CJ versus the Publisher

You join Pat and I at our table, half way through a similar speech I gave you and the other stranger across the room. You, at least, were polite about my mistake and didn’t have suggestions of self gratification before I left your table, so I smile when you sit down.
“Friend of yours?” Pat asks. I nod as you shake your head.
“Best friend in this room,” I state before looking at you. “What’s your name?”
You introduce yourself and shake Pat’s hand. I introduce Pat and explain to you that Pat’s kind of a big deal at an online publishing and promotion business. They’re here listening to my concepts to see if they’re worth anything to them.
“Well,” Pat begins. “It’s an interesting concept. I don’t think we have anything else similar. Most people want to do movie reviews, sci-fi stories, and video game ‘Let’s Play’s’, so it might be good just to have something different. Open the door to a new genre, so to say.” Pat nods and looks to you. “Have you heard the idea?” You nod. “What do you think about it?”
Do you like it or dislike it?
Dislike it: You shrug your shoulders and say it’s not really something you’re interested in. I raise my brow at you and ask why you bothered coming to our table. You shrug and say you’re curious? Someone overhears you say this. They happen to work for the FBI and think they heard you say “I’m Isis” instead of “I’m Curious” and you get tackled. They drag you off to Guantanamo without a trial. You spend the rest of your life there. I become a major success without your help.
Like it: You tell Pat that the idea seems interesting and that you’d like to hear some of the stories I have to share. You know about those wedding shows about Bridezillas and think hearing more stories could be fun. I approve and buy you a cookie; this Cafe happens to have your absolute favorite ones!
Pat nods and hands me a business card and a check.
“First payment, then. Get a draft to me by the end of the week and we can proceed from there. That’s just a fraction of what you can make, per story, so the more you rack put the more you can make.”
I smile brightly and shake Pat’s hand excitedly as we stand. Pat says it was a pleasure to meet us both, then heads for the door. I sit back down.
“Wow!” I say, barely containing my excitement. “I’m a paid writer!” You smile and nod. You let me revel in my excitement for a moment, then I look at you and speak.
“This is all going to be part of the story,” I say with a determined nod.
“What do you mean?” You ask.
I look around and raise a hand, gesturing to the whole of the Cafe. “All of this. Everything. I think this is how I’m going to start the story… With the main character getting a job writing the stories he tells.”
You lean in, more curious now than before. “That’s very meta.”
“I know! Cool, right?! So I think I’ll start with you, where I found you when I first entered, then write about the meeting with Pat, then-”
You raise a hand to try and politely interrupt me.
“Starting with me?” You ask.
“Yeah,” I nod. “You were eating that food you like when I came in.”
“I’m just a spectator,” you say. You chuckle as you sit back. “I’ll read your stuff but I don’t need to be in the story.”
“Oh,” I seem disappointed, then I draw my lips tight and make a quiet groaning sound.
“What?” You ask after a second
“Well,” I pause and bite my lower lip a bit nervously. You roll your hand, signaling me to get it out. “You kind of already are.”
“I am what?”
“In my stories.”
You raise your brows, then crinkle them together in confusion.
“What? How… How can I already be in the story you haven’t written yet? We just met a few minutes ago… You haven’t even lifted a pencil or opened a book!”
“Um, yeah… It doesn’t quite work that way. You’re already a character… Practically the main character. I might even be the secondary main character and it’s my story! You should be proud! You’ve been in my story since the moment I walked in here.”
“Well, can’t you just… I dunno,” you shrug your shoulders at me. “Remove me from the story?”
“I can’t… Sorry. It’s already done. I can’t fix it. You came and sat at my table. It’s a done deal. You could have left instead, but who knows where that would have landed you! I feel like this is better… Just a gut feeling. You won’t regret being a character. I promise. There will be a lot of fun stuff; fires, drunks, angry bridezillas… And that’s just the wedding business.”
What do you say? Stick around as a character and enjoy some interesting stories about wedding planning, with a few tales of interesting Pizza deliveries? Or get up and walk away?
Walk Away: You shake your head.” No… No, sorry, I don’t have time, or interest in being a character right now. I have more important things to do.” You stand, leave some cash for the food and tip, and leave. Unfortunately, just as you step our the front door you are hit by a stray car. Your body is preserved, cryogenically frozen for three hundred years. You wake up in the future without a body. You’ve been ‘scanned’ into a computer game where children ‘simulate’ life in old times. Life is weird, as doors disappear and leave you without access to a restroom, or the ladder vanishes and leaves you swimming in circles in your pool for hours and hours. Now you’re just a character in a kids video game… A lot worse off than being a character in my stories.
Go with it: You sigh and bob your head from side to side as you weigh the options. Maybe this won’t be so bad. You decide to give it a shot. If it becomes too much work, you can always leave anyway. Nothing’s keeping you here. You can walk away any time… But you have this odd suspicion that walking away is a bad idea.
You nod. “Alright, I’m in!”
“Yes!” I say a little too loudly, drawing attention. You chuckle. We walk. I tell you that the next time we meet will be at a wedding with an evil DJ and a burning table.

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