Les drove down the two lane highway, glancing quickly at his smart phone's navigation app. The turf felt familiar, though he'd never really seen it before. And shortly, after passing some churches and a couple of lonely convenience stores and a small community ball park, he found the two-storied apartment building. Pulling into a parking space next to the community dumpster, he stopped, got out, and checked the numbers on the building and door. Yup. This was the place.
And he stepped to where the welcome mat should have been, and rang the doorbell.
Inside he heard a groan and a man's voice sing out, “Just a minute!” And then fabric rustled, like someone throwing on some clothes in a hurry. Les simply waited patiently and made sure his face was in line of sight of the doors peephole. Over the approaching heavy footfalls, the man's voice grumbled, “If this is another Jehovah's Witness, I am not going to be happy.” And they stopped right in front of the door, the occupant apparently spying to see who was here. After a puzzled grunt, the window's Venetian blinds bent a little to allow a caffeine deprived eye peek out. And that eye opened a little wider, skepticism giving way to surprise.
At last, the occupant left the window and opened the door, revealing a middle aged fat guy with uncombed red hair, glasses, a Weird Al t-shirt, a pair of gray exercise shorts, and bare feet. And a stunned, puzzled look to his face.
Les smiled reassuringly. “Jimmy Dimples, I presume?”
The man stared back as if he'd just seen a flying saucer land in the parking lot and its alien crew walk out. “You're...”
“Lesley Elliot Safer, yes. Your original character. Thought it was time I paid you a call. I've got questions for you; hope you can answer them, please?”
Jimmy finally brought his dropped jaw back up. “Oh, yeah, sure, sure! Just... my apartment's a mess!”
“Well, maybe we can go out and eat somewhere if I buy? Waffle House or Chick-fil-A okay?”
“Sure, definitely. Just have a seat and let me neaten up and get some better clothes on real quick, okay? Like a soda or anything?”
“No, I'll save my thirst for when we go out. But thanks, though.”
And Jimmy let him in, and Les sat on the couch to check out the Mad magazine on the coffee table while Jimmy went back to dress and get his wallet, keys, and mobile phone.
***Les looked around the booth after the waitress took their orders to the cook. “Waffle House. So this is where it all started, hah?”
Jimmy sipped his coffee. “Yup.”
“When I wrote your story in China, I was missing it pretty badly, and swore to myself I'd grab me some Waffle House as soon as I came back to the States. So how'd you cross over into my world and find my apartment?”
Les leaned in conspiratorially. “Can you keep a secret?”
Les grinned deviously. “So can I.”
Jimmy snorted. “Fine. So how'd you find out?”
Les simply held up his smart phone and revealed Jimmy's deviantART page. “Things going on in my life and your stories were a little too co-inky-dinky.” He sipped a little from his diet Coke. “And maybe an item or three from your own personal life, I'd guess.”
Jimmy nodded. “Yeah.”
“Your brother's death being one of them.”
“Afraid so. You seem to be taking this very well.”
Les spread out his hands. “Book of Job. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. I will still choose to say blessed be the name of the Lord. It also helps to remind me I'm not a Marty Stu or anything. Though it seems like I'm living a semi-charmed kind of life right now. This wish fulfillment on your part?”
Jimmy half-smiled. “Can you keep a secret?”
Les half-smiled back. “Gotcha.”
“You have grown as a character somewhat, I think. You've gotten a bit more confident.”
“Maybe. I guess I have.”
“And originally, I hadn't intended for you to become a born-again Christian, but I guess in the wake of the Harold Camping rapture prediction flap, I chose to make you one.”
“Or I chose to become one.”
Jimmy folded his hands together and leaned in a little in concern. “Are you bugged about your own free will not necessarily being free?”
That's when the waitress came in and brought them their meals. After they thanked the waitress and prayed their thanks to God for the food, Les put his hash maxed out hash browns in front of him.
“Okay, here's my take on free will in your stories and probably life in general. He split his serving it in half with his fork: “This is me eating because you've written a desire for me to do so because it matters to the story somehow.” And he scarfed it down and gobbled it up with a loud “Om nom nom nom nom.” Then he turned the plate around so the other half was closer. “This is me eating because I'm hungry and it tastes good.” And he scarfed that down, too, with another “Om nom nom nom nom.”
Jimmy smirked a little. “It'd be interesting to see you in a debate about predestination and free will.”
“Maybe. I think your readers are more into me interacting with buxom muscle babes, though.”
“This is true, I'm afraid.”
“Don't sweat it. Just keep writing, keep it entertaining, uplifting and of good report, and I'll do the rest. If there's something that's wrong, not God or not me, you'll find out and fix it soon enough. We're all creations with an interested maker.” He arched an eyebrow. “Even and especially you, Jim.”
Jimmy sighed. “I know, I know. Though I'm wondering what's on my Author's notepad for future stories.”
“Be glad we can't see that. We might not be willing to play our parts.”
“This is true.” And Jimmy tucked into his bacon cheeseburger.
“Better order me another plate of hash browns all the way.”
“Aren't you worried about getting fat?”
“It's just internet fat. It'll go away once you log off.”
***Once they finished their meal, left a decent tip, and paid the bill, Les drove Jimmy back to his apartment.
“Sure you don't want to come in, shoot the breeze, watch Don Knotts videos or whatnot?”
“Got stuff to do, and you've got stuff to write. We'll probably come back in touch sooner than you think. If not here, definitely in deviantART.”
“All right then, take care, and thanks for supper.” And after Jimmy patted Les on the back, and they gave each other the bro fist, the writer headed back into his home, and Les got back in his ride.
But after he sat in the driver's seat and plugged his phone into the cigarette lighter, Les started the mobile web browser.
And he logged into his own deviantART page.
And he cut and pasted a file with a little scene where the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol stopped by with a ten million dollar prize check for Jimmy, and four lovely, ridiculously buxom, hourglass figured ladies showed up to smother him with hugs, kisses, and offers for dates out on the town. And he clicked Submit.
After five minutes... absolutely nothing happened.
Les sighed and cranked up the car. “Sorry, Jimmy. It was worth a try.”