It was just
after midnight, and he was sitting on a wide bench looking up at the stars. The new moon tilted on its side behind him, casting
him half in light, half in shadow, as it bid its adieu to the old.
Turning at my approach, he gave me a quick look
of appraisal, then gestured for me to sit down. I did so while appraising him in return.
He was tall and
his shirt was silver, his pants black. A turquoise, Navaho pendant hung at his neck. His nose looked like it might have been
broken once, but the moonlight made it hard to tell.
“Thanks for coming,” he remarked. “I
don’t get as many visitors as I used to.”
“Thanks for having me. I’m sorry I didn’t
get to meet you when you were alive. I kept telling myself I’d do that next year.”
“Don’t worry about it.
You’re meeting me now. Besides, I have the sense you wanted to talk to me.”
I said. “I always wondered what would have happened had we met. That’s what brought me to this place.”
special you want to know?”
“Just the basics. How to spin yarns. Whether it’s
worth it to lead a life as a teller of tales.”
He chuckled and withdrew a pipe. “This could
be a long night. I don’t suppose you’ve any tobacco? It’s a bit hard to come by here.”
had occurred to me there might be such a request. I reached into my jacket, took out a pouch, handed it to him. He opened
it, filled the pipe and struck a
match. The flame illumined his angular, cadaverous features. Then the
match died and the shadows returned. He started to hand the pouch back. I motioned for him to keep it. We sat back, relaxing.
Tobacco smoke and silence drifted on the air. At last he spoke.
“Spinning yarns is easy enough. All it takes is imagination. You’ve
got that, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“What about the rest,” I asked, “is creating fantasies
a worthwhile way to spend life?”
“Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? What kind of... You’re
serious, aren’t you? Well,...
hmm... I don’t know. Yes, no, maybe, all of the above. It’s
as worthwhile as anything else, I
suppose. In the end, it comes down to what you want to do and if you can make a
living at it.
could. That’s the difference between me and a lot of others, even those with talent. I got paid.”
were everyone’s favorite,” I said. “One of the all time best. I often thought that if I could be anyone
other than myself, I’d liked to have been you.”
There was a snort beside me.
no good. You can’t be me—you have to be yourself. That’s all any of us can do, no matter where we are. Tell
me, do you enjoy your work?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I do.”
than anything else?”
“I believe so.”
“Believing won’t help. You’ve got to know. Put it
like this, would you be happy as a butler or bottle washer?”
“Maybe for a time,” I answered, “but
I’d always be looking for a way out.”
“Then you’ve answered your own question. It doesn’t
matter if it’s a worthwhile life or not. You’ve got it and you’re stuck with it. Good luck.”
“It’s not that bad.
You’ll get to create your own realities instead of living other people’s. Once in awhile, you might make some
money. What more do you want?”
“Got any pointers for success?”
about kingdoms to be won, a damsel or two to be saved, not too many, just enough to make things interesting. Stuff like that
always sells. Have some sword fights, throw in some fencing terms and phrases in French. That’ll make your critics mad.”
He chuckled again.
I laughed with him. In person, his ironic humor was even funnier than in his writings.
to have fun, though,” he went on. “A little wenching and carousing, a bottle of wine now and again, a good book
of poetry, a fight or two, all those things would be good for most authors, some more so than others. Makes for interesting
reading.” He looked at the sky once more, noting the positions of the constellations. “I should be going. There’s
more work to being dead than you think.
“Yes. I’m meeting Chaucer. He’s
going to show me his ‘unedited’ tales. That should be worthwhile.”
He tamped the
pipe against the bench and stood. So did I and extended my hand. He gave it a strong clasp.
thing,” he remarked. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not any good. None of my fans ever had to apologize.
Whatever you can dream, you can live. So get out there and live.”
“I will,” I assured
him, as he released my hand. “Before you go, though, could you autograph this?” Pulling a worn paperback from
my jacket, I handed it to him. He looked slightly chagrined. I thought he was going to tell me I had enormous chutzpah, but
his eyebrows quirked at the title.
“My, that was a long time ago,” was his comment. Opening the cover,
he turned to the fly leaf, then took out a pen. “I haven’t signed anything in over 10 years. I
be rusty.” He scribbled a dedication and handed the book back. “There you go, kid.”
was moving down a path that appeared as if just summoned into existence. It pulsed and sparkled in the moonlight and silver
roses grew in soft luminescence along its edges like flowers stolen from the mind of Van Gogh. I’d wondered, sometimes,
where they’d come from.
He looked back.
“Thanks for all the stories.”
He smiled and
stepped away, into shadows, as it should be.
I opened the book and read the dedication. The letters glowed with an
amber fire. To a fan.
Good-bye and hello, as always. Closing the paperback, I returned it to my jacket. Starting on my own way, a demon wind propelled me west
of the moon, towards the realms of light.
By Terry Weide
memoriam, Roger Zelazny, 1937— 1995. My favorite author, whom I still miss. - Terry Weide
Weide is the author of a fantasy novel, Dream
of Power, Dream of Glory, which
won the 2004 Preditors and Editors poll for best sci-fi/fantasy book. His writing has also appeared in Flash Me Magazine, Flashshot, The Verb,
The Sword Review, Whispering
Spirits, and Alien Skin e-zines, on the OnceWritten.com site, and in the print magazines Moon Reader, Midday Moon, and The Writers Post Journal. He is the author of a chapbook of poetry, Suburb of the Mind, and
a digest book of poetry, stories, and essays, Skipping
Across Creation, both from Snark Publishing.
He thanks all those who take the time to read his work.