Cover art for the Idea Man

Writers get ideas and inspiration from all sorts of places. Often the process seems mysterious. Where does a writer find a muse? Where do you get your ideas? Here is one answer.

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On a Tuesday, at ten in the morning under a bright new sun, the Idea Man materialized on the concrete driveway leading up to the writer’s rumpled split-level home. In the long lines and tight pressed creases of his dark suit the Idea Man managed to combine used car salesman, haughty auctioneer, and mortician. His distinguished gray hair was slicked back and combed, not a strand out of place. In one manicured hand he carried a monogrammed black leather briefcase. With his free hand, he reached up and adjusted his thin red bow tie.

The Idea Man had to close this deal, the powers-that-be had made that perfectly clear. Close this deal or the future as he knew it might not exist. He smiled his best thousand-watt smile and marched smartly up the driveway, across the concrete path to the front door, all the while stepping fastidiously around the cracks sprouting dandelions. He pressed the doorbell buzzer and waited.

The writer opened the door wearing dark gray sweat suit bottoms, a dark green sweat suit top and a gray bathrobe over the top. His dark hair stuck out in unruly directions and stubble covered his face like a case of black mold. The Idea Man held strong to his resolve and didn’t let his smile falter as he stuck out his hand.

“Sir, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

The writer didn’t shake his hand, instead crossed his arms and glared.

Undeterred the Idea Man lifted the briefcase. “I have something here that I think you’ll be interested in.”

“I’m not.” The writer moved to close the door.

The Idea Man put his hand out on the door. “Wait, sir, please! I’ve come from the future to help you.”

The writer squinted at him. “Future?”

“That’s right.” The Idea Man hoisted the briefcase again. “Please, five minutes. You won’t regret it.”

“Hell, I haven’t had my dose of crazy today. I’ll give you two minutes before I sling you out on your ass if you’re wasting my time.”

“That’d be fine, sir.”

Books dominated the inside of the writer’s home. The Idea Man couldn’t look anywhere without seeing books. Packed bookshelves lined the walls of the front room and shorter shelves blocked off the room from the stairs leading up and down to the different levels of the house. More books crowded the built-in shelves lining the stairs and ahead, down the narrow aisle between the front room and the stairs, the Idea Man saw even more shelves lining the walls around a dining room table swallowed by stacks of books. In the center of the front room squatted a worn wood table mostly covered with books except for a small pocket for a computer monitor. Two big leather chairs slumped beside the windows with books covering the small coffee table between them. The writer went into the front room and dropped heavily into the far chair. The Idea Man took the second chair and when it threatened to swallow him whole, he struggled up and perched on the edge with the briefcase balanced on his lap.

“Well?” the writer demanded. “How the hell do you plan to help me?”

“Ideas! Best-selling high concept ideas. Ideas from the future! No more struggling while you face the blank page. With these ideas you’ll write prescient stories that thrill and amaze your readers.”

The writer stared.

“Sir, this opportunity —”

“Opportunity? That’s what you’re going with? An opportunity? And what? I suppose you’ll want to split the money of anything I write with these ideas?”

“There are costs and hazards associated with time travel, of course, and our detailed outlines —”

“Outlines!” The writer jumped from his chair with such vehemence that the Idea Man shrank back into the chair that had threatened to swallow him. The writer jabbed a finger at the computer on the table in the middle of the room.

“I’ve got a book in progress on that machine. Over there in the dining room I’ve got another one going and a third downstairs in the living room! I have stories coming out of my ears upstairs in the small bedroom. Don’t even get me started on the projects in the basement because I haven’t been able to get down there in weeks! I’ve got so many fucking ideas that it isn’t humanly possible to write them all!”

The Idea Man tried to rally his courage. “But these ideas are based on future developments in science and technology!”

The writer lunged forward, grabbed the Idea Man by the arms and hauled him up out of the chair. He shoved him toward the door. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the future! I make my own goddamn future!”

At the door, the Idea Man turned around. “I don’t think you understand the value of these ideas. If you’d let me show —”

“Tell me this, if your ideas are so fucking fantastic why don’t you sit your ass in a chair and write the goddamn stories yourself?”

“I’m an idea man, not a writer!”

The writer wrenched the door open and shoved the Idea Man outside. The door slammed shut behind him. For several seconds the Idea Man stood on the porch, blinking at the blinding sunlight before he faded away like the ideas he carried.

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908 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 92nd short story release, written in December 2010.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Next up is my story, Under the Bridge.