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Fiction Improvisation by James Pence
Title: The Impostor
Keywords: Anthony, Kelly, governor, arthritic, pander, salubrious, begonia, ancestry,
Situation: Man mistakenly wins a Newbery award.
NOTE: This improvisation was fun. I did make some changes to the situation, however. Instead of the man winning a Newbery Medal, I created a fictional award. Don’t want the Newbery people getting mad at me. I hope you enjoy it.
* * *
It was a mistake. It had to be.
But the check Anthony S. Newell held in his hands looked plenty real.
Granted, he’d never heard of the Society for Quality Young Adult Literature (SQYAL), but they’d evidently heard of him.
Anthony’s hands trembled as he examined the check for what seemed like the fiftieth time. Maybe it was a scam or some kind of sales pitch. He’d gotten them before. They send you what looks like a real check, but when you read the fine print you realize the check is about as real as a dollar bill with Donald Duck’s picture on it. It’s just a hook to get you to read their sales copy.
But there was no fine print with this check.
And no sales copy.
Just a letter.
On very expensive stationary.
Dear Mr. Newell,
Congratulations! The SQYAL Board of Governors is pleased to inform you that your self-published novel Teenage Werewolves from Jupiter has won first prize in our Best New Science Fiction category. Enclosed is your award check in the amount of $5,000. We hope you will be able to attend our awards ceremony in New York City on August 5th and personally receive your SQYAL Award. You may RSVP to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony looked at the check one more time, turning it over in his hands.
“Do you want me to get you a microscope so you can look closer?”
Anthony turned and frowned at his wife. “Not necessary. It’s real.”
“You aren’t planning on keeping that, are you?” asked Kelly Newell.
“And why shouldn’t I?”
“Well, for starters, they probably thought they were giving it to the real Anthony S. Newell.”
Anthony’s face flushed. “I am the real Anthony S. Newell.”
Kelly shook her head and walked into the kitchenette. “Whatever.”
Anthony stormed behind her. “Don’t question my ancestry. My legal name is Anthony Seymour Newell.”
Kelly poured a cup of coffee from a carafe that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in years. She shooed flies away from a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich on the countertop. “And you just happen to share that name with a bestselling author, except that his middle name is Samuel.”
Kelly waved away more flies and took a bite of the peanut butter sandwich. “And you deliberately design your book covers to look exactly like his. You even use the same font for your name.”
“There’s no law against that.”
“And you write the same genre he does. You even copy his subject matter.”
Anthony went back into the living room. He grabbed the check and waved it at her. “None of that matters. This is real.”
Kelly replied, taking a sip of coffee. “You’re impersonating one of the biggest, richest authors of our time, and it’s all just a big coincidence.”
“I didn’t say that. But I know that this check is real and I’m going to New York to pick up my award in person.”
Kelly shrugged. “Just sayin’. If that check is real, you’d better plunk it into savings. One of these days you’re going to get a cease and desist letter from the real Anthony Newell. And that letter could cost you a lot of money.”
* * *
Anthony contacted SQYAL by e-mail to let them know he was planning to attend the August 5th awards ceremony. They were delighted and even offered to make his travel arrangements. First class, roundtrip airfare to New York City. Two nights in the Ritz-Carlton. Limo service from the airport. Gourmet dining.
And his room! He had a deluxe park view suite, with a fully stocked bar. King-sized bed. Jacuzzi. 60-inch curved screen ultra HD TV. And even a vase filled with begonias, his favorite flower.
They were thorough. Must have checked out my website bio.
This was the life.
The only strange thing was that in almost two days, he hadn’t seen any other award winners around the hotel. And no advertising for the award ceremony, either.
No matter. He’d gotten an email, inviting him to Suite 2102 at 7 p.m. that evening.
When the time came, he dressed in a tux he’d bought specially for the occasion and headed up to Suite 2102.
As he stood before the door, he straightened his tie and brushed dandruff from his shoulders. This was his big moment.
Anthony took a deep breath and knocked.
The huge man who opened the door looked more like a bouncer than a literary executive.
Anthony stepped inside and heard the door close behind him. Then he heard the click of the deadbolt.
There were no other award winners there. Just one man, looking out the window toward Central Park, his hands clasped behind his back.
Anthony felt the bouncer behind him. Gentle but firm pressure on his back moved him forward. His mouth went dry.
When the man turned around, Anthony felt like throwing up. He knew the man’s face. He was standing before the real Anthony S. Newell.
“Anthony Seymour Newell,” said the man, not smiling. He motioned toward a table. “Sit down. We have a lot to talk about.”