Early Morning Conversation with the Muse


When I stumble through the dark about five o’clock every morning and sit down at my machine, the Muse is always sitting there in the corner, in the shadows, sipping a cup of hot coffee I made the night before and smoking a cigarette even though he knows I have no ash trays and don’t allow smoking in the house.

He doesn’t care.

He doesn’t have to.

He’s the Muse.

He drinks his coffee black.

I use creamer.

“Sissy,” he says.

“I like hazelnut,” I say.

“I rest my case,” he says.

The Muse has had a job in my house for a long time now.

He doesn’t do much.

But he costs less than a shrink.

And, unlike a shrink, he gives advice.

I can take it.

Or leave it.

The Muse doesn’t care.

He doesn’t get paid for results.

“I’m beginning a new serial next week,” I tell him.

“You just finished two,” he says.

“I already miss them.”

“You’re crazy,” he said.

Unlike a shrink, the Muse will call you names.

He’s usually right.

“I need to start another one,” I say.

“Got any ideas?”


“Got a main character?” he asks.

Foreign-Correspondent“I’m using the guy from the last one I wrote,” I say.

“You can’t use the preacher,” he says. “The preacher got himself shot and killed.”

I nodded.

“It’s from the other novel,” I say. “Secrets of the Dead.”

“You mean you’re bringing back the crazy one?” he asks.

I nod.

“He reminds me a little of you,” the Muse says.

“We think a lot alike,” I say.

“You better.” The Muse laughs. “You’re the one putting words in his mouth,” he says. “Is he a spy?”

“He says he isn’t.”

“What does he think he is?”

“A fixer.”

“And what do you say he is?’

“I’m not sure.” I shrug. “He buries a lot of things,” I say.

“A grave digger?”

“He’s no stranger to a shovel.” I pour another cup of coffee, add the hazelnut, watch him grimace, and I say, “I could use a little help.”

He pauses, thinks  it over for a moment, then asks, “You got a time frame for this novel?”

“Around the start of World War II.”

“It’s a war story?”


“But the Nazis are the bad guys,” he says.

“The Nazis make good bad buys,” I say.

“You shoot ‘em, and nobody cries.”

“That’s about it.”

“Where does this non-war-story war story take place?”

“I don’t know.”

“So what do you need from me?”

“A story.”

“That’s over thinking it,” the Muse says. “Just start typing and wait for the story to show up. It’ll be there.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Why not?”

“I have to write a new chapter every day,” I say.

“There’s nothing to it,” he says.

“What makes you say that?”

“Do you remember what I told Stephen King?” the Muse asks.

I shake my head.

“I sat down on his shoulder every morning,” he says, “and I would whisper a nugget of inspiration in his ear.”

“What’d you tell him?” I asked.

“I’d say, it’s time to write, you sonuvabitch.”

And so it was.


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