As I entered the room, I glanced swiftly around. All the usual faces were there that I would have expected for the time of evening: Old Bob in the corner; the domino school; the youths playing pool or darts.
‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘looks like I’m in for another boring evening’.
I bought myself a pint and sat down near the juke-box, after exchanging pleasantries with the barmaid and those stood at the bar. I sat quietly, listening to the semi-drunken ribaldry being thrown around the place. All of a sudden I became aware of a presence next to me. I turned to see an aged man, with the face of one who has seen and experienced everything. I smiled at the stranger, said hello, and turned back to my beer. However, something about this ancient man intrigued me. I did not remember seeing him when I came in, nor did I remember this man coming in after me. He has just suddenly appeared, or so it seemed.
‘Perhaps this stranger was one of the domino school,’ I thought.
“No, I’m not,” the old man said.
I all but dropped my beer. This bloke next to me had read my thoughts. I turned to stare at him, but he was sat there as if nothing had happened, just staring straight ahead.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “did you say something?”
“Yes. I said ‘No, I’m not’. Not one of the domino school.” This without turning and looking at me.
“So you read my mind?” I asked incredulously.
“Of course,” was his reply, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Can you read everybody’s mind?”
“No, only those sat near me.”
“Oh, well, do you mind if…”
“…if you ask who I am?” he interrupted.
“I can also see into the immediate future. I,” he added slowly, “am the answer to all your dreams and ambitions.” He looked at me for the first time. Something in his eyes told me he was not lying.
“Are you saying that you can grant me three wishes?”
“Don’t be so stupid! I know that you understand.”
“All right. What you mean is that whatever my ambition is, you can make happen?”
“By giving you the breaks that make things happen. By making sure the right people meet you. By making sure that you are in the right place at the right time. Things like that.” He shrugged.
“All right. Why me?”
“Why not you?”
“Well…” My mind was in turmoil. I had come into the pub expecting a boring night, and here was someone offering to fulfil my greatest ambition. “What’s the catch then? What do I have to do? I asked cynically.
“No catch,” he replied simply.
“Yes, but I’ve seen all those films and read those books where these people get granted their wildest dreams, and they always come off bad, and end up wanting their former lives.”
“Hollywood bullshit,” he said. “Those people always have to have a moral somewhere.”
“Well. What if I wanted total power over the whole world?”
“I wouldn’t let you have it.”
“Why not? If that was my ambition.”
“It isn’t. And if it was, I wouldn’t have chosen you.”
“Aha! So there was a reason for choosing me!” I exclaimed triumphantly.
“Well, only because you haven’t got ambitions of world domination,” he explained.
“Oh, I see. So you already know my ambitions?”
“So why tell me that you are going to make them happen?”
“It’s part of my contract.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“Well, you didn’t think I could do what I’m doing without the consent of a higher authority, do you?”
“Well I don’t know. Higher authority, you say. You mean God?”
“Call it what you will, but something like that.”
“What about this contract then. Is this your job?”
“Yes. Has been for several centuries,” he said simply.
“Oh come on. You must be taking the piss now. Maybe you can read minds, but this fulfilling of ambitions seems too far fetched, especially now you’ve said it’s your job and you’ve been doing it for centuries. How can you possible prove it?”
“I could give a few examples. Unfortunately you won’t have heard of most of them.”
“Why not?” I interrupted.
“Because I fulfilled the ambitions of simple folk. People who maybe just wanted their own farm with good crops every year.”
“Well how about some famous examples?”
“I have not had many people make it famous. A couple of politicians last century perhaps may have made it into some books, but in your lifetime, there has only been one occasion. Funnily enough it was someone with the same ambition as you.”
“Yes. Oh, by the way, do you actually know what your ambition is?”
“Of course. It’s…”
“Don’t be too hasty,” he interrupted, “I have forgotten to mention a rather important point. ‘The catch’ as you might say.”
“Ah, I knew there’d be one.”
“It’s not too bad. All it is, is that when you tell me your ambition out loud, that is what you will get.”
“I thought you already knew my ambition.”
“I do. But you have to tell me it out loud. And it must be what you really want. Otherwise it could have dire consequences!”
“I see. So I have to ask myself what my ambition is?”
“What if I get it wrong?”
“You won’t. Take as long as you like over it. I’m not doing much the next few years.”
“Well how do I get in touch with you when I’ve decided what my ambition is?”
“You don’t need to. I’ll be there.”
“By the way, who do you work for?”
“Erm. Well. Let’s call it Fate!”
(c) M. Robert Gibson
First written late 1980s
I thought I’d written more, but that’s where it ends on paper.
I’m sure I remember writing something along the lines of:
As I left the bar, I asked the barmaid who the old bloke was.
“The one I’ve been talking to.”
“What are you on about? You’ve been sat there by yourself all night.”