I have to say, this is one of my favourite short pieces. It was so much fun writing and I am sure, at some point in the future, Marylin and Gordon may just make another appearance.
I was sitting at my desk, reading over my first draft, again. I am calling it my first draft, but in reality, it is just a pile of notes and rough plot guides put into chronological order, (sort of), with a few added scribbles here and there.
In fact, the whole thing is a bit of a mess. But hey, you have to start somewhere.
Even as rough and messy as this draft was I could still see promise in its outline. The places I used in the story were mostly real places, like my office; only instead of being in the rear of my house, the fictional office was on the second floor of a run-down building in the centre of the city and it was not ‘my’ office in this story, but Gordon’s.
Gordon is a private eye, one of the old ‘gumshoe’ tradition.
I was happy with the other characters too, particularly Marilyn the demure blond bombshell. (Think Marylin Monroe. Okay, not so original but perfect for my story.)
Only Marilyn had an ulterior motive in seeking Gordon’s help; there was something from her past, something hidden, something bad which was now creeping up on her. I was not sure what it was yet but it was there, smouldering under the surface, as was Marilyn’s sensuality.
I know this format, the gorgeous (blond) girl, the private detective, who was down on his luck as far as the whiskey was down the in the bottle, add a hint of foreboding and sex… it was nothing new. It was a tried and tested structure of many books. Yet, as I re-read my draft I knew I have something special here. This was a nineteen fifties style novel, a pulp fiction, stiletto-esque paperback being brought up to date, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. (at least, I hope that is how it will turn out.)
I knew it was not going to be any ordinary story because, even to me, the writer, the creator of this fantasy, there was an element of surreal fact, a touching, almost tangible reality to this tale.
By the time I re-read through the manuscript as far as chapter five, making margin notes and a few changes along the way, my eyes were weary and my mouth parched. It was time for a break, a cigarette and a coffee. I would dearly have loved a double Scotch too, but it was way too early for that.
I leant back in my chair, stretched my back, listening to those small creaks and cracks as bones and tendons moved for the first time in hours. I pressed save. There was no way I was trusting all my work to auto-save, not again. I closed the file and picked up the ceramic mug, which my daughter bought me for Father’s Day and walked out of the office.
My mind was still racing with thoughts of the story, what steps Marylin should take next and would Gordon listen seriously? So, it took me three, maybe four steps before I realised something strange was happening. I stopped, blinked twice, looked left and then right, rubbed my eyes and looked again.
I was no longer in my home. I was not in even in my house.
I was in that run-down office building in the city, on the second floor, outside the gumshoes office, the very office, the very building I created in my mind while writing my book.
This was impossible. I must be sleeping. I must have fallen asleep at my desk and this was all in my dream.
I pinched myself. It hurt. I was not sleeping.
‘Where’s Gordon?’ Her husky voice drifted along the dimly lit corridor. I knew without looking, without turning around it was Marilyn.
Her voice was exactly how I imagined it would be.
The click-click of stiletto heels echoed as she came closer, each step sending a shiver of expectation and bemused wonderment down my spine.
I turned around to face her.
‘What have you done with Gordon?’ she asked.
‘Nothing,’ I said, shaking my head.
I could not believe I was talking to a figment of my imagination.
‘You’ve deleted most of him, you’ve deleted those paragraphs.’ Marilyn, I noticed was shorter than I envisaged her to be. I would have to do something about that.
‘I haven’t deleted them, I have saved them, I need to re-work them,’ I spoke defensively.
Here I was in some sort of netherworld, talking about the book I am writing, a work in process, with a fictional character who, as of this moment only existed within my mind.
Yet, it all seemed so real.
I could smell Marilyn’s scent. It was Coco Channel, No 5.
Marilyn slid a long, thin pink cocktail cigarette from a gold case, placed it between her bright red lips and lifted her head towards my own. Automatically, I reached into the pocket of my jacket and took out my cigarette lighter. I always use a disposable lighter, because I am constantly losing them, but here, in this twilight world, I acquired a heavy gold, Du Maurier.
Unperturbed, I held it towards Marilyn, watching the flames light as it reflected in the deep blue pools of her eyes. Marilyn closed those bright red lips around the gold covered filter and drew in deeply until the tip of her pink Sobranie was glowing red.
She managed to turn this simple act into one of sexual suggestion, of illicit promise, a hint of a secret shared.
‘Thank you,’ she sighed, blowing out a perfect ring of blue smoke that meandered lazily upwards, spiralling towards the glass orbs of the industrial lighting suspended from the vaulted ceiling.
‘I’m making some coffee,’ I said, holding up my mug as if to justify the statement. My own cheap ceramic mug had disappeared. It had been replaced by a brown glazed cup.
