The Inspirational Mr. Green
Anthony Ford drifted back into consciousness. He lifted his head from the desk that had been his improvised pillow. He pressed a palm against his right temple in an attempt to push the throbbing vein back into his skull. He groaned and shrugged his shoulders to alleviate the pain in them. A creased sheet of paper fell on the desk and Anthony realised it had been stuck to the side of his face. He looked down at the drool-smeared printing on the paper and grimaced. He pushed the sheet off of his desk with a dismissive swipe that was more violent than he intended, causing him to lurch to the side carried by the momentum. His head throbbed and the room spun.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember how he had got here. There was a club, all chrome and stainless steel, and there were shots lined up on the bar, no…, tequila slammers. Yes slammers with Harry. Out with Harry for a serious session, something about drowning sorrows. They’d moved on to some little dive Harry claimed had a speciality and then…..then nothing until he woke up here at his desk. As he tried to remember the particular speciality of that last place that had clearly finished him off, he became aware of a strong aniseed smell and this seemed to be related somehow.
The room had slowed its revolutions and he opened his eyes to locate the source of the smell.
Anthony spun to his left where the voice had come from and then almost catapulted himself back over his chair as he saw standing, right there, a tall man in a dark green business suit, pastel green shirt and a thin, vivid green, knitted tie. He had slicked-back pomaded hair and a pencil moustache. His eyes seemed almost to twinkle.
‘Wuh, wuh, …,’ Anthony stammered as he struggled to right himself.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ He finally managed to say.
‘Sorry to startle you Anthony, I’m Mr Green and I’m here because you invited me.’ The man nodded his head towards the right of Anthony.
Following the stranger’s gaze Anthony’s eyes came to rest on a slender bottle at the edge of the desk, half full of a bright green liquid. There was a puzzled look on his face and then a moment of realisation.
‘Ah Absinthe, that was what it was. So you’re a hallucination or a dream more likely.’
‘Yes,’ said Mr Green as if trying out a phrase in his head, ‘a hallucination, if you wish. If that is helpful.’
‘Shouldn’t you be a little green fairy with wings?’
Mr Green raised an eyebrow and ignoring the question stooped to pick up the discarded sheet of paper. He held it between finger and thumb and wrinkled his nose as he examined it.
‘You are a writer, I see.’
‘Ha! I used to like to think so.’ Anthony snorted with derision. Mr Green read more of the smudged printing.
‘Ah, a little lacking in inspiration perhaps. Well I’ve helped a few literary types in my time.’ With that he leant forward and whispered in Anthony’s ear. The strong sweet aniseed smell assaulted Anthony’s nose and he was about to withdraw but he found Mr. Green’s words strangely hypnotic.
Anthony woke again a few hours later, or was it for the first time? He had a vague recollection of a strange dream but he couldn’t quite bring it to mind. He scratched his aching face and was about to head for the bathroom when an idea came unbidden into his mind.
He activated his computer and started writing immediately, the words flowed effortlessly and the idea was strong and vivid in his mind. His fingers struggled to keep up with him and he felt a rising tension in his chest as though the words would burst right out from him. Finally after a few hours of intense activity he fell back in his chair and looked at his work. There on the screen was a whole chapter, finished. He scanned over the prose; it was tight, strong, expressive. It was good. He felt none of the usual revulsion upon reviewing his work and finding it failed to capture even a hint of the half-formed ideas that passed for his usual creativity.
The phone rang and he answered instinctively.
‘Hello Tony, it’s Patricia. Just thought I’d check in. Well, you know just in case...,’ the voice trailed off.
‘What? Oh yes, Patricia. It’s going well. A whole chapter done today.’
‘Really? That’s excellent news. Your muse is back then, Tony?’
Anthony’s eyes drifted over to the bottle on the edge of his desk and his brows knitted together.
‘My muse. Well, yes, maybe.’
‘I won’t keep you. I’ll get on to Random House, let them know. Well done Tony, hope this is it. Keep going.’
‘Ok Patricia. Thanks, bye.’
He put down the receiver and rested both palms on his desk. With a determined movement he got up and crossed the lounge to the bathroom. An hour later he emerged in a dressing gown, towelling dry his short-cropped black hair as he eyed his desk with the computer, a few crumpled sheets of paper and the half-empty bottle of absinthe on it. He walked over and scrolled the mouse back up the screen to review his work. Still good, he was pleased and surprised to find.
He unscrewed the bottle of absinthe and poured himself a generous measure into the glass beside it that still bore the sticky green residue of the previous night’s imbibing. He raised it to his lips and the aniseed scent seemed to bypass his olfactory sense and register directly in his brain. He downed the shot and felt the warm glow spread through his chest. He savoured the tingling feeling and then sat down at the desk, his hands resting lightly on the keys of his computer keyboard. He breathed deeply and squinted at the screen waiting for the words to come. None did. Damn! Damn and blast! He snatched up the absinthe bottle and poured another shot that he downed in one, then another and another. He slammed the glass back down on the desk harder than he intended. His chest was on fire and his throat ached but now he was starting to see the words form. He began typing again, furiously.
