Falstaff Said, then Reacher Replied
We probably all think about who we most want to meet in person, invite to dinner, delve the depths of religion, society, politics. But what about fictional characters?
The question occurred to me while watching the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, in which the lead character is taken back in time and meets Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Cole Porter and Pablo Picasso among others — all living in Paris at that time.
So-o, which fictional characters would you find most intriguing to meet?
Here’s a challenge: Think it through and then write a scene with your characters — perhaps around the table that night, then around the billiard table afterward dinner. Or choose another place.
- Charles Dickens’s Scrooge. (Here’s a guy whose entire life, demeanor, and future turned on one night’s experience kind of like what happens to people when they’re saved by Christ.
- Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, the creation of Alexandre Dumas. (Here’s a brave man, whose meddle is obvious even to the blind.)
- Francine Rivers’s Hadassah in the Mark of the Lion series. (Here’s a young lady whose faith is transitional, inspiring, and transforms those around her.)
- George MacDonald’s elderly cobbler who shares Christ with people who walk by his shop and, by the way, sets the young vicar theologically straight.
- Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. (Two buds on a raft in time, tripping down a river filled with adventure.)
- Jane Austin’s Emma Woodhouse. (Flaws and all, this pretty, wealthy lady despite—or even because of—her evident flaws, matures from an often inconsiderate girl to a sincere and kind young woman.)
- Lee Childs’s Jack Reacher. (Who else can travel the country carrying nothing but a folding toothbrush and a fistful of cash?)
- Shakespeare’s Falstaff. (Hey, he appears in various forms in several of Will’s plays and always steals the show.)
- Robinson Crusoe. (What Daniel Defoe’s hero lacked in aplomb he more than made up for with ingenuity.)
- My own Dr. Katherine “Kat” Cardova. (An extraordinary archaeologist and red-headed beauty who has rocketed to fame with historic finds in Israel.)
- Long John Silver. Thank you, Robert Louis Stevenson, for one of history’s grand bad guys, just for the sake of my narrative… which follows:
Long John Silver downed a shot of Jack Daniel’s and narrowed his eyes on the skinny, shoeless man dressed in rags. “Hey, Crusoe—Robbie, me laddy—I appreciate ye can start a fire rubbin’ two twigs to’gather, but do so somewhere else, not on me bar stool.”
Dantes, sitting with the dainty Miss Woodhouse, stiffened at Long John’s aggressive reproach, ready to protect his young companion if some clash should occur.
Then Flagstaff set down his stein full of frothing beer and stepped between Long John and Crusoe, one hand on a hip, one on the hilt of his sword. “My piece of the kingdom, good sir, to view such an admirable and uncommon a demonstration outside King Henry the Fifth’s court. Be it on your bar stool as well as anywhere.”
Coffee mug in hand, Jack Reacher eyed the sword sheathed at Falstaff’s side and wondered about the make of steel. Was it German, or Swiss, or British? Did it have nicks from carving up adversaries? Had it done battle at all?
He gauged that it was thirty-eight inches long, about the length of his own arms, and weighed a hefty three pounds. Maybe three-and-a-half. He’d hefted a claymore once and it was a good four or five pounds. Not a weapon for the weak.
Whatever the weight, it would be easy enough to step inside a parry. If need be. A thumb to the fat man’s eye, another to his solar plexus and he’d be disabled in, say, eight-tenths of a second. Perhaps six-tenths. If need be, that is. If this Falstaff fellow pursued the issue. If he didn’t see his folly.
It was then that Scrooge entered the bar. Good ole Scrooge, God bless him, his dark past forgotten, his new demeanor bright as the sun, his pocketbook as open as his heart; Scrooge, his hat in hand, shrugging off his overcoat and hanging it by the door; Scrooge, the man once despised by all but now adored like a kindly and kingly legend; yes, ole Scrooge the peacekeeper who, if one person owed another and a brawl was about to begin over the coinage, be it a crown or half-pence, would pay the lapsed amount to avoid a scrap; Scrooge who, in fact, had just dropped shiny pounds sterling into the pockets of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, who were whitewashing the front of the building.
At the transformed man’s entrance was the moment transformed, its tension distilled.
“I’d like to see this demonstration myself, Long John,” Scrooge said, his smile broad and kindly, his eyes twinkling as stars. “And my friend, also.”
He waved a hand behind him. Through the door came the prettiest young lady this side of Turnbury. Not flashy but stunning, not prideful but self-confident, Kat Cardova was, yes, in the house.
Reacher gulped at her beauty. He’d seen her picture on magazine covers, but justice had not been done. And he was all about justice. Always. Justice and Reacher were tight friends.
Long John drained another shot. He would have forgotten his name if asked. Beauty sometimes affected him thus — be it a full chest of bounty or a finely crafted lady.
Crusoe straightened his back, then bowed toward Kat. “At your leisure, m’ lady.”
Your turn! And please do send it to me. The best scene (as chosen by a jury of one: me) gets a free, signed copy of True North: Tice’s Story, my tale about a young slave who escapes from Kentucky along the Underground Railroad, chased by a dastardly man who would be right at home on Long John Silver’s ship.