Once again, Larry took the Writers Guild prompt, “Gotcha!” to an unusual place. After all, we never know, do we?
by Larry Schwirian
It was only the middle of the month, but it was the third time the man’s flight had been delayed or cancelled. As he sat at the gate, trying not to become too frustrated or aggravated, he looked around the lounge and tried to determine which of his fellow travelers might be worth engaging in conversation. There was the svelte young woman, impeccably dressed with perfect posture who was diligently working on her I-pad; probably a preppie and an MBA graduate from an Ivy League school. Then, there was the grizzled middle-aged businessman, somewhat overweight, who hadn’t shaved this morning and obviously checking her out. Another younger college-age woman had her headphones on and her eyes closed, clearly immersed in something on her I-phone. Finally, there was an older, seemingly genteel man reading The Sum of All Fears who appeared to be so engrossed in the novel that he was oblivious to everything else.
The man picked up his carry-on bag and moved to the seat next to the older gentleman. As he sat down, he said, “If you don’t mind, I noticed that you seem to be totally absorbed by Clancy’s novel. I am also a big fan and have read all his books. I wondered if you would like to discuss the book with me.” The gentleman introduced himself as William Dingle and indicated that this was only his second Clancy novel but that he was certain he would be reading others. The man introduced himself as Hermes Papadopoulos and asked where Dingle was in the book as he didn’t want to spoil what was to come.
Before beginning a discussion of the novel, William had to ask about his inquisitor’s name. “How did you end up with a name like Hermes?”
“My father was a college professor and a Greek scholar; he named me Hermes because Homer described Hermes as the Greek god who was the chief benefactor of mortals. Hermes was also considered be very cunning and a trickster. My father always said my mother, who loved to play tricks on him, had tricked him into getting her pregnant. Speaking of names, I can see why you don’t use your nickname: Bill-ding-le.”
“You have me there, my name was a topic of much derision in my youth, so I learned to use my proper name. So, why don’t you tell me more about Jack Ryan, as I gather this is not the first Tom Clancy book in which he is the chief protagonist.”
“The Sum of All Fears is actually the sixth in a series of eleven novels featuring Jack Ryan as the protagonist and the fourth of those novels to be turned into a major motion pictures,” Hermes replied. “What is it that you find interesting about Jack Ryan?”
“He just seems to be a larger-than-life action hero who’s always in danger from someone or something; he’s smarter, more prescient, more of a man’s man than his contemporaries and seems to enjoy life to the fullest. I sometimes wonder if there are real people like him out there somewhere.”
Hermes reminded him that all Tom Clancy novels are fiction and that authors generally want their characters to be anything but boring. They continued to discuss the nuances, characters, and sub-plots of the novel for the next hour or so. Then the gate attendant picked up her microphone and requested that Tom Clancy please check in at the gate. William craned his neck to see who would be stepping to the desk. Could it be the writer himself?
Hermes reached into his pocket, pulled out a business card, picked up William’s book, and signed it. “Gotcha,” he whispered. The very plain card was printed simply in large letters: Tom Clancy – Author
Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, lead BOLLI courses on architecture. Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.