The Muse

She was looking over the railing at the park down below where old ladies with tiny dogs and parents with small children on a leash ambled around the fountain and the lone hot dog vender, when the man poked his head into her view from her side.
Her first thought was that he must be a pervert. He certainly had the look. A middle aged man with a creased face and longish disheveled hair generously mixed with grey over Asian black, dressed in an outdated tweed jacket and ancient scarf, with an overall air of a washed-up music conductor.
“Excuse me, miss,” he said. “I believe you are a writer.”
“What? Yes. Why? Who are you?”
“I am your muse.”
“I am your muse. I am here to solve your writer’s block. You haven’t written a word all week. Your eyes were sore from staring at the screen. You came out here in hopes that some fresh air will give you inspiration.”
“How do you…?”
“Writing is like riding a bicycle, don’t you think? We scoot along in a balance between motion and inertia. The wheels roll and the frame remains erect. When the wheels lose motion, the frame topples. When writing, your vision is the motion, while the words are the inertia. The balance of the two keeps you going. Do you follow?”
“Don’t focus on what word to write next. Feel your story with your senses. What do you see in the scene? What do you hear? Not just the characters talking but the distant sounds, like children playing on the grass, or the leaves rustling in the breeze. What do you smell?” He sniffed the cuffs of his sleeve. “Envision what you taste.” He stuck out his tongue and touched it with a grubby finger. “And touch. Focus on the senses, not the words.”
“You’re gross.”
“That’s an emotion. Very good. An emotional reaction. Much better than a cerebral understanding. Plot your emotions on a graph. It sometimes helps. One axle scaling from satisfaction to frustration, the other axle between eagerness and apathy.” He drew a cross in the air with his finger. “Are you hungry?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Then your hunger is up here, near satisfaction. But you may not have been very eager for food in the first place, so it would be about here, closer to apathy than eagerness.” He plotted in the air with his finger. “You have satisfaction of a weak desire.”
“How is that going to help my writing?”
“Plot the emotions of each of your characters in each scene. How do they change? Do they have a trajectory? What direction are they going? And what is the next natural step?”
“Why are you doing this?”
The man heaved a heavy sigh.
“Because when you reach a point when aged Scotch is younger than your children, when movies stars whose names you remember are senior citizens, when the technical innovations that guided your writing career has run out of spare parts, a writer must walk outside and bark at the moon in hopes that something will come out of it.”
“That is why you are my muse.”
“That is why I am your muse.”
“You chose to become a magical creature out of apathy and frustration?”
“Nothing so magical about it, is there?”
“No. It’s kind of sad.”
“Well, I suppose that is why my magic failed to work.”
Two little children were fighting over a toy. After a brief tug of war, one took the toy and run off, the other fell backwards on her bottom and began to cry. A young woman, perhaps a babysitter or a nanny, somehow she did not seem like a mother, rushed to the child and picked her up.
“But what if you did?” she said.
“Pardon me?”
“What if you escaped out of your body and became a magical creature? An invisible ghost who haunts writers?”
“And whispers into their ears hints on how to write?”
“Yes. Wouldn’t that be an awesome story?”
“But what would happen next?”
“Well, one day he meets a writer who would not listen to him. So he decides to go back into his body to regain physical form and talk to her in the flesh.”
“Does it work?”
“No, it creeps her out. He knows all about her because he has been haunting her for weeks and it comes out kind of creepy. And he hasn’t walked in his body for a while, so he behaves kind of odd.”
“Then what happens?”
“She pushes him away. He gets frustrated. He bursts into tantrums like those kids fighting over a toy.”
“I see.”
“Excuse me. I have to get home and write this story.”
“Good. You do that. And don’t forget to buy coffee on your way home. You haven’t had caffeine all day.”
“Thanks. And thanks for the tip.”

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