TLOS - Intermission #2
INTERMISSION: PART II
INTERMISSION, PART II
I get a lot of strange phone calls at work. In fact, most days all I get are strange phone calls. It's why I'm still here after all these years; if I had to do the same thing day after day, I'd quit, or at least I'd think about quitting.
Every morning when I arrive at work I trudge up the stairs, turn on my lights, fire up the computer, check the phone for voice mail, and then check my e-mail, office and personal, to see if the world has changed much since the last time I checked on it. The office e-mail had the usual assortment of cats and dogs, none of which required an immediate reply, so I opened up my personal e-mail account — most of which didn't require any reply either. There was, however, a note from my editor — or Beta, as she prefers to be called.
A bit about me is in order: by day I'm an attorney for the government. Most of what I do is kind of hard to explain, and some of what I do I just can't talk about — let's just say that it involves procurement and electronic stuff. By night, I'm a dad, husband, Webelos Den leader, reader of bedtime stories and walker of dogs. In between those two worlds, I write fan-fiction. My name? Well, for your purposes, I'm Kokopelli.
As I said before, it started with a note from my Beta.
Subject: Crank Call?
I got the weirdest phone call today from a girl who may well be Ginny Weasley - the Ginny Weasley from your TLOS story. She may call you at work tomorrow. She's concerned about the story. I think she's worried about Jasmine. This is either the best-executed prank call of all time, or something really and truly strange is happening. Keep in touch; I want to know how this one turns out.
Aibhinn often makes me laugh. Sometimes she makes me think, too. This email did both.
Like I said, I'm used to getting strange calls. I always look at the Caller ID in the window on my desk phone — I recognize a dozen or so numbers: my boss, my wife, a former colleague who calls me when he's too lazy to do his own research, that sort of thing. I recognize the area codes from our regional offices, the ones that call me a lot: San Francisco, Kansas City, Boston, and New York. When a call comes in with no caller-id, it's either my good friends at the Department of Justice, or the Auburn office, which for some reason has the caller-id suppressed. When my wife calls, I always answer either "Love of my life" or "Hey," depending upon my mood and who happens to be sitting in my office at the time. With all other calls, I answer "Counsel's Office," which is about as close as I'm willing to get to the prescribed greeting that our most recent political appointee mandated.
The phone rang and I swivelled to reach it, noting that the Caller ID merely said "Incoming Call." I picked up the receiver. "Counsel's Office," I said.
There was a brief bit of silence, what sounded like a throat clearing, and then a young-sounding British-accented voice said, "I'd like to speak with Mr. Kokopelli, please."
I wasn't ready for that, even with the e-mail from Aibhinn.
Nobody calls me Kokopelli. Well, almost nobody. I sat there blinking a bit, which was brilliant, of course, because on the phone no one can hear you blinking. "This is your lucky day then," I managed, finally. "This is Kokopelli speaking."
"Uh, sir, this," her voice squeaked horribly. "This is Ginny, Ginny Weasley; from your story."
"Uh, yeah, right," I said, sounding like I'd just stepped out of the lobotomy parlour.
"Please don't hang up, sir. This isn't a crank call, really."
"Tell me something that only Ginny would know."
"I am Ginny."
"Yeah, right — you know the drill."
"Um, you lost the first draft of The Big One, and had to rewrite it from memory."
"I discussed that in my review threads."
"Oh, I haven't read those."
"They're really quite amusing — my threads are the most read on the web-site, according to the little numbers that the program keeps. You'll have to do better than that."
"Uh, the first draft of that letter mentions that I get zits at a certain time of the month."
"I discussed that with Laurel."
"No, Laurel the chronology lady, I used her as the basis for Laurel the Auror. Okay, let me help you here, Ginny. What did you do after reading the Big One?"
"I changed my knickers."
"Because they were soaking wet, dammit! I thought it was incontinence until Hermione explained that particular phenomenon to me. She was really quite amused. Oh, gosh, I can't believe that I'm telling you this. This is really mortifying."
I suppressed a smile at her reaction. "I'm almost convinced. Describe yourself to me."
"I'm short, I have brown eyes, straight red hair down to the middle of my back, and freckles."
"Several hundred readers know that information too."
She sighed in resignation. "Okay, my bottom's too big, my top's too small, I've got a prominent chin and my hands are really small, even given my size."
"You have my sister's hands, if you want to know the truth — that's part of how I see you, but I never bothered to put that into any part of the story. Okay, you're Ginny. I'm not going to ask how a fictional character is placing this phone call."
"That's very kind of you. I don't understand it either — I think that Hermione could explain it, but she's at home, in bed, asleep."
