People often ask me, “Scott, are those stories you tell in your column real?”
Actually, that’s not true. No one has ever asked me that question—not once. Readers most likely assume that everything I say here is completely fabricated. If so, they’re pretty much right, but now and again I have related an anecdote with a sliver of truth lodged in it, like a little piece of a rusty nail you stepped on when you were six years old. So, here are two stories that might be loosely based on actual events. Feel free to borrow, embellish, and make them your own. I did!
Ever since the traumatic death of his pet badger when he was a child, Stiles had been haunted by the concept of time. At school he would stare at his watches—he wore as many as three on each arm—watching the second hands turn and the LCD crystals disintegrate, trying to find the secret of their movements and measurements. In college he studied to be a physicist, prying into the smallest known elements in the universe in hopes of discovering which of them determined the discreet differences among irretrievable moments. When he found no answers there, he quit his job and turned to spiritualism. In his quest he learned of a holy man living on a mountain far in the East, who would answer one and only one question of anyone who asked, in exchange for a simple offering of chocolate. He filled a duffle bag with a few necessities, grabbed some M&Ms at the convenience store, and left on the next plane.
After weeks of trekking in the wilderness, Stiles located the holy man’s abode, but was discouraged to find a line of people several miles long going up the mountain. He thought of giving up but decided that having come this far there was nothing else to do but wait his turn. He passed the time by striking up conversations with fellow truth-seekers, who were friendly enough but reticent to discuss their own purposes on the mountain, as if uttering their questions too soon would disqualify them for an audience. He, too, thought carefully about how best to express his mind’s desire in one question.
Two days later, Stiles found himself in the presence of the holy man. Acolytes motioned him forward, indicating a worn spot for him to sit on the ground at the sage’s feet. He placed his candy offering on a wooden pedestal and drew close to the man’s ear. In a solemn voice he said, “Sir, I ask you, what is time?” “Eh?” the old man replied, putting a hand to his ear. Stiles asked again, more loudly and urgently, “Sir, please tell me, what is time?” The old man looked hard at him for a moment, struggling to put a proper response into words. He then shrugged his shoulders, checked a small, scuffed up digital Casio on his wrist and said, “What is time? Is 4:15. Next!”
The Smooth Operator
He entered the darkened dance club and allowed his eyes to adjust from the glaring streetlights outside. He had never been to this club before, so he considered going easy on his hustle for a bit until he had a better feel for the vibe of the place. But almost immediately his brimming confidence put that idea aside, and he went straight to the bar along the right wall. Fate stroked his ego all the more when a barstool went vacant just as he arrived, to the left of what seemed to be an attractive—and unaccompanied—woman. Fortuitously, the bartender standing in front of him had nothing else to do, so he smoothly reeled off a request for his favorite drink, a Trailer Hitch (a Sidecar with grapefruit juice). So far his timing was absolutely perfect. He stole a glance at the woman next to him, but when he noticed her athletic-looking left bicep, he caught his breath and uttered a silent prayer of thanks to the gigolo gods for his good fortune. There on her upper arm was a small tattoo of one word: “No”. This is incredible, he beamed to himself, instant conversation starter! Feeling firmly in control now, he grinned at her and launched into his first query: “So tell me, does your other arm say ‘Yes’?” Without a word or glance in his direction, the woman stood and turned around, briefly positioning her right bicep uncomfortably close to his face. There in the same size lettering was a tattoo reading, “See other side.” She then walked away into the crowd, leaving him alone with his drink.