The Fitzgerald formula- Entry no 28(Paranormal Romance)

Phillip Griffith sits on a chair in his Campbell Street apartment, sipping a cup of tea in a slatternly cup. The apartment had been in his possession since the last 3 years. It also served as his studio at times when he went hunting for inspiration or felt he had some time to spare, which was seldom nowadays, as he had become a bestselling author. The apartment was of a ‘befitting’ size; obscure enough to extort a derisive snort from his peers at the Lincoln Review and high-brow enough to impress the reporter of a working class daily who was in fact due to arrive any minute. He had some impressionistic pieces by Ruth Egri and Chambon on one of the walls and had a huge graffiti by Ted Ellis in another. In his hands he had a vintage Billie Holiday record cover, staring at which made him peaceful. In the far corner on a coffee table, lay an old fashioned Crosley telephone, which was not wired to anything but looked brazenly real.

It was quarter to three when the doorbell rang and Griffith ushered in the reporter from ‘Daily Hours’.

“Good afternoon, Vera,” greeted Phillip with a jovial grin as he took her coat. “How have you been?”

“Not as good as you obviously”, she replied with a smile which bordered on the sarcastic. As they were about to entered the living room, Vera paused for a second on the doorway. It was only after a minute when she noticed Phillip gesturing towards the couch. She sat down with a placid ‘Thank you’.

“Would you like some tea?” Phillip asked as he sat down.

“Made by you?” Vera drawled as she fired up her laptop. “No thank you, I know better than that.”

Griffith smiled. She looked different than the last time he saw her. Her hair seemed shorter now, much shorter; it barely touched her shoulders. But he could locate the chestnut hue. She wore a Moschino jacket and a Hermes scarf, which she had teamed up with pleated trousers. She was always quite the fashion vixen, Griffith recollected. He noticed her face had a certain colour which affected her pale complexion; she had possibly been working outdoors a lot. Yes, it seemed probable. The ring on her third finger, made him raise an eyebrow, but he chose to keep quiet about it.

“So shall we get started?” Vera tried to smile at him. “How does it feel to be in the bestselling game for the last four months? Had enough yet, Mr. Griffith?”

“I do not write to make the lists or the cover of some obnoxious magazine”, responded Griffith. “I write for the people.”

“Since you bring up the magazines,” Vera shot back with a quick look at him. “You seem to be a regular face in almost all the page 3 columns. Care to comment?”

“Not really, no.” Phillip tried to appear detached.

“Why not?” Vera seemed amused.

“I have a feeling, you are looking for something specific,” he remarked in an astute tone. “And I choose not to offer you the satisfaction.”

“Very well then,” Vera smiled broadly. “Let’s come back to the basics. Do you think your popularity is a product of your alcoholism, your womanizing or your substance abuse problem? After all, you did write only one book.”

“Well, then that book must have been one hell of a piece, don’t you think?” Griffith chuckled

“Come now, Phillip,” she shook her head. “Ok, let me ask you this. A lot is being spoken about Fitzgerald’s influence on your work. Your novel, ‘A word too profane’, had clear signs of the Jazz age. We would love to hear more about it.”

“What can I say?” shrugged the author. “F. Scott Fitzgerald was a great man. He has inspired me in more ways than one. My novel was never meant to be an imitation, but if my readers think so…”

‘I never said imitation,” she interjected briskly. “I’ve often told you how much I admire your work. But your friends have noticed that these last few years you’ve been somewhat ‘possessed’ by Fitzgerald and his work. Some even remarked that the upheaval in your personal life was a direct consequence of your obsession.”

“That does sound absurd, don’t you think?” he gave out a sheepish smile. “I have serious doubts about your sources.”

“Tell me Mr. Griffith, you must be very familiar with Fitzgerald’s tumultuous relationship with his wife Zelda. His vulnerability to chaos and deception. Would you say that you and your wife got separated because of your abject disgust of a peaceful country life? That you went looking for trouble as a motivational tool?”

“Your theory sounds deranged Vera,” retorted Griffith.

“Does it?” she ventured. “What about your Hemingway complex? Your utter need for self-destruction? Screw the sources, Phil. It is coming from someone who has watched you for the past eight years of your life. Can you answer to her?”

“Are we going off record now?” said Griffith drily. “Then I need a smoke.” Phillip took out a packet of cigarettes from his pockets and offered Vera one. She took it.

“Still smoking W’s I see,” she said as she blew out a ring of smoke. “Your friends say you’ve changed.”

“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” Phillip chuckled. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Vera gave out a laugh. “Well said.” She was at the end of her cigarette. “I love what you have done to the place.” She searched for an ashtray and found one under the couch. “This time warp thing you’ve got going. It’s like you’ve been teleported to the 1920’s, to some burnt up artiste’s den.”

“I’ve always liked the past a little bit more than the present.”

“Oh, we all know that,” Vera winked. “Seriously, though what’s next for you? Buying a villa in France? Dating a gossip columnist? Maybe you already are.”

“So, you’re gonna stick with your Fitzgerald theory?” Phillip’s voice turned husky.

“What happened to the Warhol pop painting that I gave you for your last birthday?” Vera enquired, as she walked up to the wall to examine the art works.

“Oh, I replaced it with this Johnson one.”

“Of course you did.”

“What? You cannot possibly blame me for our marriage coming to an end.” Phillip retorted.

“No I don’t”, Vera spoke. “So are you done planning your next novel? Is it gonna be another Gatsby clone chasing his imagination?”

“I didn’t realize my first protagonist was a Gatsby clone.”

“Oh, please,” Vera exclaimed. “You realize it all. This is all a facade isn’t it? Because that’s what sells. The make-believe. It’s bloody profiting for you. The jazz man of the new millennium and shit!”

“Are you drunk?”

“It’s four in the afternoon, Phil.” Vera returned back to the couch. “Not everybody is you. That’s the problem isn’t it? That was it! I am not you. I could never comprehend your issues. The artiste’s baggage. No you’re right. It was my fault.”

“Vera,” Griffith grew impatient. “Can we please proceed with the interview? I’ve got an appointment.”

“Yes of course,” she cleared her throat. “So, last question…”



It has been almost an hour since Vera left the Campbell Street apartment. Phillip Griffith sits near the coffee table; in front of him lies the disconnected retro telephone set. A number is scribbled on a piece of paper on the table. He dials the digits on the telephone. “Hello, Zelda?”

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P.s: You may visit  our judge Neelima Vinod’s Facebook page and have a look at her upcoming novel Unsettled.

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