"Okay, Ginny, what date is it where you're calling me from?"
"It's the middle of July."
"Okay, that explains a few things. It's February, 2004 here."
"Don't worry about it — I don't understand either. Just so long as I don't have to pay the toll charges."
"What does a troll have to do with this?" Her voice was somewhere between confused and exasperated at the apparent non sequitur.
"Let's change the subject, Ginny. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to talk to you about the story."
Yes, Aibhinn had said as much. "What about it?"
"Why is it taking so bloody long?" she demanded. "It's the middle of July, you have an endless parade of scarlet women throwing themselves at Harry, and I'm stuck here at the Burrow, grounded for the summer, unloved, untouched, unkissed."
"I don't think that's really fair. Would you call Tonks a scarlet woman to her face?"
There was a pause. "Probably not," she said in a much more subdued voice. "No, she's always been very kind to me."
"I don't think that unkissed is a word, either, but I'll let it slide for today." I was enjoying this more than I really should. As Aibhinn had said, if this was a prank, it was a world-class one.
"What about That Woman?" Her voice emphasized the words enough that I could actually hear the capital letters.
"What woman would that be, Ginny?"
"You know exactly who I'm talking about, Mr. Smartypants Author. That, that, War Witch!"
"What about Jasmine?" If the Catholics are right, I'm going to spend an extra week in Purgatory for enjoying this so much. I just know it.
"Why do you keep writing her into this story?!?" Her voice wasn't shrill, thankfully, but I still had to hold the phone an inch or two from my ear. "This is supposed to be an H-G story!"
"Actually, it's a pre-H-G story — I said so in my story application to the old Gryffindor Tower."
"What do you mean, pre-H-G?"
"Well, it's a Summer-after-Fifth-Year story, and it explains all about how you and Harry end up together, but you're not really a strong item by the end of the story."
"Well, you're not." I shifted the phone to my other ear, as the one it had been pressed to was beginning to ring.
"What kind of sicko are you, Kokopelli?" she spat.
"Evidently I'm the kind of sicko that receives phone calls from characters I write about in my spare time," I said dryly. "If it makes you feel better, you will have an understanding with Harry by the end of the summer."
"An understanding? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?"
So much for being able to hear out of that ear either. "You really don't need to shout," I said mildly. "I may be old, but I'm not deaf."
There was a pause, during which I could hear her taking a deep breath. "I'm going to hang up now, sir," she said carefully, "and go compose myself, and then I'm going to call you right back, if that's okay, and we can continue this conversation."
I refused to chuckle. I have too many women in my lifeâ€”including a teenagerâ€”to risk that; I knew what would follow if I did. "That's fine with me. If you reach my voice mail, don't freak out. I'll be in and out of the office all day."
"Good-bye, Ginny." I returned to the work they were paying me for, amused and intrigued.
Several phone calls, replied e-mails and one cup of coffee later, she called again.
"Counsel's Office," I said.
"I'm back," she said. I didn't get many phone calls from teenaged girls with British accents. I knew who she was.
"Aren't you going to ask me some more humiliating questions?"
"No, I'm fairly well convinced that you are who you say you are."
"Well, that was easy."
"Ginny, I'm detecting a certain amount of hostility in your voice." I keep my own voice calm.
"I'm sorry, sir."
"You don't have to call me sir."
I sighed. I have a teenager. I know all about mindgames.
There was a long silence. I considered firing up a cd on my computer, either Rachmaninoff's Third or maybe Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, but thought better of it.
"What happens next?" she said at last.
"In the story, what happens next?" she asked, speaking slowly like I was a very dim bulb.
All right, then. If she's going to treat me like an idiot adult, I get to play with her brain some more. It's only fair. "Did I tell you that it's February here at this end of the phone call?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"I'm thinking of giving up writing fan fiction for Lent."
"You know, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, forty days of denial in preparation for Easter, all that. It's a tradition of the Christian church."
"Forty days!?!" she exclaimed, aghast.
"Yeah, forty days," I said. I had given it some thought, but for the most part I was toying with her as her attitude bothered me.
"Couldn't you give up smoking instead?" she asked plaintively.
"Don't do that either. Don't even suggest what you're thinking, my wife would never go for it." The last part was added purely because she tweaked my ornery muscle. (I learned that phrase from Aibhinn, who uses it on occasion. It appeals to meâ€”both the concept and the phrase itself.)
"Eeeewww, that's sick!"
I grinned. Teenagers can be so predictable. "Sorry I mentioned it."
"You're like, really old, right?" she said with revulsion.
"I'm about four years younger than your dad, Ginny."
