royston /Tuesdays At Three 30
© 2011 – by the author, jay royston. Any similarities of the characters, either living or dead, to living writers or supernatural beings are completely coincidental.
Freon watched the second-to-last of them take their usual table near the corner, their environmentally friendly coffee cups full to the brim as she charged 50 cents for refills and this group knew how to make a coffee purchase last. There was the familiar unspoken agreement with the group as befitted most independent booksellers/coffee shops; she would let them sit at the table for as many hours as they would like for the price of one coffee, they in turn would lend a sense of that artistic angst so needed to help maintain that level of urban bourgeoisie atmosphere to keep the book shop at the edge of trendiness and skid row.
Freon hated to admit that was exactly where it was but it was what it was. Most of the junkies wore fedoras. Most of the hipsters wore clothing that the junkies gave to the neighbouring thrift store. The rent was cheap but only because she opened at the start of the yuppie re-invigoration of the neighbourhood and the owner of the building lived in Taiwan. Barring the occasional syringe found by the back doors, it was a decent spot with lots of potential so she kept telling herself. The customers were sporadic. The ones that helped pay the rent no matter how small their contribution were the regulars, of which this group was part of; every Tuesday at three for the last eight weeks.
She was not to be the only one to notice that the sixth member of the group didn’t arrive, again.
They settled around the table in their usual spots; at the head of the table was Margo, the one who always wore a scarf that clashed rather than blended with the rest of her outfit. There was Mason, the youngest of the bunch with the short black hair and never looked at anyone at eye level. Beside him as usual was Chantilly, also young, as close to beautiful as you would get in this bunch. There was the feeling that if it wasn’t for some strange emotional baggage she was carrying she would be the only one that could maintain a semblance of a normal life. The two men that sandwiched the empty chair were named Marius and Neal, the former being short and stout, the latter being the opposite of the former. The man who usually sat at the empty chair was named Pascal, a passionate man from Mexico or Portugal. Freon didn’t recall.
From the bits of conversation she overheard they were either writers, wanted to be writers or hated all writers in general. They began meeting there however many weeks ago and for her it was enough. As long as they had a mug in front of them and occasionally bought some of the day-old muffins, that was good enough for her. She returned to reviewing her Sinead O’Connor collection.
For the gathered group their current focus was on the empty chair or rather the reason why there was an empty chair.
“Where’s Pascal? This is the second week in a row that he is a no-show,” said Neal.
“I emailed him a reminder but he said he wouldn’t make it. He’s working on his book,” replied Margo.
“What? Again? That was his excuse last week.”
She shrugged. “I guess his story is really taking off.”
“But still,” spoke up Marius, “that’s quite rude. I thought that was why we were here, to support each other in our writing.”
From the way Marius had said ‘our’ it was quite clear to all of them that he meant it as ‘my’.
“I agree with Marius,” said Neal “if Pascal is going to put his writing over the needs of the group’s needs, I think we seriously need to reconsider if he is even worthy of being in this group in the first place.”
“Well, Pascal’s absence is noted and should be addressed,” said Marius.
“We just did that,” replied Margo.
“He can’t just decide that his time would be better spent writing than attending our meeting. That’s what the rest of the week is for. We all made a commitment when we started this group.”
“But I thought we formed it to support each other in our writing,” whispered Chantilly. Her natural beauty and haunted demeanor making anything she said sound like a whisper. If she yelled in a canyon her echo would reply ‘what?’.
“Yeah,” spoke up Mason, “support each other to become writers.”
“Exactly, but it someone isn’t here –“
“Because they are off writing,” interrupted Margo.
“Right. Then what’s the point of this group?” asked Neal.
They all paused and took a small sip from their coffees. He had a point. If they all managed to actually start writing instead of talking about writing or what they were going to be writing one day when they found the time, the group would dissolve until they were no more. And then who would support them? Who would listen to their plot ideas; discuss character development, recent and past events and how all it took was just that one small flame to ignite a literary fire.
“Well, Pascal isn’t here, so let’s move on,” said Margo, taking the customary role of head chair of the group. She liked this authority she had, the small amount of power it gave to her in a very powerless life. She took out the one six-sided die that represented the group and rolled it on the table. Up came the number 4.
“So, Neal – we’re starting with you. How is your book coming?”
Neal leaned back in his chair, as if attempting to get as far away from the die as possible.
“Damn. Don’t get me started. This weekend I totally had planned four hours to dedicate to that opening sequence I talked about and just as I’m getting that first paragraph down pat, my wife comes in and asks me to help her with the yard work and I had to go do that because she doesn’t like to get her hands dirty and she’s been bugging me for weeks about the over-grown flower beds and all the garbage that has blown into our yard. As if it’s not enough that I bust my hump all week drumming up new business or explaining all the new mortgage regulations to all these people who want to refinance their homes, the only time I get is when my wife has gone to bed. Then Sportsdesk is on and by the time that is finished, I just don’t have the energy. What I need is a nice little cottage out by a lake somewhere. Something with no electricity, no neighbours, no nothing. That would be ideal.”
“I know what you are saying, it’s all the distractions. They just get to you. “
“Tell me about it,” exclaimed Neal, “and now the wife is into American Idol, again. And she insists that I watch it with her.”
“Hey, I’m getting an idea for a book,” interrupted Marius, “it’s the story of an American Idol contestant, but not one of the final ones, more like one of the top 25-“
“Give it that sense of possible reality,” added Mason.
“Exactly, as if anyone knows who finished like 22nd in Idol and then have that guy-“
“or girl,” interrupted Margo.
“Or girl become like, a, like a spy or something. Like that’s his cover,” finished Marius.
“Not much of a cover,” said Mason, “and pretty easy to fact check too. But perhaps you could make it a coming of near success story, like how his” he glanced towards Margo, “or her life has changed since. Like maybe how they lived their dream so that their parents could die proud or something.”
“Good idea. I can totally see the possibilities there, Marius. You should run with it,” concluded Neal.
They all paused as they frequently did after any such story idea was brought up, all separately thinking of their own story lines, character arcs and book sales.
Margo picked up the die and rolled again. Two dots turned upwards. They all turned their attention to Chantilly.
“I wrote 2 poems.”
This time the pause was more of an awkward silence, as was want to happen when Chantilly announced that she had written a poem. The majority of the group was aspiring to be serious, respected writers of novels and Hollywood screenplays. Chantilly’s (who until last month went by the name Christina) poetic aspirations seemed to be making a mockery of their own novel ambitions. At the time of the group’s formation they had believed that there was the unspoken truism that poets need not apply. At least five of the six had believed that, it happened nobody had bothered to inform Chantilly nee Christina.
“What’s your word count?” asked Marius.
“The two poems together are 187 words.”
“Not too good, Chan, remember we promised to at least try and break 500 words a week.”
“But they are-“
“No buts, Chan. You will just have to try harder.”
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