I wasn't sure I had it in me, but my novel for National Novel Writing Month is rolling along. Its working title: Capitalist Letters. Last night at a write-in, I wrote an entire plot thread from scratch about an introverted and maligned female coder who is tasked with picking up a client, one of the world's most famous CEOs, from the airport. Already intimidated by the errand, she is given a lengthy rider about how to (not) interact with him, and is told to arrive three hours early because the CEO hates to wait for even a minute. She's further urged to rent an expensive car because her new Acura would be too gauche for him.
This is barely edited.
Picking up a CEO
Lisa had gotten to the airport in no time, with little traffic. The car rental had gone smoothly, though she wondered if the fancy Mercedes she wound up with would be acceptable. It was, frankly, a ridiculous piece of conspicuous consumption, something that deserved every egg that could conceivably be thrown at it. But still, after all she heard about Truman Echeverria, she wouldn't feel secure about anything until the moment of truth.
She waited patiently in the lobby, holding up the sign that her passenger's rider had mandated. After a few minutes of feeling awkward and somewhat stupid, she jokingly twirled it a bit, just as she had during her first job in high school, when she would flail a giant arrow on the street promoting a pizza place. But she stopped the silliness when she realized that wasn't becoming of a chauffeur of her stature.
At some point, she realized that she was completely alone. No one else was holding any signs. Did they even do that anymore? Wasn't that something that cellphones and other technologies had rendered nearly defunct? Who knew?
All Lisa knew was, she wanted this to be done with already. Vomit dread, she called it, where the anticipation is worse than the action. She remembered a similar feeling of dread from her schooling, when the nuns would come down on her hard with the ruler, or sometimes not at all. Either way, it was a terrifying punishment for (usually) not praying in the correct posture. To this day, it was part of her spiritual OCD, even if she didn't believe anymore. God may or may not be a fluid concept of dubious reality, but the punishment authority figures could inflict was very, very real.
Just then, clamor. The terminal came alive with activity. A flight had apparently landed. Passengers are arriving. Many of them looked very important. This could be a flight that Truman Echeverria would be on.
The pack of photographers moving in unison out of nowhere was also a pretty strong cue.
The next few moments for Lisa were a blur. She suspected later that she had moved closer to the scrum, because it was over before she knew it.
Truman Echeverria. In the flesh. Looking like an important human being, but also like a human being. Before Lisa could decide whether or not to approach him, he grinned, tapped her shoulder and headed off with her. A big guy, presumably a handler, fended off everyone else. Suddenly, silence. It was over that fast. Or maybe she was just numb, who knew?
Not that the screaming in Lisa's head stopped. Truman had yet to say a word. In the early calamity, that made sense, but now it was just getting weird. Lisa picked up on his friendly cues, his smiles and nods, but even then she still didn't feel comfortable going against her orders not to speak until spoken to.
Truman, the famous blowhard, had picked a hell of a time to be quiet.
They arrived at their car, which caused Lisa's stomach to tighten, because this was one major checkpoint of anxiety. She braced for what she assume would be a strong reaction.
Instead, he continued to say nothing. She had unlocked the door, and with that he'd opened his door and climbed into the front seat. The front seat! Are you kidding me? Had he read his own rider?
Looking desperately for an in, she looked for his luggage, but all he had was his carry-on. He seemed confident about his cargo, which suggested to her that he hadn't simply overlooked his checked baggage. Maybe that's where his handler was, she thought. And overthought.
Lisa stood outside her driver's-side door for a moment, trying desperately to calibrate her thought. Was it time to go now? Wait for the guy who might be the handler? How could she figure it out? After all, she was told not to speak to him first. She never spoke to anyone first. She had once taken medication for that sort of thing.
In the end, she decided to cop out — to buckle in, start the car and see what happened. She did. Nothing happened.
She was silent, but in her head she was screaming.
Then, Truman Echeverria, the titan of business, football and reality TV, did.
"You're awfully quiet!"