Having trudged up five flights of stairs to the fifth
floor of the public library in his all-season flex-notch
lace up boots, he bypassed the cubicle section and located
a table that seats four. He unpacked a book, several magazines,
and a notepad from his messenger bag. He spread the periodicals
on the table, claiming ("reserving") the entire
space as his own. After which, he removed his coat, placing
the comfy down feather filled double-stitched waterproof
fabric around the back of the poorly cushioned chair.
Taking a pen from the breast pocket of his wrinkled, unbuttoned
collar, cotton long sleeve shirt, he sat in the chair,
slid the notepad in front of him, rested his left arm
beside the bound paper in preparation to write the phrase:
"Given the circumstances of the circumstantial details...."
Now jotted, scribbled as if a rough sketch for a tableau
painting, was the phrase the proper starting point for
a mystery novel, he thought to himself--or was the phrase
the final words of an epilogue to a cynically toned, farcical
novel about a conflicted character who worked behind the
scenes as a fixer, for a . . . prominent and private consulting
firm? What were the "circumstances"? Were they
life and death, security or insolvency; were they loyalty
and betrayal, a perspective spin or an prospect smear?
What game did he want the plot to play?
He began to sketch out the main characters and the relationships
that would create "the circumstances of the circumstantial
details." He decided that dietary habits would compose
their personalities, their physiques, the sociableness
that fed their brains and nourished their minds: the spices
of life, saltiness, sugar rushes, caffeine highs, a full
stomach, a flat tummy, piquant tastes, bold flavors, alcohol
driven stupors, liquor induced lunacy. These habits in
various combinations would be used to conflict the characters.
Mike [the fixer]: coffee (plain); beer; cheeseburger
and fries, ketchup on the burger, no mayo or mustard,
lettuce/tomato/onion left on the plate, pickle (spear,
not chips). Sam's buddy--unclear whether the relationship
is based on his current employment situation or his friendship/camaraderie
having played on a sports team together in college: Baseball?
Lucy [the love interest]: drinks like a fish (both wine
and water); all organic (steamed vegetables, salads);
primarily low-carb; likes unpasteurized cheese; favorite
meal includes broiled salmon, crunchy-soft bread dipped
and infused olive oil for dipping. She is Sam's lunchtime
Martha [brilliant, bitterly divorced]: coffee (with cream
and sugar), prefers a triple shot cappuccino; boiled vegetables;
meat cooked well-done; a happy hour professional. Sam's
office colleague at the firm; she is after his clients;
sets him up for a fall.
Sam [management consultant, firm co-founder]: he has
inherited his wealth; has lots of second and third gen
connections; first drink of the day is at lunch (either
a scotch with water, a scotch on the rocks, scotch and
soda, or neat); depends on how he gestures with his hand
when he says, "Gimme a scotch." Lunches occasionally
with Lucy (in a hotel room). Eats protein snacks frequently.
Eats dinner at home late at night (nine-thirty-ish); in
the morning, joins the kids for breakfast.
Beatrice [homemaker, dedicated life partner]: she is
Sam's wife. They were study buddies at college; now she
is his confidant (of sorts). Monday thru Thursday she
eats dinner twice: once with the kids, then with her husband.
She barely shows any weight because she does not eat lunch;
she exercises instead. Their daughter is in elementary
school; son, in middle school. She keeps busy, but is
With the character sketches completed, he slides the
chair away from the table and leans back, stretching his
arms and legs in opposite direction; his body is at a
forty-five degree angle; however, his protruding belly
turns what should be a straight line into an arc. He scoots
his legs and feet back to sit up, then stands. Takes a
deep breath. "Where is the conflict," he asked
Martha and Sam. She is blackmailing him for some reason.
Sam asks Mike to 'fix' the situation. Meanwhile, Lucy
is tired of being the 'side dish'. [NOTE: how did she
and same meet??] Lucy knows Mike too. [Love triangle??]
She uses him to make Sam jealous [Cliché??] Lucy
must be a former client because she knows Martha as well.
Martha is considering who she is going to use to get to
Sam: Lucy or Beatrice. However, Beatrice already knows
about Sam's infidelity. [No-one is aware that she is hip.]
Nevertheless, she likes being a supermom/power broker
wife. Beatrice likes being Sam's confidant. She likes
manipulating people, making suggestions at the frequent
cocktail and dinner parties for clients. She likes controlling
her husband, especially his drinking. Her preference is
to destroy his liver as opposed to a lengthy litigation
for divorce. Beatrice considers 'leaning on' Mike in order
to gain a firm grip on Sam's dealings. [No pun intended.]
He decided to let these conflicts swim in his head for
a while as he went to take a lunch break. He figured he
would need to flesh out some auxiliary characters first.
Hastily he packed his messenger bag and scuttled down
the flights of stairs and out of the library, over to
the eat-in deli. He ordered an American cheesesteak with
fried onions and ketchup, then sat down at a four top
and unpacked his reading materials, planning to work through
lunch at the deli.
"Do you want cherry hots on the side, like usual,"
he heard shouted at him from behind the counter.
"Yeah, and a bag of crab chips. Oh, can I get a
"Hey, you don't have to ask permission," he
He scratched the scruff on his chin before he got up,
scraping the chair stoppers across the ceramic tile floor
while pushing the table away a bit. He maneuvered over
to the sliding door refrigerator and fetched a cold one.