Bettina cantered through the building, checking her wristwatch every few steps. Her styrofoam cup (appropriately labelled “Dunkin Donuts”) decorated one hand, and a file of paperwork bound to her chest filled the other.
As she stepped through the door to the conference room, she spotted a prepubescent boy leaned back in a chair—her chair—with his feet propped up on the table. He stared out the glass windows, oblivious to her presence. She cleared her throat to announce her arrival. His legs toppled to the ground, then he clumsily climbed to his feet.
“You must be Derrick,” she said, reaching for the back of her chair.
The boy didn’t respond, but jumped into a professional performance—one hard to consider seriously with him garbed in baggy jeans and a tee. “I heard you’re the woman to get me started as a writer.”
“You heard correctly.”
“Okay, then. Get me started.”
Blank stare, cue sound effects. “You know the difficulties of being a writer, yes?”
“Writing’s easy,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You sit around on your computer all day doing nothing.”
Mix in some dynamite, stir till explosion. “There’s more to writing than sitting at a computer all day. You have to produce words.”
Derrick shrugged. “Do that all the time. E-mails, instant chat, message boards.”
Bettina pursed her lips. “Your daily quota must add and relate to an actual story.” She didn’t bother to open the folder. The boy didn’t grasp the hardships of writers—no way could she hire him to the team.
“Not a problem.”
“Oh, really.” She dug out a blank sheet of paper and pencil, placed it in front of him. “Prove it.”
Derrick shrank in his seat. “Prove it?”
She nodded, repeating her command, then plopped into her chair and watched the boy. Her arms crossed over her chest and a smile stretched her face. “Write me a story.”
Derrick’s eyes darted back and forth as he stared at a void. “About what?”
“You tell me. You’re the one who want to be the writer.”
“But you’re the Man Behind the Curtain. You’re supposed to provide inspiration. How can I write without direction?”
“Guess you’ll have to make something up. According to you, it’s ‘easy.’”
The pencil scratched across Derrick’s paper without enthusiasm. Bettina peeked over and saw a hangman stick-figure. The clock read 9:05. Derrick caught her eye and sat straighter. He flipped the sheet over and drew words. A pause, pencil tip against his lip. More words. Scratching became his soundtrack, a steady rhythm. Scratch, scratch. Pause. Scratch, scratch. Pause.
The clock now read 5:03.
“Day’s over.” Bettina sipped her coffee and lowered her paper just enough to see Derrick’s reaction.
“Over!?” He leapt to his feet, pencil still in hand. “I spent the day writing one stinkin’ page!”
“A page. Impressive.”
“How is that impressive?” His voice squeaked as it reached its high register. “I’ve been sitting here killing my brain and all I got in one lame page.”
Bettina picked up the pages. “There’s two here.”
“No, that one—that’s rubbish. None of it’s really useful. Just a bunch of free-write.”
“A day in the life, Derrick.” His face drooped. “Still want to be a writer?”
He tossed the sheets at Bettina and turned to leave.
“Wait.” She handed the pages back. “Take this home, read over it.”
“Whatever.” His tone was dry, but he took the sheets and walked out.
“See you tomorrow,” she whispered and leaned back in her chair.