We were lying in the warm wet grass, staring up at the slowly rising full moon. It had rained a bit earlier in the evening, a typical Tucson summer monsoon, but that’s only good for maybe 5 minutes of real rain. Not really much of a benefit, but it does take the edge off the 100-plus degree afternoon temperatures. The ‘sucker was in a contemplative mood, and for a good long while we just lay there in silence.
Eventually my ‘sucker turned to face me. “Tell me about how you found me again.”
“Really? I must’ve told you that story like a million times already. I’m sure you know it backwards and forwards by now.”
“Yeah, but I really like it. It’s sorta like my family history or something.”
“Well, okay. As you know I was downtown for some reason. I can’t really remember why. Must’a had some business down at the city offices or something. Anyhow, I came across an ol’ homeless street bum flying a sign on the sidewalk…”
“Tell me about the sign!” the ‘sucker implored, obviously excited.
“It was just a cardboard sign, not too unusual for a street bum. It said ‘Unemployed author – will work for publishing contract.’”
“I love it! That’s very good, you know”
“Yeah, I like it too. Anyhow, he had the motliest bunch of raggedy creatures sitting around him…”
“Go on, go on! I love this part!” exclaimed the ‘sucker.
“He said you all were his characters. Hard to tell what some of you were. A few looked to be space aliens, maybe a monster or two. A witch, looked like. Just a weird collection.”
“He was a science fiction writer then? Or fantasy maybe?”
”I don’t really know. I’d never heard of the guy. Wasn’t much of a writer anyway since he wasn’t publishing. I asked him about his characters, and he said he was selling you. Beer and cigs, you know.”
“Jeeez. You gotta fall pretty far down as a writer to be selling off your characters for booze.”
“And then?” asked the ‘sucker.
“I asked him how much he wanted for the dog.” I smiled, because I knew this would get a reaction.
The ‘sucker bolted to his feet and started flailing his left arm around in the air, right in front of the slowly rising full moon, yelling, “I am not a dog! And I don’t throw in with them dirty sub-prime bastards either!”
“Settle down, settle down. Never said you were, my friend, never said you were. But you have to admit that you sort of do look like a dog, just a real big, ugly one.”
The ‘sucker sat back down. “No, I don’t. And that’s mean.”
“I’m not going to argue it. Anyhow he said you were too hard to write. I think he said you two had an unworkable business relationship, something like that. He only wanted $25 for you.”
“I’m not hard to write, am I?” the ‘sucker asked.
“Harder than you can ever even imagine. But twenty-five was a little too rich for my blood, so I offered him ten. Plus a can of warm beer I happened to be carrying around. He took it in an instant.”
“Cheap bastard! I’m glad to be rid of him?”
“So that’s how I got you.”
“And now I’m your character, right? And you write me now?”
“Unfortunately,” I said.
“But I do make for good stories, don’t I? I mean, we get along OK don’t we?”
“Your problem, Suckerman, is you just can’t keep your mouth shut when I’m writing you. You have to understand that I am the author here, and you are just a character. You’re supposed to just shut up and keep quiet until I write you to talk. But you keep breaking in with advice on my plots, stuff like that.”
“So? Like this plot sucks. I know that much at least.”
“How so? How does this plot suck?”
“We’re not doing anything but just talking. It’s boring. There’s no plot here, Mister Great Author Man.”
“How would you know?” I asked. “Maybe I just haven’t got to my plot yet.”
“Yeah, and maybe you never will. And why can’t I have a girlfriend? I could use one of those you know.”
“You’re hideous, as you are well aware. There’s no lady ‘sucker who would ever take you. Not in a million years.”
“But you’re the writer. You could just write one in who would like me if you wanted.”
“And I don’t want.”
My ‘sucker stood again. “I want to officially go on the record,” he paused, “I am now officially on the record as being officially mad at you.”
I laughed. The ‘sucker is always going officially on the record about something he doesn’t like. “So noted.”
