“One more over here, please,” Adrian said as he took a final swig of his current beer.
He checked his watch. He’d been here two hours already and he felt as empty and drained as he had when he’d walked in. What was wrong with him? Why weren’t the words flowing anymore?
“You in a bad way?”
Adrian looked toward the source of the words. A man had taken the stool next to him, his eyes alight with curiosity or concern, one.
“Me? Are you talking to me?” Adrian glanced over his shoulder and realized that all the other patrons had left. It was just him and the man.
“I am indeed speaking to you. You look like you’re in a bad way. Am I right?” the man said then held out his hand to shake Adrian’s. “Name’s The Edge.”
Adrian squinted at him and chuckled but took the proffered hand and pumped it once. “Nice to meet you…The Edge. I’m Adrian. Yes, you could say that. I’m in a bit of a slump. Been writing this novel and it’s just not flowing anymore.”
“Ah, your muse deserted you?” The man took a long sip of his beer, his eyes never leaving Adrian’s.
“Yeah, packed up and left with no forwarding address,” he said then laughed ruefully. He thanked the bartender for his fresh beer and said, “A beer for my friend…The Edge here, would ya?” Adrian spoke the man’s name with barely suppressed sarcasm.
“That’s mighty kind of you. Thanks.” The man downed the remains of his current bottle then took a sip from his fresh one.
Adrian pointed at the man with his bottle, head cocked to the side and said, “You don’t look at all like the guitar player for U2.” He pointed to a poster advertising the upcoming U2 concert. Its four members stood in a semi-circle around a microphone. The Edge slouched on the far left, a sullen rock star look on his face as he gazed into the distance.
“That’s because I’m not that guy. His name is David Evans, you know, not The Edge.” He cleared his throat and stared at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “But I know him.”
“You know him? Really? You’re just shittin’ me aren’t you? Telling me some tall tales tonight, right?” Adrian turned on his stool to face the man.
“I would never shit you, Adrian,” the man said as he looked him in the eye.
Adrian paused and returned the man’s gaze. A mass of thoughts flooded his brain, the foremost of which was the knowledge that the man next to him meant every word he said. “No, you wouldn’t would you?”
“I’d like to help you, as a matter of fact. David’s moved on, is nearing retirement. He doesn’t need me any more. Maybe we can do each other a favor.” The man squinted his eyes and nodded his head in assessment.
Another rush of images flooded Adrian’s head–images of his characters, images of words on a page, images of missing puzzle pieces finally locking into place. He gasped and looked at the man. “I’d like that.”
The man smiled and took a long draw from his beer bottle then blew out a loud breath. He set the bottle down and reached inside his coat pocket to withdraw a contract and a pen.
Adrian looked at the contract then back at the man’s face, comprehension burrowing its way through the images that shut off as quickly as they had appeared. “Bring them back,” he rasped as he looked wide-eyed at the man.
“Just sign here,” he said, pushing the pages over to Adrian. “You will, of course, need to take on a pen name. It’s a minor vanity thing of mine. Mr. Evans won’t mind if you share the name The Edge with him since you’re a writer and he’s a guitarist who’s on the edge of his career anyway.
“The Edge, eh?” Adrian said then repeated it several more times weighing the sound and rhythm of the words. He nodded, took the pen and signed his name, Adrian Moore, for the last time.
The man took the contract, ripped off a carbonless copy and handed it to Adrian. He folded his own copy into thirds then stuffed it in his inner pocket. As he slid off the barstool he clapped Adrian on the back then leaned over and whispered, “I’ll see you again in twenty-five years. Make the most of them and make me proud, okay?”
Adrian barely heard the man as he nodded and closed his eyes. Images and voices rushed into his consciousness–voices that whispered dialogue snippets, plot twists, and made suggestions of utter brilliance. His eyes flew open and he smiled. The beer in front of him beckoned for a sip that he knew would be his last. He had work to do.
He settled his tab and snatched up his contract. For the first time he examined the document and noted the name of his new business partner, “Muse Services, LLC”. The appropriateness of the name made him chuckle until he spotted the tiny print at the bottom of the contract. His face dropped and he groaned as he read: “This contract shall run for a term not to exceed twenty-five years, subject to the higher laws of nature. Upon its expiration, all works created during its term shall be erased from the collective memory of the general public and the aforementioned author will resume his birth name.”
Adrian glanced at the U2 poster, at its three members who stood in a semi-circle around a microphone. Something was missing but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He shrugged and trotted home, encouraged by the percolation of creativity itching for release. For the first time in months, he felt alive.