I knew they weren't real letters!
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Bella, Heat and Woman's Own. By Sean McGahey.

Every Tuesday at Coffee Haven we have a “Writers Boot Camp”.
When I say boot camp it’s more like four people drinking coffee, smoking and writing supposedly real life stories and letters for a wide selection of popular women’s magazines.

We’re responsible for the classics such as “I’m having my brother’s baby! & I’m a child prostitute”, and the one that got a mention on Christian radio “I’m attracted to paedophiles”.

I’m not proud of this but it generates us a small income and the occasional prize. All of our letters get a good response probably read by people we pass in the street. The freakiest replies are from the happy clapping born again Christians and Scientologists.

Every now and again we reply to our own letters and win small prizes like a digital camera or $50 to spend at “The GAP”. The only downside to this is that thousands of women and probably a handful of men read our fiction but we’d never get the recognition we deserve or a book deal.

That’s why at tonight’s session I’m gonna suggest that we call it quits and possibly try something serious like our own novels or short fiction.

As I light my second cigarette Dan strolls in clutching his well read copy of “Choke”, he’s an alright bloke, the life long student living off grants and the pittance he makes at KFC. Whatever the weather he’s always wearing the heavy black crombie coat and as always he’s wearing his now trade mark tight black jeans and Mettalica t-shirt. He flops down opposite & takes one of my B&H and mumbles.

“Hey Patrick, how’s it going?”

“Yeah things are kind of interesting at the moment. How’s work going?”

“Shit, that’s how it’s going, although I get all the chicken I want for free.”

“Still working on your novel? What’s it called again?”

“It’s called THE QUESTION IS…I actually want to talk to you about the group, I want to work on my own shit, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah I’m glad you mentioned that..”

As I started talking a large clap of thunder boomed out above the coffee shop and the rain started lasing down, too which Dan shouts “Man that’s fucking freaky!!”

The door swings open and Sean stomps in.

“Hey Pat, Hello Dan. So what’s going on with this weather?”

Dan replies “Yeah pretty screwed up”

Sean pulls up a chair and takes one of my cigarettes and picks up Dan’s “Choke”

“Why are you re-reading this shite?”

Snatching it back Dan snarls “I like it! That’s the fuck why! I’m not one of those losers that just read Fight Club”

Sean pouts his lips and replies “Try reading anything by Augustan Burroughs or Brett Easton Ellis”

“Oh really? I’ll also join the New York Times book Club like all the other pretentious wankers that read Ellis and Burroughs.”

At this point I interrupt.

“Guys come on calm down; I’ve got an announcement to make”

They both look at me at first not saying anything until Sean replies.

“Are you gay?”

“No I’m not gay! What I’m trying to say is that..”

Dan interrupts

“Shouldn’t we wait for Karen? I mean she is part of our group.”

I sigh

“Yeah I guess we should wait for her”

“She’s always late and she’s only been in the group a few weeks”

“Do you fancy her?” Dan says rather cheekily.

“Yeah he wants to shag her” Sean says whilst laughing.

“Guys can we get serious for one minute, and yeah I actually do fancy her!

And to set the record straight she’s more than all those fuck this and fuck that brigade”

“So what’s the big speech?” asks Sean in a half arsed way.

Finally I can get a word in edgeways.

“It’s about the group; we’ve gone as far as we can with writing those bogus letters. Editors are starting to put two and two together and to top it all off I’ve heard through the grapevine that a new group has started doing the same thing and they’re one step ahead of us.”

Sean slams down his frapachino

“Fuck! I’ve just put together an excellent article on the trials and tribulations of a handicapped albino girl at the Olympics.”

The coffee shop door barges open and Karen stomps in soaking wet.

“Hey freaks I’m wetter than a slappers fanny!”

Karen slumps down and starts drinking my coffee.

“Hey Karen, how’s it going?” I hesitantly ask expecting some kind of offensive reply.

The rest are staring at her wet white t-shirt trying to distinguish if it is indeed a nipple they can see or is it part of the faded quicksilver logo.

