17th October


My wife answered the phone one morning. I heard her say, ‘Who?’ and then, ‘Who is this?’ and finally, ‘And I’m the Queen of Sheba,’ before she hung up. When it rang again I said, ‘I’ll get it.’ She said, ‘It’s some joker,’ but it wasn’t, it was him.

‘I love your novel,’ he said. ‘I want to turn it into a movie. Let’s meet.’

‘Sure,’ I said, trying to sound cool while gesticulating excitedly at my wife. ‘When would you like to meet?’

‘Today, midday.’

I looked at my watch. ‘So soon?’

‘I’m in town. I’m leaving tonight.’

‘I shall have to rearrange some other appointments,’ I said.

‘Do that,’ he said.

I mentally scored out boiling the kettle and completing the crossword. He said, ‘Do you know the Botanic Gardens?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘The café there? Or perhaps the restaurant?’ I assumed he’d be paying.

‘Neither. We’ll be constantly interrupted. Make your way to the rock garden. There’s a bench. Be on it at midday.’

My wife said I was an idiot for going, but I turned up at the agreed hour and so did he. It really was him. He said again how much he liked the book and that he intended to direct the movie himself and which studio he was going to approach. He was serious. Why else would he have gone to all that trouble with someone he’d never met before?

‘Maybe that’s how he gets his kicks,’ my wife suggested later.

While we were talking a woman loitered in the rock garden, pretending to inspect the plants but drawing ever closer until she was right in front of our bench.

‘Are you who I think you are?’ she asked in an awed whisper.

He gave her that famous scowl. ‘No,’ he said.

‘Okay, sorry,’ she said, and scuttled off.

He shook my hand when we parted. I was hopeful. My wife said I was deluding myself. And, indeed, he didn’t contact me again and the movie was never made. Probably just as well. He wanted the lead part and he wouldn’t have been right for it. Too old, too typecast. He’d have made a mockery of my work.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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