Jorge sat alone in the food court, sipping his coffee. The pages of his notepad remained stubbornly blank despite the pen he held, unused, in his hand. Why had he ever thought he could write a book?
An off-duty detective, Jorge could have written a crime novel, but that wasn’t what he wanted to write. He wanted to write about everyday people. Not criminals, and certainly not those who fell prey to them. He also wanted to write about fantastical adventures, maybe like those in the fantasy and science fiction novels he so loved.
His eyes wandered the food court, looking for he knew not what. Something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. He turned casually toward it and spotted a woman ambling slowly through the tables, watching people and, now and again, taking notes.
She stopped and sat at a table, not to eat, but to observe a couple a few tables over. Half of their table was covered in bags, and both were absorbed in their meals and phones. The woman seemed to be overly interested in them, taking copious notes. Jorge put his pen and notebook away, determined to continue watching her.
He followed her when she left the food court, keeping his distance. Unless she actually stole something, he had no reason to stop her. She wandered, seemingly aimlessly, through the mall, sometimes sitting on the benches provided, more often walking, but always taking notes.
When the woman disappeared into a washroom, Jorge moved closer to make sure he didn’t lose her when she came out. Her eyes narrowed when she spotted him, and she made a beeline straight for him.
“Why are you following me??
Had he been that obvious? Nothing for it now but to confront the woman. “I’m an off-duty police officer, Ma’am, and you’re behaving suspiciously.”
“Hmm.” The woman looked thoughtful. “Do you have a badge?”
Jorge produced his badge, a little discomfited at how quickly she had turned the attention to him. “Can you tell me what you’re doing?”
“I think it’s pretty obvious I’m taking notes.”
With a sigh, Jorge asked, “About what?”
The woman laughed. “About everything. I’m a writer. I observe people. I listen to them speak so my dialogue sounds real. I absorb details of my surroundings so I can write them realistically.”
Jorge felt his face start to flush with embarrassment. “Seriously? You’re a writer? I thought you were a thief.”
“Well,” the woman laughed again. Jorge liked the sound of her laugh. “I am a bit of a magpie. I pilfer bits of data everywhere I go.”
Before he could lose his nerve, Jorge blurted out, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I’m trying to start a novel and just talking to you for a few minutes has me realizing I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“Sure. I’m Mandy Stack. I’d love to share a coffee with you and talk shop.”
As they made their way back to the food court, Jorge noted the absence of a wedding ring. Maybe he’d just learn a few things about writing today. Maybe he’d make a friend. And maybe this would be the start of something beautiful.
On the day of writing, I had just received my copy of Word Perfect (the book, not the program), written by Lexicographer Susie Dent. She is a treasure trove of information about words.
Even her introduction contains information about words. There she refers to herself as a linguistic magpie who pilfers “odds and ends of language.” I couldn’t resist. Don’t I pilfer bits and pieces of everything I encounter, whether consciously or unconsciously for use in my stories?
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The creation of fiction, though often magical and mysterious even to writers, springs from a deep well of experiences, pilfered moments if you will, that a writer transforms and transmutes, often beyond recognition. I’m proud to be a magpie, especially finding myself in such illustrious company!
I suspect our detective Jorge might become a bit of a magpie himself, whatever the outcome of his coffee date. He doesn’t realize it yet, but as his eyes wandered the food court, eventually settling on Maggie Stack, he was already pilfering the moment!
I love the title. It caught my attention and made me want to read. And maybe it gave me an idea or two, as well 🤔
I think I might be a linguistic magpie too :D I love your light commentary after each story almost as much as the story itself. You are a gift to our world.