Beggars are generally a friendly lot but I still felt somewhat nervous when I asked him if I could talk to him for a while.
“You’ll have to pay me,” he said roughly, “no-one gives money while someone’s talking to me. I need condensating.”
I doubted that what he said was true, but I threw a fiver into his hat anyway. After all – I was getting something out of the deal. The moment the fiver landed it was whipped out by his wart covered hand.
“No-one gives money if they see that I already have plenty,” he said by way of explanation.
I didn’t doubt that at all. I eased myself into the doorway with him, trying not to wrinkle my nose as I caught a whiff of something rather unpleasant. That done, I looked straight into eyes that were just a little too close for comfort and asked, “what if you could earn a living by doing nothing more than just sitting there?”
“I already am squire.”
This I knew to be true. I’d caught a glimpse of a bundle of notes as he’d stuffed my fiver in amongst them. But I persisted. “Seems to me that people don’t want to give money to beggars because they’re not actually doing anything for the money and, well, to be frank, that’s exactly why they’d rather give money to buskers instead.”
“Fair point squire,” he said nodding, “what did you have in mind?”
‘This is going rather well,’ I thought to myself and started my spiel: “there are three things people want and these are information, value for money and a feeling that they’re making a difference in the world.” I paused and watched him closely.
He watched me back with a shrewd expression and then looking away he noisily cleared his throat. “Here’s how I see it squire …”
“Call me Tarquin,” I said. This squire business was starting to stick in my craw.
“Here’s how I see it squire,” he said with a distinct firming of his jaw, “people generally want money, more money and a little something to relax them at the end of the day – in that hexact order.”
“Well, yes, that could work too,” I said with a slight fall to my crest, “but here’s the thing – people still want something for their money,”
He nodded briefly and I forged on, “so this is what I was thinking. I’m a writer and a damned good one too. If you were to relate your story to me and I type it and get it printed up – maybe with a picture of you on the cover,” I was almost gabbling now in my nervousness but I saw something of a glint in his eye and so I carried on more boldly, “it strikes me that people would be interested in how you came to be in this … state and would be more willing to pay you for the story of your life than give you money for nothing.”
That same shrewd expression was back on his face. “What’s in it for you?”
I swallowed, nodded once and said, “well, I’d retain copyright obviously. It’s my writing after all.”
“You’d have to pay me then,” with more than a hint of petulant child in his voice, “it’s my story.”
I was ready for this, “Copies at cost – as many as you want and you’d be able to get a quid each – more if you want. You’re looking at 400% profit on each one – at least. And the beauty is, none of the punters know you so it doesn’t even have to be your story. Heck, it only has to be moderately interesting – no-ones going to be demanding a refund.” I stopped, fighting to keep the look of triumph from my face, because I sensed that I had him.
“Alright then, lets get on with it. I hope you’re a fast writer. My name is …”
“Wait, let me get my …” I unzipped a pocket and pulled out my trusty smartphone. Tapping on the screen I found the app I wanted and stabbed the Record button. “Right, off you go.”
“My name is Tarquin,” he said with a hint of amusement about his whiskery face “and I was born …”
I relaxed back against the doorframe, barely listening to the drone of his words. That was four already today – eleven for the week and it was only Wednesday. My secretary had already transcribed most of them and I had the satisfying feeling that I was well on my way to a bestseller.
The deal from the publishers was lucrative – something about it being an untapped market and I smiled contentedly as the sun wound its way slowly across the sky. All was truly well with the world.