He could have easily missed the door if he hadn’t been searching for it. But there it was, Room 303, ‘The Chapter Shoppe, by Appointment Only’.
He’d been told to knock five times, then enter, which he did. And there, in an elegantly decorated office, sat an immaculately dressed man, who indicated for him to sit down.
“Well, Mr. Welles, thank you for being on time for your appointment today. You must have some questions, though, before we begin. I’m Mr. Wilson. So, please, ask away,” said the well-dressed man behind the desk.
Welles had heard about this Shoppe from a friend of his. He was told that what happened there changed his friend’s life. And if anything, Welles needed a change in his life, and in a hurry. He cleared his throat and began, “I’ve been told you folks can help me craft the next chapter in my life. I’m at a point where I have a lot of things up in the air, and I need you to direct me on how to proceed to a successful outcome.”
Wilson replied, “Certainly, Mr. Welles. I see that in your application that you are forty-two years old. So we’re probably talking about your Twelfth Chapter out of perhaps Twenty Chapters in your life. Sounds about right, sir? Just a record keeping detail, really."
“Yes, Chapter Twelve sounds about right.”
“And how would you portray the context of this Chapter Twelve, Mr. Welles. Will it be a mystery-thriller, a romantic comedy, a tragedy, true crime, erotica, or perhaps even a combination of themes?” Wilson asked, writing something in a folder.
“Oh, well, I guess I would say a combination of themes. Yes, definitely, a combination. Mostly tragedy, but some erotica.”
“Fine. Now Mr. Welles, how would you portray your current life situation? Are you at a key crossroads, are you seeking viable options, or is your life just a real mess that requires significant fixing?”
“The last one.”
“Good. It’s always best to be frank about these things, Mr. Welles. Now, and try to be brief, tell me what problems you are facing in your life and how you want your Chapter Twelve to resolve them.”
Welles shifted nervously in his chair as he thought about how to answer that question. Then he began about his marriage, his mistress, his drug-addicted children, his problems at work, his heart condition, his problems with his mother and her money and a variety of other problems. He concluded with, “I’d like all these problems worked out in my favor in Chapter Twelve, Mr. Wilson. Can you do it?”
Mr. Wilson rose and stood by the side of his desk. “Of course we can, Mr. Welles. First, we’ll interview you intensively so we know exactly who and what you’re dealing with in your life. Then our writers will present you with a rough draft of your next chapter and go through it with you, fine-tuning it until we get it just the way you want it.” Wilson paused, and then added, “But realize we deal only in the plausible. We can’t make you into a professional golfer or have you winning the Powerball or anything like that at the end of the chapter. It doesn’t work that way.”
Welles was starting to get excited. “I’m a little awkward in my social relationships. Will there be dialogue for me to fall back on if I need it?”
“Oh, goodness, yes, Mr. Welles. Lots of dialogue for you, emails for you to send, letters for you to author, hand gestures, postures, timing, wardrobe, the whole enchilada. We’ll even throw in some good jokes for you to tell at just the right moment. Everything will be in the final document.” He put his hand on Welles’ shoulder and added, “It’s a blueprint for the next phase of your life, sir. And while you may have to make a few minor on-the-fly adjustments to the general arc of the chapter, you should do just fine, broadly speaking.” And then he added, "Oh, and we have a twenty-four hour hotline for you to call in an emergency."
Welles was ecstatic and grinning from ear to ear as he digested what Wilson had just told him. Finally, he thought to himself, I can get this train-wreck of my life back on track. He couldn’t wait to get started. “Well, Mr. Wilson, I’m ready to proceed if you’re willing to take me on.”
Wilson smiled as he reached into his desk for documents for Welles to sign to get things going. As Welles reviewed and then signed them, Wilson said, "We'll be in touch, Mr. Welles. Your first interview should occur within the next two weeks or so."
And with that the two men shook hands and Welles left the elegantly decorated office, a smile on his face and a spring in his step. He even whistled a bit as he headed for the stairs.
From another room, Wilson's head writer appeared. Wilson looked up from his desk and asked, "Did you get all that, Bob?"
The writer was the complete opposite of Wilson. He was a bit disheveled, hadn't shaved in a while, and there was a distinct odor surrounding him. "Yep, and I have a few ideas," the writer replied as he slumped in one of Wilson's large leather chairs. "But, overall, it looks like a pretty routine chapter. Nothing we haven't seen before."
"Any ideas on when to introduce Patricia into his life, Bob?" Wilson wondered, a sharp look in his eyes.
"Towards the end," the writer said, nodding to himself. "By that time, he will be convinced that everything is working out well for him and be completely trusting in the process. That's when we'll introduce Patricia. Slowly."
"Ah, yes, slowly. And by the time you complete Chapter Thirteen, she will have him in her clutches, right?"
"And ours, too, Boss," Bob said, a sly grin on his face. "It still amazes me that these guys never figure on us writing all the next chapters of their lives without their knowledge," he added, taking a pencil from behind his ear and writing something on his notepad.