COLLABORATION

Two friends sat in a diner booth and, over coffee, discussed working together on something creative.

“We could write a book,” Clark suggested.

“A novel?” asked Bruce. “The traditional kind?”

“Mmm... two people writing a single novel? It can be done, but maybe not by two people with such different...”

“Moods?”

“Perspectives, I was going to say.”

“Always pulling your punches. Not a novel, then. Something nonfiction?”

“We could write a humor book.”

“Humor isn’t nonfiction.”

“Technically, it is,” Clark informed Bruce. “But come to think of it... well, to be blunt, Bruce, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you smile, let alone laugh. Have you ever laughed?”

“Once,” Bruce confessed. “Years ago. It was something... you know who said.”

“A joke? Tell me.”

“Another time.”

“Fair enough. So no humor. What else? A guidebook? A... cookbook?”

“Do you even eat, Clark? Anyway, I don’t cook. Alfred cooks.”

“Maybe I should write a book with Alfred, then,” Clark kidded.

“Alfred’s busy enough,” Bruce assured Clark.

“Do you have any hobbies, Bruce?” In response, Bruce just raised an eyebrow. “Any typical hobbies, I mean.”

“No.”

“Because they say to write what you know....”

They do say that. We can’t write what we know, however, because then everyone would know it.”

“A good point. Hey, what about a book on investing? That’s something you know well that wouldn’t compromise——”

“I don’t do my own investing, Clark. I have money managers.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“There’s still a lot you don’t know about me.”

“Well, you’ve never let me interview you...!”

“And I’m not planning to. But speaking of that: You know you’ll probably have to shoulder the burden of actually writing this book, whatever it turns out to be. If it turns out to be a book at all.”

“My shoulder can handle that.”

“I’m sure. But I don’t want you to feel put upon.”

“If it gets to be too much work, I can ask Lois to pitch in....”

“A ghostwriter, Clark? I’m surprised that you’d even consider it. I mean, you’re practically the posterboyscout——”

“More coffee, gentlemen?” asked a waitress, appearing at the table.

“Please,” Bruce said.

“Thank you,” said Clark. “And can I get a piece of pie?”

“Sure. What kind?”

“Apple,” Bruce put in. “Always apple.”

“Be right back, hon.” The waitress left them again.

“What if we start with something smaller than a book?” Bruce asked.

“How about a play? Or a screenplay?”

“Or a musical!”

“Do I detect sarcasm, Bruce?”

“You can see right through me, Clark. No, I was thinking of something like an underground ad campaign.”

“Why is everything underground with you? And what would we be advertising?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then, let’s save the advertising until we have a product. What about a TV pilot? Not a sitcom,” Clark clarified.

“The man who can fly suggests a pilot. How ironic. What about an infomercial?”

“For...?”

“A fitness regimen? A grueling one.”

“Interesting. Let’s put that in the ‘Maybe’ pile.”

“How many ‘piles’ do we have?”

“So far: Maybe and Won’t Play in Smallville. We should think about what we have in common.”

“We’re both orphans,” Bruce offered. “Sort of.”

“We’re both quick to look on the bright side of things,” Clark rejoined. “Oh, no, wait. That’s just me,” he chided, adding, “Now we’re even.”

“We both have good hair,” Bruce said.

“That’s a fact,” Clark agreed. “But I don’t think that’s enough even for a magazine article. My hair’s like this naturally, all the time. What do you do for yours?”

“Couldn’t tell you,” Bruce admitted.

“Alfred again?”

“Absolutely. Man’s a godsend.”

“Funny that you should say that... to me, of all people.”

“Is that... arrogance, Clark? That’s unlike you.”

“I apologize. Here’s the waitress.”

“Apple pie for the man in glasses,” the waitress announced, setting down the dessert plate like a flying saucer on a plowed field. “That’s how I can tell you two apart. Are you brothers?”

“We’re not even from the same planet,” Bruce said, and the waitress laughed as she walked away.

“That was funny, Bruce!”

“I have my moments.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t rule out humor after all. If not a book, maybe a comic strip? We could publish it ourselves, put in online.”

“Too great a time commitment. But putting something online isn’t a bad idea. A Web site....”

“Are you comfortable with computers?”

“I have one or two.”

Clark chuckled. “Do you know HTML?”

“HTML is over, Clark. Anyway, I know a kid who could do the scripting for us.”

“And the layout?”

“How difficult can layout be? Everything goes in one frame or another. And there are still only four colors, right?”

“As far as we know. What’s wrong?”

“Coffee’s cold.”

“Let me,” Clark said, and glanced at Bruce’s cup.

“Thanks. So, what would the content of the World’s Finest Web site be, exactly?”

“We could give advice.”

“Could we?”

“Sure: Stay in school... Respect your elders... Drink milk to grow up strong....

Guns aren’t toys... Don’t talk to strangers or pet unfamiliar animals.... I don’t know. People don’t like being lectured to. Even by... regular guys like you and me. What about a matchmaking service?”

“JLA-Date?”

“Nothing so obvious, no.” Bruce thought for a moment. “We could do it with a twist.”

“A twist?”

“We could match up users with their nemeses.”

“That seems like a productive service to you? Yes, I suppose it would.”

“It could save a person a lot of—— What?”

“Your phone’s about to ring.” A moment later, Bruce’s cell phone rang.

“How did you know?”

“I heard the signal coming in.”

“Must be tough to get to sleep.”

“Fortunately, I rarely need to.”

“Of course. You just need to get some sun.”

“Are you going to answer it?” Clark asked. Bruce had stopped his phone from chirping, but it vibrated on his belt instead.

“I rarely need to,” Bruce said.

“Why not?”

“Because I always know who’s calling. Only one person has this number.”

“What about greeting cards? Welcome to Earth! Sorry about your homeworld—— Oh, you’re going now, aren’t you?” Bruce was standing.

“I’m needed.”

Clark looked at his wristwatch. “I should take off, myself. But we’re not finished talking about this. We really should do something together.”

“We should. We will.” Bruce reached inside his suit jacket for his wallet.

Clark said, “I’ll get it, Bruce.”

“Come on, Clark.”

“I’ll get it next time, then.”

“Sure.” The two friends shook hands.

“Take care, Bruce.”

“Goodbye, Clark. Keep brainstorming.”

Outside the diner, Bruce climbed into a car waiting for him, its sober, familiar driver holding open the rear door.

Clark stood on the curb, waiting, smiling and waving, until Bruce’s car had pulled away. Then he started walking back to his office, whistling, his feet barely touching the ground.


Matthew David Brozik is the author of WHIMSY & SODA and TAKING IVY SERIOUSLY, among other things.

“Collaboration” appeared in Armchair Aesthete, Summer 2008.