“The name doesn’t ring a bell. Then again, I’ve only been working here for six months or so.”
“Oh. Well. He’d have been here back in ’07.”
“I see.” Lana, feeling that the conversation had reached that inevitable point where things peter out and the bartender and patron go on with their individual existences, began polishing glassware, and only when she noticed Eddie gesturing at her did she realize that he had continued speaking.
“And from there, it’s on to Melbourne, to a little hole-in-the-wall joint called Dingo Lingo.”
She angled back into the conversation as best she could. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“Of course not. Very few people who haven’t cracked the top-10 bestseller list have.”
Lana squinted at him, still turning a glass in her hand. It was impossible to tell if he was putting her on. The crazy ones never seem crazy. “And you’re going there to …?”
“To drink it all in, man.”
“What, Dingo Lingo serves some proprietary drink?”
“No. What? No. Look.” Eddie pulled out his phone and opened his notes app. He tapped on a file, zoomed in on a maniacal-looking spider web diagram dotted with pictures of towns and bars and faces she didn’t recognize, clicked and zoomed and scrolled a few more times, and finally stopped and shoved the phone toward her. On the screen was a picture of an absolutely normal-looking guy. Slightly unshaven, slightly frumpy, a below-average intelligence gasping for help in his faraway stare as he sat at a Starbucks street table. “Because of him. Haven’t you been paying attention?”
“I fear I may have lost the thread.”
Eddie sighed. “He’s a Pegasus.”
“A what, now?”
Eddie sighed again, harder this time, to make clear that he was explaining something he shouldn’t have to explain. “In Greek myth, Pegasus was said to strike springs from the very ground where his hooves touched.” He smiled at Lana as if this should have meant something to her, but it obviously didn’t. “Pegasus was the personal transport for the muses. Like Uber, but, you know, a horse.”
Lana gave an ever-so-slight shake of her head. “Muses?”
“The Greek goddesses of inspiration.”
“Okay, and you want a drink from the bar because –”
“It’s a metaphor, man! It’s not a literal spring. Ernie Collins is not a goddamned winged horse. But he’s a Pegasus in spirit. He travels the world on his parents’ retirement fund, and every so often:” here Eddie rapped his fingers on the tabletop and made a clop-clop noise with his tongue. “Inspiration springs forth.”
“So you think,” Lana said, studying the freshly polished bar as if it might offer some insight on how to deal with a clearly deranged individual, which it did not, “that just by being in these places, you’ll … what, soak up some inspiration?”
“Exactly.” Eddie folded his arms and leaned back from the table as if he’d just solved a two-hundred item crossword puzzle. He raised his eyebrows at her, again, as if he expected her to be impressed.
“And that’s why you haven’t ordered anything but that one beer, then?” She tried to keep the edge out of her voice, but he’d been nursing the one drink for three hours. It wasn’t like she needed him to vacate the stool — it was a Tuesday night, after all — but principle dictated that a bar tab should at least exceed in dollars its length in hours.
“Nothing personal, you understand.” He picked nervously at the label which had already been thoroughly picked at. He came away with bits of glue under his fingernails. “But I’ve got quite the itinerary ahead. Atlanta. Seattle. Toronto. Melbourne. Tokyo. Gotta make every dollar count.”
“You can afford travel to all these places, but you can’t afford another drink?”
“I’ve got a GoFundMe page set up. I’ll move on when I can afford airfare.”
Won’t hold my breath for a decent tip, Lana thought. “You’re a writer, then?”
“Trying to be,” Eddie replied, a sort of self-satisfied smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“What have you written?”
“Well.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Nothing yet.”
“Oh, a work in progress?” Lana returned to wiping glasses. “I had a roommate in college who always had about a dozen works in progress. Never did get published. Wrote like a demon, though.” She glanced sideways at Eddie. “Ordered more than one drink at happy hour, too.”
“Thing is, I don’t want to just write anything. When I actually sit down to write, I want it to be the best. Hence: following in the footsteps of Pegasus.”
Lana frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose there’s intelligence of a sort in that.” Then her thought caught up to her frown. “Wait. You mean to tell me you haven’t actually written anything yet?”
“Er.” More glue, more fingernails. “Not as such, no.”
“Not a draft, not an outline, nothing?”
Eddie shook his head.
“I mean, you at least know what you’re going to write about, though?”
“Well, kind of. I mean, I have some ideas.” He jabbed at his phone again, and showed her the picture of Ernie Collins. “Truth be told, that’s kind of what I was hoping this whole Pegasus thing would help me out with.”
“Let me make sure I understand clearly,” Lana said. She set her glass and rag down and leaned in close. “You want to be a writer, but you haven’t written anything. Instead, you’re going on a trip around the world, on the dime of internet strangers, hoping to sponge up some inspiration … from a man you feel is the embodiment of a winged horse?”
“To be honest, the GoFundMe only has fifteen dollars in it so far.” He eyed the last swig in the bottom of his bottle, felt the moment was right, and swallowed it. “From my mom. Actually –” he waggled the empty bottle — “how much did you say this was, again?”
Chuck’s challenge this week: The random title challenge. My title for the week was “Pegasus Intelligence,” which was the fanciest bit of nonsense I’d heard in a while. A little bit of research, though, led me to a place I didn’t entirely hate. It’s more of a vignette than a story, but, well, that’s life, innit?
Also, about halfway into the writing, I realized that I have here the seedling for a … not exactly a sequel to my first novel, but for another story in the same universe as that one. Dammit, Chuck. These short stories are supposed to let me vent pent-up creative energy, not spawn entire novels to go clanging around in my skull.