Something really unusual has just happened. Mind altering. Astonishing. Gob-smacking.
Someone has asked for my autograph.
Let’s put that into context. I’ve been writing for my own pleasure for all of my adult life. I have been publishing books on Amazon since 2013. And no-one has ever … ever … asked me for an autograph before.
That’s the sort of thing that is supposed to happen to other people. I am a modest bloke. I am happy enough if people are reading my writing. I never expected that I’d need to get my pen out for autographs.
Okay, okay, I am not getting over-excited here. After all, it is my only autograph request. J.K. Rowling must get dozens every single day. And it might take me years to get my second. But still … it’s a 100% improvement in the autograph department, which has to be worth something. It’s a tick in the bucket list.
Then there are the practicalities. Writing these days is mostly electronic. How can you send someone an electronic signature?
I suppose I could scribble an autograph on a photograph of me and send that in the post. But that means asking for an address. And as I am officially the ugliest bloke in the world, I didn’t really fancy sending someone a photo. No-one deserves that.
So how can I reply to my very first autograph request?
And that’s when I had a brainwave. Instead of a pen and paper autograph, I would give my new friend a digital autograph. I would write him into my next novel – First Contact for Beginners, the sequel to Global Domination for Beginners.
Here’s the first draft. To set the scene, the first person narrator is our anti-hero Robert. He is a megalomaniac in the style of Blofeld or Dr Evil. In this book he has been appointed to meet and great the aliens who have been making first contact with Earth. Of course, it doesn’t go well. Near the end of the book, we have a scene where Robert is given a mysterious parcel which helps to move the plot along.
And this is where Paul comes in:
The white van pulled up next to us and a delivery hench-partner got out. He had a kindly face – the kind of kind face that you expect to find on a male nurse. I pictured him as a family man playing darts with his kids. There was a name badge on his lapel telling me that his name was Paul (Burgy) Burgess.
And then he said something which blew my mind.
I have had my mind blown before of course – sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. There was that assassination attempt with the exploding headache tablet. The sight of Lump blowing up a volcano. The underwater sports car that did not turn into a submarine. But no-one had ever blown my mind simply by saying something.
“Can I have your autograph please?”
In all my years, no-one has ever asked for my autograph. Sure, I have been asked to sign for things. Tax demands. Death warrants. Approval to buy a mega yacht. But no-one has ever asked for the humble autograph.
My eyes started to well up with unmanly liquidity. After all the hard times and the pain, it was a boost to know that someone cared.
“You want my autograph?” I said. I did not know whether to hug him or burst into emotional floods of emotion.
“If you don’t mind.” He gave me a pad and a pen.
“What would you like me to say? Shall I say ‘To Paul’ or to ‘Burgy?’ Which would you prefer?”
He looked at me as if I had recently been released from a mental establishment. “There’s no need for anything like that. All I need is a signature for the records and then I can give you this.” He handed over a small parcel wrapped in brown paper.
The. Penny. Dropped.
“You do not want my autograph?”
Paul (Burgy) Burgess gave me a sardonic smile. “It’s a figure of speech, innit?”
I signed the piece of paper and took the parcel.
How does that look, Paul?