Writing came easy. Before the deal. When it was just me nothing had to be perfect. Now it haunts me to the letter. I write handcuffed, knowing a deadline lurks. Editors loom. My family persists. So I’m left with nothing.
I close my laptop. This isn’t working. My little office. My old town. What was I thinking? That I could come home, here, and just let the greatness ooze from my soul? I used to write in phone booths, on the bus. In the train and in laundromats. Bathrooms. But now I’m a real writer. With an office. So why does it feel like a prison cell?
I get outside, look to the real world for inspiration. The real world is entirely too bright. So I head to Brody’s, down the block. Wood paneling. Sticky surfaces. HI-FI no WI-FI. Now we’re cracking.
It’s 2:20, I grab a Guinness. Coffee time, I take a booth in the back. Something’s different about the place. Same stools, same unbalanced tables with the names carved into them. Same stale smells, but…different.
My writing however? Nothing different there. It’s still shit.
I slam my laptop shut. My book has hit a wall. Big wall, like a border keeping out any migrating thoughts. A wedge of light as the door opens with a whine. Sunshine floods into the bar. I stand up and, holy shit.
Ryan Morgan, Brody’s little girl all grown up and—suddenly I’m up and she’s crashing into me for a hug—strong.
“How are you?” I ask, looking her over, wondering how in the hell Brody’s little barfly waif became, this.
“I’m good,” she says,” wiping back a stay bang. Short hair, boy’s name, yet, remarkably female. She gives me a shove. “Congrats on the book deal, Dad keeps me up to date on all the old trouble makers.”
“Yeah, well…” Writer. I haven’t written a thing in a week.
Brody rushes out and puts another pint in my hand. I can still see her back in the day. I was leaving for school, she was twelve or thirteen, legs mangled with scrapes and bruises. Braces. Girls used to call her bar wench until the boys couldn’t stop staring. Now, she’s maybe 27, last I heard she’d married that piece of shit Tate Gringley.
A motherless girl from day one, Brody gives her a bear hug. “She’s taking over the bar.”
Ryan shrugs, her smile a show of cynical cheeriness. “It’s what I know best.”
She’d grown up in here, cracked more than a few jaws when wayward hands roamed too far. There is no doubt in my mind that she could kick my ass. So yeah, it makes sense.
We spend some time catching up until the regulars arrive. They ask about the terrace outside and Ryan explains that she’s “expanding the menu.” I take a seat as Bob Marley shakes the cobwebs from the speakers. No one says a word. I look up and see Ryan over bobbing her head. This is not your father’s Irish pub.
Suddenly I’m energized. I switch to water, otherwise known as Miller Lite at Brody’s, but the words come, they come crashing down on me. I get a week’s worth of stuff in, enough to pass along to my agent. Enough to let her know I’m working.
I take to my new office. Same table, same time. Ryan sits and talks with me in the afternoons until happy hour. I ask when they put in the windows. She tells me she cleaned them. She talks about moving to Boston, her divorce, Tate’s cheating. She rolls her eyes, laughs a wet laugh, wipes her eyes. Apologizes. Then she’s off to tend bar.
Nearly a year later. My book signing. Another first at Brody’s. The wood paneling is long gone. Gutted to the brick. Open mic nights, acoustic guitars. The regulars shake their heads but love it all the same. Bob blares over the speakers and Ryan sits across from me, eyes glittering.
I slide her a copy of my book.
She opens it and her mouth falls open. Over her shoulder, at the bar, Brody gives me a thumbs up.
Ryan smiles, shakes her head with a giggle. “No.”
Fully expected. I shrug. “I’ll do it again. I’ll keep dedicating my books to our marriage proposal.”
“I’ll keep saying no.”
I shrug again. Sip my Guinness. See the whole world swimming in the eyes across the table. It’s good to be home.