Life was comfortable. We were living well. We weren’t wealthy but we didn’t want for much. We were happy, but then of course there are always dreams. So I took him up on the deal.

I had always worked with words; played with them, too. They had provided us with a reasonable living over the years, from ad campaigns and commercials and the odd documentary. Like many a writer just for the money I had a few poems, songs and stories hidden away. They were simply playthings, until I met him.

He was overwhelmed by a short story I had shown him, very late one night. It was at that hour when people come close enough to you to be shown your secret words and lines. Secret, because they are only playthings and you don’t want them to be hurt.

His name was Sigmund Eagle. It hadn’t always been. When he arrived, from somewhere in the middle of Europe, he carried a name that the locals simply could not pronounce. So he changed it. You could hardly blame him.

He was totally without any talent with words, either in his first language or in English, but for some reason he craved fame as an author. It didn’t matter to him that he already possessed just about everything money could buy. Had he been able to write the story of how he came by that money he would have told an extraordinary tale. It was one that would certainly have brought him prison as well as fame. He was very, very rich.

When he had read my story that night he hit me with the offer. It was fantastic but I laughed it off. I had heard some pretty wild proposals before, at the bar at four in the morning. They usually promised fame and fortune in partnership with whoever it might be, and they were usually forgotten by dawn.

Sigmund’s offer was different. It offered a fortune without the fame and he repeated it in the morning. He was waiting when I came downstairs. He had slept on the couch. He was just as keen as he had been the night before.

The offer was very simple. I would put his name to everything I had ever written or would ever write. He would use his considerable influence to put “us” into print and almost certainly into movies, but it was never to be revealed that I was the author. I would receive, from the moment I agreed, the sum of ten million dollars!

I agreed that morning. Sigmund was as good as his word. He transferred ten million dollars to my account that week. Immediately, I gave him all that I had written. Or, to be honest, I gave him all that I had finished. It wasn’t a lot.

Poor Sigmund. He didn’t live long enough even to begin to enjoy a new-found literary fame. I was with him when he died. For a while I was under some suspicion because there had been nobody else there on his boat when it lurched and threw him over the stern into the spinning propellers. I was, after all, at the controls when Sigmund went over.

It might have been different had they known of our deal. Except, of course, that it was our secret.

Life is comfortable. We are living very well. The words that once were just playthings are beginning to be read by a far greater audience. Amazing what a little money will do.

There didn’t seem much sense in signing my work with a pseudonym, sorry Sigmund.

© 2005 Peter Maxwell

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