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"A Character Study" by Francois Bereaud

Angie has a small part in my unpublished novel. Her daughter, Mindy, is the catalyst in the novel and the second protagonist as it were. Mindy is a college student and part-time stripper. She meets Jordan, the protagonist and college professor, walking home from the club at 2 am in a short skirt. Jordan and Mindy start a friendship but Angie has reservations about Jordan.

Both newly vaccinated, Angie and I had lunch in person last week and I was able to ask her questions I’d been pondering for some time.

She was resplendent in a lime-colored blouse, sky blue skirt, silver hoop earrings, and a turquoise necklace. I dressed in my drab usual: Old Navy button-down shirt and khakis.

  • What’s your earliest memory?

Shit, I don’t know. I didn’t have a great childhood so I’ve blocked most of them. I remember going to church in a very itchy dress and my mother telling me to stop scratching and listen to the preacher. I couldn’t have been more than four or five.

  • What was the last thing that made you laugh?

My husband, Jack – he’s a sweet man – but a bit too capable, you know the type, overbearing. He backed into a fire hydrant last week and put a nice dent into his new Camry. I peed my pants. Literal description.

  • What’s your guilty pleasure?

I like to eat Oreos in bed and fall asleep without brushing my teeth.

  • What’s your greatest shame or secret?

Like I said, my childhood sucked and I never wanted any child of mine to have the same. I can’t say for sure that Mindy’s was all that much better. That kills me.

  • What do you think happens when we die?

Geez, this is getting philosophical. You’re the college professor, remember? I’m an office manager. You rot in the ground and become earthworm food. Or whatever. Look, I know I could die tomorrow, but I’m only 46, why are you bringing up death? I could take Mindy to the pyramids or the Great Wall. I could be a grandma or own my own business. I got unfinished business here. Forget about what comes after.

  • Is your marriage to Jack a mistake?

Fuck you.

  • How do you feel about being a minor character in a novel which will likely never be published?

How do you feel about being its author?

  • Ouch. Your daughter earns money thrusting herself at old men. How do you feel about that?

You may be a writer, but, if you think that defines Mindy, you’re a bad reader. Humans are complex. Did you forget the ending of the novel? And, seriously, what’s with all these questions? I’m your character, remember.

  • Fair enough, I’ll wrap up. Do you think you’ll appear in another novel?

Definitely not, but a short story isn’t out of the question. You’re more of a short story writer.

  • How would your short story go?

Damned if I know. Probably some political angle: gentrification of the neighborhood, homeless guy living on my porch, working-class woman makes good. You know, that type of thing. I think you write in lieu of real activism.

  • You sound bitter.

Probably just horny. Jack doesn’t do it in that department.

  • Ah.

Can I ask you a question?

  • Sure.

In the novel, your novel, I have lunch with Jordan. Of course, it’s from his point of view and the readers learn that he feels desire for me. Now, I’m sitting across from you and I see the same thing in your eyes. Are you lusting after your own character?

  • Um, that’s awkward.

It sure is. Maybe we should go.

  • Split the check?

Fuck no. It’s on you.

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