“But you see,” I said, “As an author I have to be credible. I have a responsibility to my readers to be believable. If I gave you a girlfriend none of them would believe it, and then they wouldn’t buy any more of my books. See how it all works?”
“It still ain’t right. And why can’t we ever do anything interesting?”
“You scare people, Suckerman. Terrify them actually. Remember when I wrote the story where I took you out for dinner at the Mexican restaurant?”
“Yeah, and you dressed me up in the Service Dog vest. That was a fiasco!”
“How else was I gonna get you in? I was pretending to be blind. It was a disaster all around. First they gave us a table way back in the back ‘cause they said you were scaring the children. Then you had to ask for a beer. Scared the holy bejesus out of the poor waitress! First talking dog she’d ever seen, and then you want a beer?”
“I am not a dog!” He was on his feet again.
“Well I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell her what you really are, was I?”
He sat down. “Guess not. But when are you gonna write me a story about what I want to do?”
“Like, I might want to chase the neighborhood pets around and eat them. Maybe eat a small child once in a while. No big deal. That’s what I really do, you know, in real life.”
“Look, Suckerman. You don’t have a real life. You don’t really do anything. In fact, you don’t even really exist. You’re just a character, a figment of my imagination. You only exist when I decide to write you. Is that so hard for you to understand? And the creature that your character is based on? That’s a myth itself. So you don’t exist, like twice. You are only a character, which means you don’t exist. That’s first. And then the creature your character is based on doesn’t exist either. So you don’t exist, twice over!”
“Well I’ll exist as long as you keep writing me…”
“Which may not be a hell of a lot longer at this rate.”
“So when are we going to get to the plot part here anyway?”
“I’m thinking about it.”
“How many words you aiming for?”
“I don’t know, about 1500 I think.”
“How many you got now?”
“Let me look … looks like I’m up to 1203 at my last count.”
“Well get to it then! Times a’ wasting! We need to get to a plot eventually, you know…”
“Maybe this is my plot.”
“What?” The ‘sucker looked confused.
“Maybe my plot is about a discussion with one of my characters. I think some of my readers might be interested in that.”
“That’s a stupid plot! And if any of your readers are interested in that they’re all idiots!”
“How would you know? You can’t even read,” I said.”
“I can’t read only because you don’t write me to read. See how that works?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Can I have a pet?” my ‘sucker asked, changing subjects.
“A pet? Jesus! What would you ever do with a pet?”
“He could keep me company when you aren’t writing me.”
“What kind of a pet?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a big ol’ huge ugly sewer rat. With gnarly teeth. One that eats people, like I do.”
I chuckled. “Like that’s going to draw in any more readers…”
“Yeah, but we won a contest once, right?”
“Actually we did. And that’s sort of funny now that I think about it. That was back when I was your first author. I was the guy flying the sign on the street-corner, selling my characters, remember?”
“You were the homeless bum too?”
“I liked you better back then. Why’d you change?”
“I don’t know. Just wanted to write something a little different, I guess. See, the ‘me’ in our stories is just a character, the same way you are. The ‘me’ I write isn’t the real me, it’s just somebody I made up to be me. I can change the ‘me’ around, just like I can change you around. Easy enough to do, actually.”
The ‘sucker considered this. I couldn’t tell if he was confused or not. “That’s not really fair, you know, that you can change but I can’t.”
“That’s why they call me the author, my friend, and you the character. Anyhow, it’s just about time for bed. Why don’t you get down under the porch and just curl up…”
“I want to go officially on the record as objecting to my participation in this story.”
“And I want the record to reflect that I was here only under extreme duress.”
“Again, so noted.”
“Am I ever going to be able to sleep in the house?”
The ‘sucker started for the porch. “How we doing on words?”
“Looks like we’re up to about 1620.”
“You’re running long.”
“I always do.”
My ‘sucker crawled up under the porch into his burrow. I leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on his snout. “That should just about do it. Good night, Suckerman.”