It’s been awhile, I know. School, and dance, and music, and writing, and reading, and life. It’s all gotten in the way. However, I’m still around, and I’m still wanting to blog even if I don’t really have time.
I was scrolling through all the Daily Prompts I’ve missed when I saw this one, and I couldn’t resist. I also turned this in as an essay for school, which is why I had time to do it.
Daily Prompt for Sept. 8th, 2014: You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?
I sat back in the padded little cafe chair and eyed the stranger carefully. I’d definitely never seen him before, and this, of course, made me nervous. “I don’t, um, believe I know you?” I said it like a question. It was a question, really. If I didn’t know him and he knew me, I had obviously missed something.
He gestured to the chair across from me at the two-seater cafe table. “May I?”
I glanced around, hopefully not making it very obvious what I was doing. There were people everywhere. If he was going to try something, I’d be able to get the attention of several patrons, so I didn’t figure there was anything to worry about. Other than the fact that I was struggling to appear calm, of course. This was the twenty-first century. Stuff like this always happens on the crime shows before the victim is killed. Oh, boy, let’s kill that line of thought, shall we, Cass? That’d be great.
“Of course,” I said, in what I hoped was a gracious manner.
He smiled and sat down. “Are you finished with your meal?”
I glanced at the spot where my empty plates had been stacked, right before the waitress took them away. “Yes, I’m just waiting for my check,” I said.
“Good!” he exclaimed, as though this was some kind if grand development. Oh yeah, I’d definitely missed something.
“Uh, so, to what do I owe this pleasure?” I really needed to work on my delivery of “gracious sounding lines ladies use”. I filed that information away for later.
“All in due time, my dear,” said the stranger. At this moment, the waitress came over with the check. “Ah, sweetheart, would you get me a cup of coffee? And whatever the lady here would like. I’ll be paying her check,” he offered her a disarming smile.
The waitress blushed and glanced away, before nodding and tucking the check into her apron. “Of course sir,” she said. She glanced to me. “What can I get for you?”
I cut my eyes between the stranger and the waitress. I couldn’t decide whether I should tell him I already had the check covered, tell him I was in a hurry, tell him I didn’t want anything else, or just roll with it. On the one hand, free things usually come with strings attached. On the other hand, this really wasn’t the time to be hashing out the financial aspects of his motives.
I ordered a chocolate milkshake. When in Rome, y’know?
“So,” I said, offering the man a smile, “what can I do for you?” Yes, much better delivery, a pointless voice praised in my head.
“You can be patient until our orders come,” he said. And then, he proceeded to make small talk about the weather and the crops this year, and the stock market and the sad state of the panda population and heaven knows what else, and just when I felt I was about to burst, our orders showed up.
He smiled charmingly at the waitress and got her to blush again, and then he turned his attention to me. He smiled at me as I took a sip of my milkshake.
“I’m sure you’re very curious about all this,” he said.
I just managed to keep my eyes from rolling themselves. Understatement of the frazzling year. “A bit, yes,” I agreed sedately. Oh, that is rich, the pointless voice in my head chuckled.
“Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer,” the man said. “My name is Johnny Larson. My friend Elvis Wesley and I have been searching for you.”
I stared at him for a minute, temporarily forgetting that it takes two to tango and I wouldn’t learn any more information if I sat there like a ninnie and gawked.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I blinked and nodded. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry, did I hear that right? Johnny Larson and Elvis Wesley?”
The man chuckled. “We’re from the League of Imposters. We pose as celebrities for a living.”
I nodded slowly. “I see,” I said, even though I really didn’t see at all.
“You probably don’t think I look much like Mr. Carson.”
I shook my head. “No, I must admit, I don’t,” I said.
He chuckled again. “Well, you will. It takes the right clothes and make up. And I have to be in character.”
I nodded silently again.
“We’re here to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
I offered him a tentative smile around my milkshake. “Really,” was all I could think to say. “Who’s ‘we’?
He gestured to a table in the corner. A man who could’ve looked like Elvis, if he was older, skinnier, had a different hairstyle and clothes, and wasn’t texting on his iPhone, waved to me with a goonish grin.
I waved politely back with a smile and turned back to my personal stranger. “What kind of opportunity?”
The man smiled and reached inside his suit jacket. “This is a file you should look at,” he said, drawing out a folder and placing it on the table in front of me.
I opened it, and glanced it over. I saw a picture of a woman with brown hair and eyes, who looked much older than me. Under her picture was the name Laura Elena Harring. Beneath that, several stats.
Born: March 3rd, 1964
I didn’t get any further than that before the man said, “We’ve been searching for her look alike, and I believe we’ve found it in you, Madam.”
I looked up, an incredulous expression on my face that I couldn’t hide. “Me?” I squeaked. “This woman was born in 1964! She’s the same age as my father and I don’t look anything like her!”
The man smiled in a bored fashion, as if he already knew I would say all that. “You can look like her, in a little while. You’ll need to be at least thirty-five before we can begin your impersonations, but you can begin training now.”
I glanced at the sheet again. “This woman is still alive.”
He shrugged. “She won’t always be. If things follow the natural cycle, you’ll outlive her.”
I blinked. How delightful. “Uh, yes. I fail to understand where this is going.”
