The old man in the baseball cap left the newspaper behind, and Dale Brennan claimed it by setting his coffee cup down on it. He put his Moleskine notebook next to it-- look at me; I'm a writer-- and set his computer bag on the floor. The coffee shop's manager had put those stupid little locks on the outlets, and his four-year-old laptop battery wouldn't a charge, so it looked like today was going to be strictly longhand.
He put his coat over the other chair, sat down, picked up his cup and there it was in the newspaper, surrounded by a perfect little ring of coffee-- Long Time Gone, by Dale Brennan. New in hardback, fifty percent off.
His first thought was They stole my title. His second thought was They used my name, too. And his third thought was What the hell? Because Long Time Gone was right where it had been for the last two-and-a-half years-- inside his second-hand laptop, all thirty thousand words of it, waiting for him to write the other sixty thousand that would turn it into a novel.
His eyes scanned down the page, and there, right next to a lengthy interview, was a picture of the son of a bitch he'd shown the book to last winter. With that same superior sneer. Those hard, reptilian eyes. And the muttonchops. The goddamned muttonchops. He should have known.
He put the coffee back down and stood up. He picked up his coat from the chair, put it on, and tucked the newspaper with the ring of coffee on it in his back pocket. His head was swimming. He picked up his coffee and drained the cup. And then he had his fourth thought:
Well, at least I'm published.
Opening: Sean McClusky.....Continuation: Khazar-khum/Anon.