Patrick was relieved when he found a table at Starbucks and opened his laptop. He’d gotten a creative writing assignment and he could finally flex his natural talent. A moment worth savouring. He let the tart scent of industrial floor cleaner surround him. A grad student ate a ham sandwich at the table next to him, mustard smearing the inside of the Ziploc bag. He was among the common folk, and he was ready.
He typed each letter delicately, like it would break if he set it down too hard.
“Story #1,” he wrote. Shakespeare never named his sonnets, and Patrick wouldn’t stoop to being one of the pretentious writers who did. Patrick’s first story would be a grand adventure, full of clever metaphors and sweeping landscapes.
He was interrupted by barking outside the window. A dog was chasing pigeons. She’d creep up behind a flock, paws padding the wet asphalt, then get excited and start barking, and the pigeons would scatter. Patrick slammed the laptop lid shut. He was getting distracted. His rigorous schedule of one class a day had impacted his creativity. At once the late nights caught up to him. He could feel his arms sag and his legs grow heavier, waves of fatigue crashed into him as he sunk off of his chair and slid mercifully onto the ground. He needed chemical assistance.
He sat back down after buying an extra-large cup of coffee and took a sip. The caffeine flooded his veins, his brain working at twice, thrice its normal speed. He saw vast worlds unfold inside his minds eye. Great heroes undertook monumental tasks, armies clashed as would-be kings fought for supremacy. The main character would have to be humble at first. An underdog. An unlikely hero that would find incredible power hidden deep within, unleashed at his moment of greatest need. To save a loved one? To save three loved ones. He’d set the story in the present and in medieval times. No, better yet: he’d have three stories going simultaneously; past present and future. He recalled someone already having done that. Margaret Atwood? It didn’t matter, once Patrick’s story was finished, it would catapult him right to the top of the bestseller list. A three-in-one story about a time-travelling folk hero? With superpowers? Let’s see The Handmaid’s Tale compete with that! He couldn’t type fast enough.
More barking ripped him from his art. Patrick sat stunned. He’d have been doing so well if it weren’t for that mutt. He marched outside and found the dog curled up in a corner.
“Stop it!” he shouted, “you’re not going to catch the pigeon! It can fly, you idiot. You’ve got legs.” This observation was lost on the dog, who yawned and closed her eyes. Patrick looked at it. A ball of coarse, rain-matted fur, swelling like a balloon with each lazy inhale. Was it deaf?
Back inside he found someone had taken all the chairs from his table. The mustard-y grad student had been replaced with seven high-schoolers, vacuuming up every chair and depositing them in the exact centre of the room. The sound echoed off the walls and multiplied their voices until Patrick was sure there were ten, twenty, one-hundred children disturbing his workspace. Furious, he snatched his laptop and sat down in the corner of the room, bunching his legs underneath him like some sort of Neanderthal. He looked at the screen.
- Medieval folk hero time travels and there’s a villain three loved ones die superpowers from old-timey radiation Pulitzer-prize???
He closed his laptop. He remembered the feeling of sitting in his bedroom, trying to drown out the bass-heavy EDM his brother blasted through the walls by going on adventures in his head. After a while, he didn’t even notice the music. It all seemed a bit silly now. He’d never have that feeling again.
Outside the window, a pigeon crept up to the corner of the wall, picking bits of lint off the sidewalk. The sleeping dog slowly opened her eyes and, seeing the pigeon, snapped it up in her jaws, feathers flying. Patrick watched as the dog trotted down the street with the pigeon in her mouth, triumphant. She got what she wanted, but only because she fell asleep. Patrick felt his breathing return to normal and wiped his eyes. Maybe he didn’t need a chair. Or a desk. Or coffee.
He opened his laptop and began to type, much less delicately this time.