billy Irons is my brother. I knew right away that you were lying to me about that. At first, I wanted to see how long you were going to string me along. But then, I got interested in our little writing project, and in you. Tell me your real name, and I’ll meet you tomorrow.”
He draws his wallet out of his pocket, takes out his driver’s license, and hands it over to Fran. “As you can see, my name is Andrew Franks. See you tomorrow night?’