Anthony woke up face down on top of his bed; he fumbled for the alarm on the bedside table and pressed the silver snooze button but the beeping noise continued. He sat up and looked around, blinking with the light. After a few moments he realised the beeps were coming from his ansaphone and he got up to go to the machine. As he groped his way into the lounge he tried to remember how he got to his bed but he couldn’t recall. He remembered working on the novel, yes that was going well. That was all that really mattered, he decided.
He pressed play on the ansaphone.
‘Message one: Err…hello….it’s me. Your mother. Anthony I hate these machines. Just ringing to see how you are. Give me a ring when you get chance. My number is 01…..’ Anthony pressed the next button.
‘Message two: Tony, you dog! Not still recovering surely? Mind you, bit of a sesh I must admit. Harry by the way. What you need is the hair of the dog. Or a whole bloody dog. Call me.’
‘No more messages.’
Another night out with Harry? Could he cope? Mind you, they could go back to that place that sold the absinthe. Anthony gave his mother a quick call and assured her he was indeed fine, better than fine in fact. The novel was really coming along and he was off out with Harry to celebrate.
The night out with Harry was just as raucous as the one two days before and Anthony enjoyed it just as much but he did have to be a little insistent that they finished the night in the little dive they’d been to previously.
Anthony stumbled over the threshold of his flat around three a.m. He placed a three-quarter full bottle of absinthe on the desk next to his computer. He thought about sitting down to write but he realised he was far too drunk for that, but in the morning, then Mr. Green’s inspiration would strike, he was sure.
So it proved to be. When Anthony woke around midday, though his head pounded it also buzzed with ideas. When thirst, hunger and his bladder finally got his attention he stopped typing. Having dealt with his pressing physical needs he reviewed his day’s work and again judged himself pleased with it.
Very quickly a routine emerged. On waking Anthony would go straight to the computer and work on his novel and in the evenings he would relax with a glass or two, or three, of absinthe. Sometimes, having revised a particularly difficult scene he might celebrate with a glass at lunchtime and once or twice he’d felt the need to kick-start his day with a small glass of his emerald muse, but that was ok, as long as the words came it was all ok.
The days and weeks passed, finally the novel was finished and sent off to the editor and that called for a particularly special celebratory drink. The next day however Anthony found he still had ideas buzzing round his head and so he began work on his next novel almost immediately.
The ansaphone blinked its message full light and the post lay unopened in the hall but Anthony kept on writing. He hardly ever left the flat. The few times he did go out he made sure he dropped in at a little specialist off-licence he had found that sold a certain liqueur.
Returning from one such rare outing he noticed a letter in particular on the mat. His name was printed in gold lettering on the front and as he picked it up he felt the heft and stiffness of the contents. This was no circular.
The day of the awards came and Anthony looked at himself in the mirror in the gents of the Grand Hotel. Somehow the dinner jacket and bow tie failed to have their usual smartening effect. Lifeless, bloodshot eyes gazed back at him, his skin was splotchy with razor burn and he still had a few sprouting hairs along his jaw line. He had suffered for his art, he told himself.
He should get back to his table. The awards would be handed out soon. Not that the company was very inspiring. He’d been stuck with a bunch of literary apparatchiks, copy editors and marketers, not true creatives like himself. He’d asked around to see who wanted to be his “plus one” but people were either busy or didn’t get back to him. With a final check in the mirror Anthony headed back to the banqueting hall.
The master of ceremonies’ speech was winding up, Anthony sat down in his chair and looked to the podium. His moment was approaching.
‘…..and so we come to the awards themselves. Fittingly we start with the award for best debut novel.’ The MC opened a large golden envelope and announced, ‘The winner is Anthony Ford for “Timescapes.” Ladies and gentleman, Anthony Ford.’
A strong round of applause broke out round the room and Anthony squeezed between the chairs of the two nearest tables and mounted the steps to the stage. The applause died down as he stood by the podium. The MC leaned into the microphone whilst glancing off into the wings.
‘Here to present the award, head of our sponsors, Fée Promotions, Mr. Green…’
Anthony’s head snapped up on hearing that name and out of the shadows walked a familiar figure. This time dressed in a dark green dinner jacket with vivid green cummerbund but there was no mistaking the slicked-back hair, twinkling eyes and pencil moustache.
‘Congratulations, Anthony,’ Mr Green said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, ‘this is so what you deserve.’
The room faded out of Anthony’s vision as a single follow-spot lit just him and Mr. Green.
‘You…but…how? Why?’ Anthony stammered, his shoulders slumped. The room, which had been silent from the moment of Mr. Green’s appearance, now echoed the sharp sound of a single person’s slow handclap.
‘Bravo. Bravo,’ came a familiar deadpan voice from the auditorium. Anthony shielded his eyes to look out into the room and there on his feet amidst the seated dinners was another man in a green dinner suit. The same hair and moustache, it could have been Mr. Green’s twin.
There was a scraping of chairs as more people got to their feet to join the accolade but as Anthony peered out he saw they were all dressed in the same green dinner jackets and cummerbunds, all had the same moustache and twinkling eyes.
Anthony slumped to the floor, his hands clasped round his knees, tears streaming down his cheeks. His breath came in quick gulps. The multitude of Mr Green’s advanced upon the stage.