"Oh." Another pause, during which I again tried very hard not to laugh. Experience with my own teen has taught me that dropping the subject means I've won. "Like I said, what happens next in the story?"
Her tone was much more pleasant now.
"How far have you read?" I asked, wondering if that was the right verb for how a character experiences the story.
"Okay. Chapter 14 is a bunch of letters, setting up the next crucial junction, which is in Chapter 16."
"Does Harry write me?"
"Yeah, I am thinking that he may call you by Floo from Mrs. Figg's house too."
"I haven't written it yet."
"Oh. How do you know what happens next?"
"I wrote an outline."
"Oh." Amazing how many different meanings can come from the same phoneme.
"Fifteen is another chapter with Abelard."
"Is Jasmine there?" she asked suspiciously.
"Of course. She beats the stuffing out of Harry with Kendo sticks in that chapter."
"Does she kiss him again?"
"No," I said. Not in that chapter.
"Tandem broom rides?"
"Good." Her voice was satisfied. "What happens after that?"
"Well, Harry comes to the Burrow for his birthday."
"Harry's coming?" she squealed. My ear hurt. Again. Man, that was loud.
"Ginny, another shot like that and I'm going to have to put you on speakerphone."
"Harry gives you a present - it's a nice one. Don't ask, Ginny, Lissa doesn't even know yet."
"Yeah, Harry talks to your mum and dad about getting to know you better."
"What!?!" A horrified squeak.
I reached over and hit a button, replacing the receiver in the cradle. "Okay, that's it - you're on speakerphone now. Go back and re-read Harry's discussion with Laurel, it's all spelled out there."
"You're having me on."
"No, it's called foreshadowing."
"Whatever. What about The Plan?"
"It doesn't go so well."
"What!?! We worked all night on that, four of the most brilliant minds in England."
This time I let myself chuckle aloud. "Yeah, well, it kind of gets overtaken by events. The next chapter after that is called â€˜Cooking with Harry.'"
"What happens there?"
"You spend the day at the Burrow with him, alone."
"Thanks for the warning, I'll double up my knickers."
"You end up having a talk about your relationship."
"Yes!" Although I can't see her, I can hear her feet dancing, and can imagine her fist pumping in the air.
"Actually, you get into an argument with him."
The dancing stopped. "No!"
"Yeah, you do. There's nothing like it in all fan-fiction. I worked a long time on that chapter."
"Does he kiss me?" she asked hopefully.
I didn't answer.
Gotta answer, I suppose. I sigh. "No."
"No? What kind of pervert are you, Kokopelli?"
"Do you want me to pray about that question during Lent?"
Revulsion colored her voice. "No, giving up chocolate would be just fine, thank you! How does it end? TLOS, I mean."
"On the Hogwarts Express." There's a long pregnant pause. I push my chair back and pull a notebook from my bookshelf. "Hang on a minute, reading my own longhand is difficult," I said. Then I read her the last paragraph. There was a very long silence.
"That was very sweet," she sniffed. "Are you sure you're male? You sure write like a woman."
"I'm positive. Mrs. Kokopelli is positive too."
"Is that it? Does the story just end there?"
"Yeah it does. Then Mrs. Rowling writes book six."
"Ooooh, what happens there?"
"You'll have to wait and find out." As we all will, I carefully don't say. She knows the way it works.
"What about Hermione?"
I blink, surprised. "What about her?"
"Does my stupid, bald brother make his move?"
I don't answer immediately. "What do you think?"
"I think he does."
I grin. Ginny's not a stupid girl, when she's thinking with her brain, not her hormones. "I think you're right."
"I take back most of the nasty things I've said about you this week."
"Thank you, Kokopelli. Are there any more stories after this?"
"Lots of stories. You're in most of them."
"Well, that's good, I suppose. Um, could you quit your job and start writing full time?"
"You'd be the second to know when that happens." And Aibhinn would kill me, but that's not precisely the point here.
"Get back to writing."
"Actually, I've got to get back to work. I'll start writing on the ride home from work tonight."
This time I could hear the smile in her voice. "Goodnight, Kokopelli."
Copyright 2004 - J Cornell - all rights reserved
Author's notes: This is an intermission, a genre unique to fan fiction in which the characters are aware that they are characters in a piece of fiction. I first ran across this while reading After the End by Arabella and Zsenya, the best piece of fan-fic in the known universe. On the SugarQuill website one can find a slightly mind-bending Intermission in which the various versions of the characters all mill about in a carnival atmosphere. I didn't like the story at first, but it grew on me over time. It's written by Firelocks and is known as "Attack of the Clones."