"How do you do it?" he asked.
I had to check behind me just to be sure I was the one he was talking to. But though people bustled past us, each intent on his and her purpose, it was clear the question was directed at me. I grimaced at the steeliness in his bright eyes, felt my back grow tense and my shoulders come up in semi-defensive measure. "I don't know," I said, sounding like a surly teenager. "It's not like I had any formal training. I just . . ." I waved my hands and his eyes darted to follow their motion as if I might conjure something on the spot, an explanation out of thin air, or maybe just a how-to manual.
"Yeah," I said, drawing the word out the way Gary Cole was so famous for doing, "that's not really . . ."
The eyes came back to my face, sharp and intent.
"What do you want?" I asked, my defensiveness returning.
"I want you. To make it happen. For me."
"Well, that might take a while," I said. "Depending on what you want. Like, an award or something?"
"Can you get me an Oscar?"
"Like, in five, ten years maybe." But God, the thought of being stuck with him that long made me want to shrink into a ball.
"What would I have to do?"
". . . I'd have to stay with you," I admitted reluctantly, "and you'd have to let me guide you in some ways."
"Like a manager?" he asked.
The word had more weight than I liked. "More like a muse," I told him.
"Great. When can you start?"
"I wasn't . . ."
"I'll have my people come pack your things."
I stood there, my mouth hanging open. My inability to make a sound effectively ended the conversation while simultaneously setting off the sequence of events that would end in at least one person drowning in a studio water tank and another being struck by lightning.
Hey, I'm not always proud of the work I do, but it's a living.