The bargain.

The thing about my muse is he’s always been a little elusive. I know the kinds of places where he hangs out, he’s a story-muse, lurking between the lines of other people’s writings. But I’ve never been able to predict which pages will reveal him.

Typically, he leapt out from the challenge set by Diana Wallace Peach, for bloggers to share dialogues with their muses, after her deadline. Luckily, Diana is a forgiving, generous soul who gave us an extension.

Give my muse an inch and immediately he takes advantage. So, instead of the conversation Diana had suggested, my muse led me back to that afternoon, around a year ago, when he finally fixed on a form.

Up to that point he’d had two modes of presence. Mostly, he preferred to be almost invisible, hovering just beyond my eyeline. No matter how quickly I turned, or craftily I looked into mirrored surfaces, I’d not see his shape.

This, no doubt, was influenced by his preference for omniscient narrators. Although, now I think about it, perhaps his disembodiment had been inspired by the number of omniscient narrators in my early reading. It all depends on whether he’s been directing my reading, or my reading has directed him. I’d ask, but he’s not the kind of muse who provides anything I request.

At other times he’d shift from one form to another without worrying whether I was midway through a project, or not. I’ve known him to grin suddenly from a corner of a complicated abstract painting; stare out from a crowd scene in a film; uncurl from misshapen lumps on trees, fissures in rock-faces and shadowed lamp-posts on deserted streets. He’s got that kind of sense of humour. He loves jumping from one novel to another, to a poem, to a flash fiction and back to a novel again, crossing continents and centuries, clothes and shape. Often I didn’t realise until hours later that he’d been there.

So it was a shock to find that not only had he settled into a perfectly formed and detailed miniature, but that he had seated himself on the edge of the top shelf in the bric-a-brac section of our local charity shop. He was leaning forward. One leg dangled, the other was crossed across his knee and he was resting his elbow on it, watching as I entered the shop.

Jasper, I thought, as naturally as if I’d always known his name.

Despite his plain brown habit, he stood out. Perhaps it was the large nosed face, or the wrinkles of concentration on his forehead. Maybe he winked. He certainly smirked as he saw me turn away from the bookshelves.

One hand cupped his cheek, half hiding the twist of his lips, but I could see by his eyes that he smiled, and I smiled back, then moved hurriedly forward, in the opposite direction to the bookshelves, past the other browsing customers, to claim him.

He was heavy, reassuringly so, and had gravitas. I’d not expected that, especially since I could see that he was slyly picking his nose. Well, I thought, it probably could be worse. At least I’d got him now. From this point on, I would always know where to look.

Jasper quirked an eyebrow.

I settled him on my palm as I scanned the bookshelves. Was I really going to buy my muse? Was that even possible?

Jasper gave me a straight look. He jiggled his dangling foot, and waited for me to find my money.

What price? Well, the charity shop charged me £3.50.