by myron x
this is a freestyle piece, making it up as i go along
|THE WINTER CONFERENCE
It seemed too good to be true, even after the plane landed. Jacob Calibri, CEO of Calibri Media International, invited me to a writers conference in the south of France. Though he wouldn't publish me on his scholarly imprint, The Calibri Press, he said he had a good friend in Europe who insisted on meeting me after reading some of my short stories on the internet. Calibri even had me named as an honored guest, with a free first class ride and a twenty five hundred dollar honorarium.
We were at a place called the Chateau Eza, in Ez, France, on the Mediterranean. It was winter and the weather was described to me as "unpredictable". Two days ago, it was sunny and seventy eight degrees. Now it was raining and cold enough to see your breath. The hotel was in a tiny village with narrow walkways and uneven cobblestones. My room was tiny, almost claustrophobic, except for the view of the fog-shrouded sea, and the small courtyard garden outside the door.
It was night now, and the whole place flickered with candle light and gas lamps. I was sitting on an iron lawn chair with under leafless trees listening to the wind. There were no police sirens, no fire trucks, no cell phones, no televisions, no barking dogs, or crying babies...just the wind and the trees. It was chilly, but I had a fifth of Jack Daniels and a six pack of Coca Cola. The only thing I didn't have was ice. I kept forgetting I wasn't at a Best Western; there was no ice machine at the end of the hall. Here, you have to ask for ice specifically.
I heard footsteps getting closer.
"Lovely night, isn't it?" this guy named Upchurch said. He claimed to be a rare book dealer, but he had eyes like a cop. He was too well built to be a real bookworm, and I overheard him talking into his cell phone three different times in all kinds of weird foreign languages. He had a British accent, but I was beginning to think that was a fake too. He sat down and I poured an extra shot.
"It's great. I'm wondering what I'm doing here."
He sipped the Jack. "I've read some of your stories. Don't underestimate yourself. You must remember to these people you are of the streets, but you can put a sentence together. You are their Charlie Parker, their John Coltrane."
"I was always more of a Miles Davis fan myself."
"Saxophones always do well in France. It matches the tone of their suffering. Just smile at their jokes, and always have a good story on your lips. You'll have to sing for your supper, but oh, what a feast it will be."
"Calibri won't publish me."
"He doesn't have to. He bankrolls his mistress Mena and her publishing company Promenade Press."
"That's her company?"
"Oh, yes, it is. She may look like a Penthouse centerfold, but she's got a degree in journalism from Columbia. She worked in acquisitions at two Random House imprints. She's sharp, no bimbo."
"She wasn't at the reception?"
"No, she'll be here tomorrow. You meet her, you'll have to smack yourself to stop staring. Her problem is she wants to beat you over the head with what she knows, you know the type."
We both heard the click-clack of heels. I looked over Upchurch's shoulder as a beautiful woman with jet black hair approached us. Her jeans and her red turtleneck were tight on her curves.
"Mister Upchurch." she said. He turned and stood as she approached the table. I stood up, leaning on my chair.
"Ah, Hello Mena, this is-"
"I know, Mr. Upchurch. It is very nice to meet you Myron X. I've kept up with your adventures on the internet. Your writing is very entertaining."
"Myron X, may I present Madame Mena Aligheri-"
"Spelled the same. My father always contended we were family, but I am less convinced. This is your first time in France?"
"My first time anywhere."
"I must apologize for just arriving. I thought I could get out of Paris sooner. We drove and it rained the whole way. I hope you will join me for breakfast-"
"Well, we'd love to-"
"Not you, Mr. Upchurch," she said, looking at me. Her ice blue eyes were difficult to look away from.
"I'd like that," I said.
"Very good. Gentlemen, good evening." She turned and walked away and I watched her until she disappeared into the darkness.
Upchurch smiled. "Careful. Calibri is a jealous man." We sat down and poured two more shots.
"Aaah, what for? She aint in my league; barely in the same sport-"
"Still, a man like Calibri, you want to stay on his good side. He got connections on four continents; government, law enforcement, the works."
"So what about you, Upchurch? What are you doing here?"
"Just hanging out as it were...a sort of professional fly on the wall."
"That sounds like a spy, Upchurch."
"Yes...it rather does."