He sighed. “Madam, please. You will make a million dollars a year if you join this program.” He leaned forward across the table. “You are special. You may be trained to be like this woman. You will be able to have anything you want, whenever you want. You will live a life of luxury. You’ll never have to debase yourself by engaging in menial labor again. All you have to do,” he said as he slid a paper and pen across the table, “is sign this and join the League.”
I stifled a chuckle. Where did they find this guy? “‘Debase myself by-”
“A lady does not debase herself by engaging in menial labor,” he interrupted. “And you certainly are a lady- aren’t you, madam?”
I stared at him for a moment, deciding not to justify that question with a response. “What would this… umm, entail?”
He sat back and grinned at me. “You’ll live in a mansion all to yourself. Anything you want, you’ll have at a moment’s notice. Servants and maids will be available on call. You’ll go to parties and have nice clothes and fancy foods. You can have everything you’ve ever dreamed of owning.” He smiled a little shark like. “A ‘64 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt….. or a Framus AK74 guitar… anything.”
I wondered how he knew what was on the top of my “List of things I want but will never be able to have”. Then again, this guy was pretty odd, so it shouldn’t have surprised me.
“Uh, wow. That all sounds very nice, but…” I thought over my life currently. I worked for minimum wage, rented a bungalow in a small town, drove a VW Beetle that was worse for the wear but driveable. I played a cheap rookie Dean guitar and ate a lot of Ramen noodles.
But it was my life. And I’d made it all by myself, without anyone’s help. I was independant. And I was me.
And here sat a stranger that made me nervous, who apparently knew everything about me, heaven knew how, who was asking me if I wanted to be rich and famous by pretending to be someone else. By giving my freedom to people who would pay me and wait on me and treat me like glass.
Here was the only chance I would ever have to have any of the things I dared allow myself to dream of once in a blue moon.
“Power and glory and fortune and fame
There must be a price you must pay
Where do you go when you know that you’ve gone all the way?”
But I liked my independence, my VW and my bungalow. I never did care much for the name on the tag as long as it looked nice and fit me, and Ramen noodles were just fine with cheese on them. And cheese was pretty cheap.
Power and glory and fortune and fame weren’t worth the price…. not this time, anyway.
I slowly shook my head. “No. No, I’m sorry, Mr. Larson, but I think I’m happy with my life. I don’t believe I can help you.” I slid the papers back across the table.
He stared at them a moment and then looked up at me. “Are you sure, madam? This opportunity will never present itself again.”
I smiled confidently. “I’m sure, sir.”
He sighed and stood up, gathering his papers. “As you wish, my dear.” He said. He nodded to Elvis Wesley, who waved again and headed for the door. Johnny Larson paid my check, as he’d promised, and then turned back to me. He pulled my chair out and offered me a hand. I could obviously stand up on my own, but he was trying to be chivalrous so I accepted it.
He walked me to my car, and I turned to him with a smile when we reached it. He even opened the door for me. I got in, he closed the door, and I rolled down the window. He smiled down at me and said, one last time, “Are you certain, madam?”
I laughed a little and said, “I’m certain, Mr. Larson. Thank you for offering, but the answer is no.”
He touched two fingers to the brim of his fedora. I nodded back to him, still smiling, and he turned and walked away. A limo with a bored looking chauffeur at the wheel pulled up, and another man got out to open the door for the strange Johnny Larson, who climbed in and was spirited away by his staff.
I was about to put my VW in gear and head back to work before my lunch break was over, when my phone rang. I answered it.
“Hello, Miss Cassidy.”
Ah, Grandma was calling.
“Yes?” I said.
“We have a question for you.”
“Oh, really,” I said.
“We can’t find Grandpa’s orange drill, and we’ve looked everyplace. You don’t know where it is, do you?”
I smiled to myself, and even as I rattled off an automatic list of the most likely places to lose a big orange Black and Decker drill in Grandpa and Grandma’s house or pole barn, I thought to myself, This is definitely the life I’d like to keep, Mr. Larson. You’ve no idea what you’re missing.
Lyrics from All The Way by Triumph.
If you understand to what TV Show I refer with the “[blank] does not debase xerself by engaging in menial labor” quote, then I applaud you because you have exquisite taste. ‘Xer’ is a gender neutral term to replace him or her so I don’t give you a hint, by the way.
I hope you liked it! 🙂
You’ve no idea how often Grandma calls me and says “We have a question for you” and then asks me if I know where [thing] is. I have developed automatic answers my now- Say where I last saw the thing, and list the most likely places to lose it, and wish them good luck. It’s very familiar and made for the perfect “life-setter” to stick in this story.
Here’s the song that comes from:
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Every dog will have his day
Those who wait are only wastin’ time
Pray for wisdom – dig for gold
Can’t buy freedom by selling your soul
You gotta be willin’ to give them a piece of your mind
Let a clearer conscience lead you
Don’t let anyone deceive you
When your heart cries out you must obey
Take it all the way, we can make it
All the way, we can take it
All the way, come tomorrow, come what may
Right or wrong? You can’t decide
But the loser pays and the strong survive
So take your shot, give it all you can
You better watch out, you better look around
’cause what goes up is gonna come down
Everybody lives by the law of supply and demand
Once you’ve set a course don’t change it
Luck will come to those who chase it
Don’t let anything get in your way
Power and glory and fortune and fame
There must be a price you must pay
Where do you go when you know that you’ve gone all the way
All the way