“Anyway, what I was saying before Karen got here was that I’m thinking of folding the group as we’ve exhausted all possible ways of keeping our identity secret and I’m sure you all want to be working on your own shorts and novels”

Karen quickly answers back

“For fucks sake, we only meet once a week! We’ve got all the time in the world to do our own shit. As for running out of ideas for the women’s magazines, I’ve got hundreds. Just because things get tough we don’t need to give up”

Everyone except me gives her a mini round of applause

Dan lights one of my cigarettes and offers Sean & Karen one and she bloody accept! And says,

“So what if the editors know about us, technically we are only what are classed as ghost writers, you know like those that write footballers autobiographies”

To which I reply “Hold on it was only 10 minutes ago you were up for calling it quits? We can’t go on forever”

Like being at school Sean puts his hand up

“I’ve got an idea! The readers that reply to our letters receive a prize?

Am I correct?”

“Yes” we all reply

“Then why don’t we reply to the letters written by our rivals? That way we can undermine them and still make a little profit!”

The smug tosser has actually got a good idea, only wish that I thought about it.

Karen taps her fingers to the music in the background.

“What is this fucking music?”

Sean quickly replies “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

“Yeah thought so”

The waitress walks over to our table and re-fills our cups. Taking longer than usual as if almost listening in on our conversation,

“Anyway” I shout “what are we gonna do about the group? We’ve now got rivals and editors are starting to work things out.”

Dan suggests “we could always carry on without you if you’re chicken?”

“It wouldn’t be the same” mutters Sean whilst lighting the cigarette.

The waitress wonders off back to the counter occasionally looking back at us.

Feeling deflated I mutter “well whatever, we’ll just carry on.”

After a few minutes of awkward silence the waitress returns with a pile of magazines.

“Are you clowns responsible for the articles in these magazines?”

We all stare looking stunned.

“I know it’s you guys because you sit here talking all kinds of bullshit with the entire coffee shop listening.”

“What do you mean?” I whimper

“I mean I want a cut of what you make or I’ll send more of your ideas to the Article Boot Camp that meet here on a Wednesday.”

What frightened me most was how she leaned in when she made her demand.

Karen lights another of my cigarettes, stands up and looks at the waitress eye to eye.

“What’s stopping me from punching the fuck out of your miserable fat face?”

“Jesus Christ!" Sean mutters in complete disgust.

The waitress looks as though she can look after herself and answers back.

“My dear, nothing is stopping you but let’s get one thing straight, it’ll be the last thing you do if you were to try!”

I’ve got to calm things down. “Let’s calm the fuck down for a minute or two! We can work this out.”

Looking at her chest I see her name is Maureen.

“Listen Maureen, we don’t make that much money from this thing.”

Maureen takes the last of my cigarettes lights it and blows a plume of blue smoke into my face.

“I know you jokers make at least $30 per week. I want $10 plus tips; with the other group I can average $80 per month for doing nothing. I’ll let you jokers think about it and I’ll meet up with you next week for an answer. If you say no I’ll blow your cover”

The smug bitch strolls back behind the counter leaving the magazines sprawled out over our table.

“Fuck me!” Dan says looking seriously stressed “You’d think this was a political scandal or something.”

The group look at me for an answer and Karen asks,

“Well? What are we gonna do about psycho bitch? I mean it’s your group, you ‘re the leader and everything.”

Sean flicks through one of the magazines and as if a light bulb clicked whispers.

“She doesn’t know our real names or where we live? We can always meet at my place or Starbucks on 7th avenue.”

Dan looks pleasantly surprised “That’s a great idea, if we meet at your place I can bring a few beers”

Karen taps the table with excitement “fucking cool idea, I can also bring a joint and some cool music.”

“Ok, given the circumstances I think that’s a sound idea. As group leader I recommend we meet next week at Sean’s apartment. Even if she were to call the magazine editors they wouldn’t believe her anyway. I’m gonna write a letter based on the sad bitch.”

They all nod in agreement.

“So what should we do now” ask Dan.

“We should leave one at a time and not to attract her attention.”

Sean picks up his book and coat “Well guys I’m the fuck out of here, see ya all next week at my place.”

As we all wave goodbye he’s out the door and heading across the street.

Karen is already ready near the door “see ya later you freaks” and she’s gone.

Dan looks at me “I kinda like this coffee shop, I’m gonna miss it. Anyway I’ll see you next week Patrick.”

Putting his heavy wet crombie back on and picking up his books he’s about to leave.

“Yeah I’ll see you next week. I’m just sorry that this week was a waste of time.”

“Don’t worry about it; I’m already putting ideas down in my head for a story based on this event. See ya.” And within a blink he’s gone.

Maureen has been watching us but unable to hear what we’ve been saying.

Looking directly at me she mouths the words “I KNOW YOUR FUCKING SECRET!”

I wave a bye bye and storm out into the rain.

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