‘I do have opinions,’ said the man in the blue suit, ‘but I try to keep them to myself. It’s so easy to upset a client.’ He sipped at his coffee and eyed the plate of chocolate biscuits on the table.
‘Do have another one,’ said the client. She nudged the plate towards the man in the blue suit, who had begun to tidy the heap of papers nearest to him. ‘It’s the same with writing stories,’ she said. ‘That’s what Hemingway believed.’
The man in the blue suit, with a crisp white shirt, concentrated on the biscuits. ‘Hemingway?’
The client nodded. ‘Yes. He said it’s not our job to judge, just to understand.’
‘And do you? Understand, I mean?’ said the man in the blue suit, snapping a biscuit up in two bites before bumping his sheaf of papers and sliding them into a glossy folder.
The client smiled. ‘Not even close, I’m afraid. The poor man would be turning in his tomb, if that actually happened.’
The man in the blue suit passed the folder across the table. ‘You need to keep that,’ he said. He took another biscuit. ‘Are you saying you don’t really need to understand?’ He began to straighten his own papers into a neat stack.
‘You say that as if it’s something black and white – as if there’s only one answer to any situation.’
‘Well of course, I didn’t mean it that way.’ The man in the blue suit opened his briefcase and slotted the papers into a pocket. He paused and looked at the client. ‘Ah, I see. If you don’t provide answers…’
‘…the reader can. Exactly. The stories I like best are subtle, the bones of the story are fleshed out with metaphors, symbolism, allusion and ambiguity so that I can go back and read them over and over again. That’s how I want to write.’
The man in the blue suit leant forward and considered the last biscuit. ‘Sounds tricky.’
The client eyed the shower of crumbs cascading down the blue suit and the dazzling white shirt front. ‘It’s a bit like laying clues,’ she said. ‘They don’t always work. Sometimes they’re too obvious, sometimes too subtle. That’s where remembering Hemingway comes in – or Chekov, Mansfield, Pritchett, Taylor, Marquez… pretty much all the writers, past and present, I’ve read and admired have said much the same thing.’
The man in the blue suit flicked his lapels clean. ‘I see, same way songs work.’ He closed his brief-case and stood up, dusting the last traces of food from his shirt and legs. ‘Well, I think that’s all I can do today. I’ll work the figures, and get back to you with some ideas on Monday.’
‘Thanks for calling in,’ said the client, shaking his hand. ‘I should have looked into this years ago, but you know how it is, there’s always something else to do.’
The man in the blue suit nodded, lead the way to the door, then turned back to the client. ‘I’ve got a few thoughts already, but I want to crunch the numbers, so I can give you a full picture,’ he said.
The client shook his hand, and waited until he was through the gate. It was only as she started to shut the door that she glanced down and saw the slightly tattered bluey-black feather on her doorstep.
*Photos from Sue Vincent’s Thursday writing prompt challenge:#writephoto.