Chapter Twenty

   There was a small luncheonette just around the corner from the courthouse, and that's where I found myself, along with a tuna sandwich, a small bag of chips, and a Diet Coke -- the first product endorsement to appear here, by the way, something to consider at the next meeting. (Hmm... it's possible -- Ed.)
   I worried about leaving Abe alone with a slick operator like Nutwick and a judge who used to be my boss at the bank that I may or may not riddle with bullets some day. But, then again, I'm not a lawyer. I took a long, refreshing sip of Diet Pepsi and speculated about the outcome of this trial, and this book.
   Would I be allowed to retain creative control of the ideas, the content, the characters, the words? Or, after being offered a generous out-of-court financial settlement, would I buckle in and agree to let them do whatever they want? Tough one. Mmm, these Granny Goose Potato Chips are tops!
   I noticed how I was the last one in the luncheonette, a sign that court would soon be back in session, What the hell, let's just jump ahead a few minutes, I mean, you don't want to read about me paying for a tuna sandwich, chips, and a tall, cool, refreshing Diet A&W Root Beer, do you? I didn't think so.
   Back in the courtroom I had the feeling things would soon be resolved. For one, I'm bored with the court scene. Plus, what is all this but another stalling tactic, a delay, a detour, a series of similar-meaning adjectives linked in series for the sole purpose of stalling for even more time?
   "All rise." Judge Butler entered and sat down. Nutwick was already at his table, and Abe -- Abe? Where was he? The judge looked down at me, apologetically.
   "Mr. Reynolds? I must apologize to you for a terrible mistake, a miscarriage of justice, really."
   "How's that, your Honor?"
   "Your lawyer, Mr. Lincoln, whom I admire greatly, well -- I accidentally broke him."
   "You 'broke' him?" I asked, not knowing what he meant, although of course I knew, or know, but -- well, you know what I mean. (What? -- Ed.)
   "I had to break a five in order to pay for lunch," the judge admitted contritely. "However, Mr. Reynolds, since your lawyer is no longer available, and since you're bored with this scene, I declare this case a mistrial. You can all go home." And with that, he banged his gavel, removed his robes, and headed off to his other job at the bank.
   We all screamed "Yay-y-y-y-y-y-y!" like school children and ran outside to play kick ball, and dodge ball, and punch ball, and even box ball. It was a wonderful time, and no one who was there will ever forget it.
   But I digress, so watch out. Any requests?
   "Let's see more of Maureen."
   Who said that? Come on, out with it.
   "Hi, Jim."
   Hi, Maureen. Now, do you really want to get involved in all this again? I am unpredictable you know.
   "I know. But even looking for Nazis off the coast of Maine or San Diego is better than nothing. I mean, nothing is exactly what it says it is. Now I know -- and anyone who has ever been a fictional character knows -- when you ain't there, you ain't there. You just ain't."
   Ain't? I get your point. But it's a little difficult for me to have sympathy for a fictional character, even a nice one like yourself. You don't feel, or bleed, or hurt, or die. You don't have to go out and find work, sometimes menial labor, just to eat and survive. You don't suffer the nightmares of guilt and flashbacks of terror and torment from childhood traumas -- of things you can't imagine, because -- because you can't imagine. You see, the point is, Maureen, I like you, but you're not real. You're just not. So, no matter how much I admire, and appreciate, and sometimes depend upon you, I'm still a little reluctant to get any closer -- closer than the traditional relationship an author has with his characters. But, then, I could be convinced otherwise.
   "That was a very nice speech, Jim. And you make a good if somewhat passionless case for not getting more involved with your characters. And yet, I don't buy it. Not for a minute. I don't believe that somebody as aimless and uncertain and scattered and, well, helpless as yourself, wouldn't want -- wouldn't need -- the friendship of someone who understands him, even if that someone is a figment of his own imagination."
   And that was a nice speech, too, Maureen. You're so eloquent.
   "Oh, please, cut the crap."
   But, what I think we should discuss is, how much of you is me, and how much of you is you?
   Are you able to speak and act on your own?
   "I think so. If you'd just give me the chance we could find out."
   True. Although it'll be tough convincing whoever is still reading this that "you" aren't just "me" in "you" clothing, or something like that.
   "Look, Jim, there may be a bigger question sitting over all of this. And that question is -- "
   I know -- stop -- don't say it.
   "You're afraid of it, aren't you?"
   Wouldn't you be afraid?
   "How would I know? she said sarcastically, providing her own character description -- since he won't."
   Who says I won't? Look, let's not discuss it now, okay? It's too early.
   "It's later than you think."
   Did you just say that? Ugh.
   "You're wasting time. And ink. And paper. Why don't you just let me do whatever it is I would do if you would just let me do it, or, um, I don't know."
   Well put. Okay, let's see what happens. Go ahead.
   I guess we'll find out now, won't we?

(This ends Chapter Twenty.)

Chapter Twenty-one