“The Price of Fame”, A Short Story

I’ve been toiling away and this is the result.  My stories are usually longer, but I thought I’d try my hand at writing a piece of short fiction.

 

The Price of Fame

 

I looked at the invitation, a feeling of dread coming over me.  It was not entirely unexpected but like a great many things that had suddenly come into my life it caused equal measures of fear and excitement.

The gold edging and the perfect script displaying my name in the exact centre of the envelope made it almost unique.  Very few people ever received such an invitation.

I held it in my hand for a longer than necessary, then put it down on the desk carefully, as if it would explode if I dropped it.

My first instinct, driven by fear, was not to accept.

But, fear or not, there was no question of me not attending.  Circumstances had painted me into a corner; I’d agreed to go a long time ago when I thought there was no chance it would come to pass.

Way back then, I had been compared to the aspiring painter in an attic having to die before I made any sort of impression.  In those days people thought it amusing.  I thought it was amusing.  Kirsty, in particular, had thought it was as impossible as I had.

Now it was not amusing.  Not even remotely.

 

My life was once quiet, peaceful, sedate, even boring.  That didn’t mean I lacked imagination, it was just not out on display for everyone to see.  Inspired by reading endless books, I had the capacity to transport myself into another world, divorced from reality, where my boring existence became whatever I wanted it to be.

It was also instrumental in bringing Kirsty into my life.  In reality, I thought she’d never take a second look at me, let alone a first.  So I pretended to be someone else.  Original, witty, charming, underneath more scared than I’d ever known.

And yet she knew, she’d always known, and didn’t care.

As we spent more time together, she discovered I liked to write, not finish anything, just start, write a hundred pages, then lose interest.  Like everything I did.  Start, and never finish.

Why not?  It would never be published.  It would never succeed.

So she bribed me.  If I didn’t finish my first book and send it away, I couldn’t marry her.  It didn’t matter if it was rejected, all I had to do was finish a book, and send it.

The thought of marrying her had not entered my mind, because I hadn’t thought she would.  Incentive enough, I picked out one of the unfinished manuscripts and humoured her.  She read bits of it, not saying a word.  Sometimes she’d put a note or two on the manuscript, her equivalent to sweet nothings, and with it I gained an inner confidence in my own ability, not only to write, but in many other aspects of my life.

When it was finished, it was Kirsty who sent it off.  She read it, packaged it, addressed it, and sent it, before I had a chance to change her mind.  Once gone, I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  It was done. That was, as far as I was concerned, the end of it.

 

It was not possible that one letter could change a person’s life so dramatically.  I came home to the all knowing smile, and mischievous whimsicality that had always suggested trouble.

Trouble indeed!

My book was accepted.  With a cheque called an advance.  For more money than I knew what to do with.

This was followed not long after by publication.  And a dramatic change to my life, one I didn’t want.  To become a public person, to face an enormous number of people, people I didn’t know.

I went back to being scared.

 

Kirsty smiled at me, and told me how wonderful I looked in my monkey suit.  Why couldn’t I go in jeans and a dress shirt?  All the best actors in Hollywood did it.

“This is not Hollywood.  You’re not an actor.”  It was a simple, practical, answer.

The hell I wasn’t.  I could act sick, dying, fake a heart attack, anything.  “What am I going to say?”

“You could talk about books.”  Quiet, efficient, oozing the confidence I didn’t feel.

She didn’t fuss.  She took it in her stride.  She dressed in her usual simple elegance, in a manner that made me love to be seen with her.  I couldn’t tie my tie, so she did it for me.  She straightened my jacket, because I couldn’t do that either.  Nerves.  Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  Or was that a reference to wives, or mistresses, or something else?

The palms of my hands were sweating.  Meatball hands, I thought, the sort of palms that betrayed the pretenders.  Me, I was the pretender.  My neck felt too large for the shirt.  Beads of sweat formed on my brow.  Where was a sponge when you needed one?

“I can’t do this.”

“You can.”

We hadn’t even left the hotel yet.