I was not disturbed, but rather fascinated by the fact.
Marilyn smiled. I could not help but notice the way her head tilted to the right as she did. I found it quite endearing. It was something I would have to write into her character.
‘I’ll wait inside,’ she said and clicked her way along the hall towards the office door.
I had never been here before, never imagined this part of the building, yet somehow I knew the coffee was made in a small room further along this corridor. The doorway would be on my right. A small plaque would be etched with the legend ‘still room.’
When I returned to my (Gordon’s) office, Marilyn was sitting on my (Gordon’s) chair behind the desk. I sat on one of the two chairs facing the desk. (one of two chairs I do not have.) As I placed the coffee cups on the table I noticed my laptop was now an old, clunky looking Imperial Typewriter. Chrome metal, black keys inlaid with discoloured ivory coloured letters. I said an inwardly silent prayer to the gods of digital storage; when (and if), I ever returned to the ‘real’ world, I asked that all my work would still exist.
Marilyn tossed a pile of papers towards me. Dark blue carbon paper slipping from between sheets of typewritten foolscap.
‘That will never work,’ she said dismissively, waving one hand in the air.
I picked up the sheets of typewritten copy. This was my story, Marilyn’s story, Gordon’s story. These papers were sections of the manuscript of my book.
‘What do you mean, this is brilliant.’
‘Oh please, Paul,’ Marilyn walked around the desk, placed a hand on the back of my neck and lent forward. I could feel the silky talcum powder softness of her cheek, pressing against mine as she rested her chin on my shoulder.
‘Look,’ said Marilyn, running a long ruby painted fingernail along the lines of text, ‘That’s far too modern to be taken seriously, what on earth were you thinking?’
Slowly and deliberately Marilyn read my story out aloud. It was strange hearing her voice, the smoky, sexy, husky voice which I created, reading out my story line by line.
I had to hand it to her, like many writers I convinced myself I was writing a masterpiece. I was so wrapped up, so involved in my work I failed to see the flaws, failed to step back and read it for what it was, a piece of work which not only needed a lot of heavy editing but needed an entire overhaul, to be re-worked altogether.
When Marilyn got to the fifth chapter, I had had enough.
I held up my hands in surrender.
Marilyn casually tossed the manuscript back onto the desk, the sheets of paper sliding into disarray.
Turning my head, I looked at her. ‘You are right, I have a lot of work to do to get this right.’ I admitted.
‘Yes, you have, but I know you can do it.’ Marilyn placed one hand on the side of my head, turning it towards her, she kissed me. It was a sweet taste of smoked honey, smeared with a waxiness of deep red lipstick and scented with face powder.
‘You must do it,’ she said, ‘If not, both Gordon and I shall die.’
It was a point, like so many, I had not considered.
‘I must go now. I must let you concentrate,’ Marilyn winked at me and click-clicked out of the office.
Looking back at me over her shoulder she said, ‘Please, don’t let us down. I don’t want to die yet, not yet, not when I have never fully lived.’
I listened to the sound of her stiletto’s fading away into the distance as she walked the length of the corridor.
Placing my hands over my eyes, I let my forehead rest on the desk while I tried to assimilate what was occurring. How in the name of all possibility have I wandered into my own fictional world?
My next recollection is the knocking on the office door. Looking up I rather tetchily shouted ‘Yes, yes, come in’.
My wife entered with a freshly brewed mug of coffee.
‘You have been in here for so long, I thought you would need a drink by now’ she said, looking at me quizzically.
Placing my own cheap ceramic mug, full of steaming coffee on the table, I watched as she collected the two brown nineteen fifties style cups from my desk.
I looked around, my office was as it should be. It was back to normal, my laptop sat in the centre of my desk, notepads, pens and my mobile phone lay where they belonged. I must have nodded off after all. It must have been a dream, but the brown cups my wife had just collected… maybe we had them all along?
I walked to the door and opened it, cautiously peering out, both left and right, before daring to set foot outside. Thank goodness, I was still at home and not in some imaginary corridor. I headed for the bathroom, where I ran a bowl of hot water, ready to wash the tiredness from my face.
In the mirror, I saw the face powder on the shoulder of my jacket where Marilyn had rested her chin. There was also a smudge of bright red lipstick on my left cheek. I could also detect the lingering scent of Coco Channel, No 5.
© Paul White 2018
I hope you enjoyed that short tale? If so why not check out my longer short stories, my ‘Novelettes’ at Electric Eclectic books HERE
You will find plenty of captivating stories to choose from myself and my fellow Electric Eclectic authors.
Go take a peek, now 🙂