I had raised my knuckles to rap on the apartment door again, then heard the shuffling of feet on the other side. A moment later, the door opened, and Fraud’s baseball-capped head appeared in the opening. He didn’t seem surprised or upset, but his face revealed that my appearance was not wanted, as if I were a cable technician coming to install a service he hadn’t requested.
I smiled, pointed behind him. “Can I come in?”
“OK,” said Fraud, opening the door fully and then stepping back into the apartment, resuming his customary seat on the green recliner with the matching ottoman.
Who’s there? I recognized Claude’s distinctive annoyed voice from one of the bedrooms.
“It’s me, Claude.” I decided to keep standing, as I was on business, more or less. “I need you and Fraud to help me with this blog post.”
Bed springs squeaked as they uncoiled; a moment later, Claude raced in from the rear of the apartment, and upon seeing me, began stroking his neatly trimmed goatee. “At last, a distinguishing physical characteristic!”
I nodded in response. “It was going to be just a mustache, but — ” I stoked my bare chin — “having hair down here, just seemed more like you.”
Claude clapped his hands, looked at me like I was Santa. “Are you here to finally write that story you’ve been thinking about?” He then glanced up at the ceiling, his hands skimming across the letters of an imaginary marquee. “Claude and Fraud Get Elected.”
“What?” Fraud, sitting in his green recliner with the matching ottoman, had resumed reading his newspaper, but hearing his name grabbed his attention.
With as much evident regret as I could muster, I shook my head. “Sorry, guys. Might get to that some time, but not now.” I pointed to Fraud — “I’m afraid people might confuse you with The Fraud, who’s an entirely different individual.”
“Because he’s not fictional?” Fraud asked.
“If only that weren’t so.” It was time to get to the point, so I turned my attention back to Claude. “I wanted to explain to my followers — ”
“Three hundred sixteen, and counting!”
“Thanks, Claude. Anyway, I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately on the blog this past week, and it’s mostly been pretty bad.”
“That’s not true!” Claude had his hands on his hips, bearded chin pointing straight at me. “Check your stats, you’re getting as many views and likes as usual! And read the comments!”
“At least,” Fraud added, “you didn’t compare a political candidate to a vegetable this time.”
“And no lame classical references, either!”
“All right, already!” I was starting to regret this decision. “Here’s my point — I appreciate the support I’ve been getting from my followers, but I set pretty high standards for myself, and while I’ve been pretty satisfied of late with my fiction, I don’t think my poetry’s not nearly at that level. An analysis of my stats — ” pointing to Claude for emphasis — “would show the posts with the highest views and likes, are almost all fiction.”
“OK,” said Fraud, looking eager to get back to reading his newspaper.
“You guys remember how I used to subtitle this blog?” They stared back at me blankly, as I had created them without any memory. “Experiments in writing. Some will work, others won’t. That’s why they’re experiments. Every poem I write is an experiment, guys, and since I’m a relative newbie in the genre, most of these experiments are gonna go BOOM!” I raised my hands wide and to face level for emphasis, which both Claude and Fraud seemed to appreciate.
“All right then,” said Claude. “But, why did you come here to say that? Why not post your own essay, instead of this metafictional exercise?’
I shrugged. “Thought it would be more entertaining to bring in you guys, seeing as you were the subjects of my most failed fictional experiment — sorry.”
“No problem,” Fraud said, and resumed reading his newspaper.
Claude held a palm up to me — “You still owe us that story, man.”
I nodded, started walking towards the door. “And you’ll get it — once I figure out a proper role for Maude.”
“Maud,” said Fraud.
“Oh God,” said Claude.
Fraud lowered his newspaper, revealing a face filled with sudden delight. I shook a warning finger at him — “We are NOT going there!” — before leaving their apartment, slamming the door behind me.