“How long before the execution.”

She looked at me with her whimsical smile.  “Long enough for me to give you a hard time.”

 

I lost count of the number of times I had to go to the bathroom, for one thing or another.  Nerves I said.  Perhaps a dozen Valium or something similar.  Did I have any?  Had she hidden them?  Why did she keep smiling?

In the car, I looked at my watch at least a dozen times.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was too hot, too cold.  She held my hand, and it served best to stop the trembling that had set in.  Why did I agree to this?  Why?

We were greeted by the Events Manager, who was polite and genuinely interested.  He took us inside where he introduced the interviewer, another woman who oozed confidence and charm, who went over the format, and generally tried to set me at ease.

I didn’t let Kirsty’s hand go.  Not yet.  She was my lifeline, the umbilical cord.  When it was severed, I knew I was going to die.

Bathroom?  Where was the bathroom?  Hell, five minutes to go, and I felt like passing out.  No, Kirsty couldn’t come in.  Comb my hair.  Straighten my tie, no it was straight.  Maybe I could hide in here?  I looked around.  No, maybe not.

Time.

The cue man was standing beside me, hand gently on my back.  He knew the score.  He knew I would turn and run the first chance I got.  Kirsty was on the other side, smiling.  Did she know too?

Then the announcement, my cue to walk on.

The gentle shove, the bright lights, the deafening applause, the seemingly endless walk to the chair, dear God, would I make it without tripping over?

How many times had I made this trip?  I stood, facing the audience, waved, then sat.  It was the fifteenth.  You’d think I’d learned by now.

There was nothing to it.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

 

In a word: Flight

There is a saying, if God wanted us to fly then he would have given us wings.

Unfortunately, he didn’t, so we do not get to know what it’s like to be in flight,

Unless…

We take an aeroplane, which usually has a flight number such as QF607, or in conversation, ‘I’ll be taking the 6 o’clock flight’.

If someone runs away, then we say they have taken flight.

If we roll back a few years, say about 80, to World War 2, flight tales on a whole new meaning.

It refers to a group of planes, in one case a number of spitfires, or,

The man in charge, a flight lieutenant, also colloquially known as ‘flight’.

This is not be confused with the word flite which has several very obscure meanings,

First, it means to quarrel or argue, or engage in a debate, and

Second, to make a complaint.

But one that sticks in my my mind is Flyte, from Brideshead Revisited.  they were a very interesting family.

Customer feedback is not always what it seems

I was going to write more about the waiting game, where it is the peak hour for shoppers and there’s only two cash registers open, or the bank tellers at lunchtime …

On and on.  Nothing will change except for some of us, an increase in grey hair.

Time to move on, and get off my soapbox.

Perhaps we could delve into the online world of customer complaints.

It’s an interesting place,  when I want to buy something, or see something that is too good to be true, I hit the computer, dial-up google, and go into investigative mode.

But, here’s the thing,

The only people who go online, by and large, are there to complain. Yes, there are a few positives, like out of five stars, then the numbers show up for four stars, three stars, etc.

You get the impression that the owner of the product or service had written several 5-star good reports to counterbalance the negativity, which sometimes all belabor the same point.

For a long time, when I saw the bad reports and very few good reports I thought the product was no good, but recently, when talking to someone whose product was for sale, and had a few bad reviews, they said if a customer is satisfied, why did they need to file a report.  People had expressed their good opinion but had not added a review.

That might well be the case.

As an example, I looked at several river cruises in Europe, and the operators.  I then went online to check the customer ratings because these river cruises are very expensive, so you need to know you’re getting value for money.

Nearly all of the reviews were bad, but lacked any credible numbers.  I’m sure more than 46 people have been on those river cruises, considering how popular they are.

But, those that were on the site were critical of the food, the hygiene of the staff, the inability to get more than 1 ‘free’ drink with lunch or dinner, and substitute boats that were terrible.

Against this, however. is the word of mouth reports we have had from many people and is they are excellent.  So the theory of satisfied customers not bothering to add a review holds up.

