"Mr. Murphy!" shouted the jaywalker behind me.
Crap. I knew that voice. It belonged to a reporter with a leather pea coat, a rumpled shirt, pointless tie, dusty-colored skin, dark and squinting eyes, bedroom hair, a nose scarred from some long-ago, violent injury, and the kind of smirk that made me want to straighten that nose out with my fist.
I replied, "I said I'm not taking questions."
"The public demands answers!" he informed me.
"No they don't."
He massaged his forehead and lobbed a journalistic Hail Mary: "Gary demands an introduction entry for this season of LJ Idol*."
My shoulders sagged, my eyes rolled, and I sighed. "Fine. Take a seat in that chair."
"Why is there a chair here?"
"Because I want you to be comfortable."
He frowned. "But we're in the middle of the street."
"Look again," I replied.
His eyes squinted around the surroundings. "I'll be damned. How?"
"This place is a product of my imagination," I explained. "And that makes me God."
"You're a little full of yourself, aren't you?"
"Yes," I said. "Yes, I am." I sat down in a chair that was far more comfortable than his. "Was that your first question?"
He scribbled in his small notebook. "It is now."
"Why aren't you using a digital recorder or some shit to take notes?"
"Because," he replied, "thirteen years ago you were a sort of intern at The New York Post, and that being the twentieth century, reporters carried pads like this."
"Was that going to be part of one of your questions?" I asked.
He flipped a few pages and crossed something out. "Not anymore." He added a smirk. "Thirteen years, huh? That makes you old."
"Hey! Thirty-five is not old!"
"It means you've aged out of the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old advertising demographic."
"And that brings me to question seventeen," he told me. "Why the potty mouth?"
"There's seventeen questions?"
"I'm not answering thirty-eight questions."
"Then why did you put thirty-eight questions in my notebook, God?"
"Because," I replied, "I thought thirty-eight was a nice, daunting amount for me to object to."
"Fuck this metaphysical bullshit!" he announced, tossing the notebook over his shoulder. "What is the point of this?"
I snickered. "I thought you just said you had enough of this metaphysical bullshit."
"I've had enough of you too, but here I am."
I turned my attention to you, dear reader. "Since the first week of LJ Idol is devoted to introductions** I figured this would be a good opportunity to introduce my fellow contestants to some of my literary strengths, such as clever banter..."
The reporter muttered, "It's banter anyway."
"Watch it, you!"
"Just clearing my throat," he said.
I growled for a moment before continuing, "I also like cranky sarcasm..."
"Yeah, right. Whatever."
"And a little bit of vulgarity..."
"A little bit of vulgarity?"
"And a lot of vulgarity." I gestured to the reporter. "I'm also a big fan of this guy."
The reporter sat up and grinned. "Who isn't?"
"This is Max Fuentes, a twenty-seven-year-old entertainment journalist in New York City. He's clever..."
"A little bit sleazy..."
"But only a little bit, ladies."
"I have morals," he told me. "They're just--"
"He's my most frequent writing subject, mostly because he captures not only the randomness that dominated my life in my mid-twenties but most especially the 'I-don't-give-a-fuck' side of my personality, which, you have to admit, is really fun."
"Except for the hangovers," he said, adding, "functional hangovers, but hangovers nonetheless."
"And that's something else that comes up. Even though most of the stories center around navigating the sex-crazed, booze-soaked, drug-addled, rock-n-roll lifestyle with no money..."
"Mama, Papa," Max said, "I want to assure you that the drugs and alcohol and sex talk is all exaggerated, unsubstantiated rumors."
"Max," I told him, "your parents are figments of my imagination."
"You only say that because your mother has never given you the mal de ojo.
I sighed. "Moving on... the strange web of Max's even stranger friends(sometimes even seen through their eyes), as well as his past also opens a different, more complex aspect of my life that I explore in my fiction, likemy bad luck, my even worse luck, growing up surrounded by poverty, heartbreak, and, most importantly, my struggles with
"I do write about other things, mind you, but really, I am at my best and most relaxed with this guy and his world, and so count on more of it."
"That it?" Max asked.
"I don't have anything else."
"Cool," he said. "
"Lead the way, chico."
"I'm not that short, asshole."
"Yeah, you are."
* Not this time.