A Character Arrives

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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Drenching summer rains have chased away most of the tourists, except for a few large families staying at the hotel. With the Tournament on hiatus, the resort town is devoid of celebrity.

We’re in an upstairs suite in the hotel. Rustic, not elegant– everything wood– with a porcelain water pitcher on a round table, a green-patterned rug on the hardwood floor. My co-editor naps on the sofa, under a blanket. We were up late.

The Tournament is on hiatus because we’ve hit an impasse over the #3 seeds. Three of the four names are set. We can’t make up our minds over the remaining name, are dissatisfied with either choice: Henry James or William Faulkner. Names dictated by reputation and body of work. Unsatisfying nevertheless. Someone else? Scratched-out names on a piece of paper on the nearby desk. My colleague looks at me with Collette eyes.

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Down below, a stranger enters the hotel’s empty saloon, carrying a single valise. He’s dressed oddly for the town and time of year, in fedora and cape. The visitor has a neatly-trimmed black moustache on his beige face, from which stare penetrating black eyes. The eyes carry an expression of disbelief.

“They told me to take a bus past a broken tower, then transfer. I became lost. But, I’m here.”

He pauses for a moment, as if the timing of his phrases is important.

“I thought I might be late. I see that I’m not.”

The bartender is just setting up, but prepares to take the man’s order. A tinny piano echoes from an attached room. The arrival steps to the bar with a deliberate walk, like that of a stage actor. The walk seems affected– maybe only because of the cape.

“May I smoke?” he asks, taking a cigarette from a case.

He speaks with a polite southern drawl. The bartender gestures to him that he can.

A few weeks ago this room raged with noise– with personalities like Hemingway pounding fists on the bar, and challenging strong townsmen to arm-wrestle. While charismatic pretty women like our own commentator Emily D looked on with surprised amusement. Now it’s quiet, save for the stray keys of the piano. The stranger takes a seat at the bar, instantly feeling– and looking– at home.

What does the arrival portend?

We’re not sure, are not much concerned. We have two budding controversies to attend to first before we return to these exotic, egoistic, churlish and childish writers.

 

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