Food and wine were the heart of this cruise, as well as cabin comfort, and the last thing you need is to be sick for the duration of the cruise.

I have to say, after going on the internet, I was put off.

Perhaps I might revise my policy of looking for information on the internet.  It seems that it sometimes can be quite misleading.

“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.

Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.

They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?

When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.

When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.

Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.

http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

whatsetscover

OMG, it’s Friday again

Someone, many years ago, told me that once you turned 65 the weeks just flew, you know, like when a day was a long time, days will seem like hours, weeks like days, and years, well, it’s like watching the time clock on a time machine.

That last week went really fast.

But…

I finally knuckled down and got some work done on the multitude of writing projects I’ve got going on.

I’ve recently been working on a story I’ve been calling ‘The helicopter story that’s been keeping me awake’, that got to the fifteenth episode, the end of what I now call part one, and as of the sixteenth episode is now under the ubiquitous title of ‘What happens after an action-packed start’.

Now written through to episode thirty, it starts on the third part and the climax of the story, and I may call it ‘What happens when you’re sent on a fool’s errand’.

The story will have three parts and will become a novella.  The title, “Under the Cover of Darkness”, and Part 1 is called “Crash Landing”.  More news on the other parts soon.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2kr8X9Y

Another that I have been calling ‘I Always Wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt” was a whimsical idea that cropped up because I was stuck on an aeroplane, where the initial idea was formed, then home where it was a hot afternoon, and it reminded me of a desert island, just where you’d expect to find treasure.

Of course, the treasure isn’t on an island, it’s somewhere on the Florida coast, and there’s an intrepid adventurer who had the ‘real’ map, sought after by a variety of bad people.

It’s now rounded out into about thirty episodes, and there are more on the way.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2JaJ9Ir

Last week I even began drawing up the treasure map, after all, you can’t have a treasure hunt without a map, can you?

Then there’s Betrayed, we maybe it will be called that.  It’s the third time I’ve put the title up for grabs, and it might not happen again.  It got to episode 16 when I found I had written myself into the proverbial corner, so a rewrite of the next three episodes put it back on track.

It’s in WW2, and the Germans are about to discover all is not going their way.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/32hFFeD

There is a fourth story, under the title “Was it just another surveillance job’ that has surprisingly found a new life, and I’m having fun trying to work out the lies from the truth, except in the spy business, no one ever really knows which is which,, do they?

And the latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2nVr6OX

Stay tuned for another progress report.

Past conversations with my cat – 19

20160917_075223

This is Chester, he thinks he is invisible.

No one has told him he’s not a zebra, and that he doesn’t have stripes the same color as the blinds.

I’ve told him over and over, just because he cannot see me, it doesn’t mean I can’t see him.

But, once again, we have to play the ‘game’.

I should be writing, but once again Chester has successfully distracted me.

If it was a cunning plan on his part, it worked.

 

In a word: Stern

It’s what I’d always expected of my teachers, having to stand up the front of the classroom and look like they were in control.

These days, not so much, but back in my day, teachers, and particularly the men, were to be feared, and stern expressions were the least of the features of an effective teacher.

So, in this context, it means a hardness or severity of manner.

Whilst in a sense that was frightening to us kids, another form of the word also can be used to express a forbidding or gloomy appearance.

Grandfathers also have that stern look, but it’s more forbidding, more authoritarian, more severe, more austere, well, you get the picture.  A six-year-old would be trembling in his or her boots.

There again, in facing up to either possibility above, you could stand firm with a stern resolve not to buckle under the pressure.

Of course, not a good idea if you’re facing a tank (with a stern-looking tank master)

Then…

If you’re standing at the end of the boat, not the front, but the rear, you would be standing at the stern of the boat, or ship.

Oddly, when issuing instructions to go in reverse, not something you would say if you were on the bridge, you would instead say, or possibly yell, full speed astern, because you’re about to hit an iceberg.

Or some idiot in a jet ski who likes to think he or she can beat the bullet (or 65,000 tonnes of a ship that has very little mobility).