Alter Ego Workshop
(from Michael Bungay's workshop)
I created an alter ego I called Peter Maxwell, who could have been me nearly 50 years ago if I had been someone else. Immediately below is a short resume I did for this character. I then used this character to produce a short story.
Peter Maxwell is 23 years old. He did a degree in History and now lives with three male friends, Stephen, Andrew and George, in a shared house. He worked for a time in a Subway, but got fired for failing to appreciate that customers prefer to receive what they have actually ordered.
Since the loss of his job, Peter has been subsisting on job-seekers allowance, but this is due to come to an end in a couple of weeks, and he knows he will be told to return to his parents’ home instead of living in his present accommodation.
Peter was debating whether to go out with his friends to the pub. It was all right for them, as George had a decent job, while Stephen and Andrew were post grads and had funding for their research. Peter on the other hand was forced to rely on his job-seekers’ allowance since losing his job at Subway. His boss told him he was unwilling to keep on anyone who was unable to appreciate that customers preferred to receive what they actually ordered.
“Oh come on,” George said to him. “I’ll buy you a drink.”
That settled it. Peter had been on the point of going anyway, as he did not relish sitting on his own in front of a grotty TV set and watching endless police dramas.
For a while they sat and chatted. Peter nursed his lager, wondering if he could make it last all evening, but two hours later he was looking at the last two millimetres in the bottom of his glass, and decided he would have to buy a refill, and hoping his companions would understand he could not afford a round.
He was lucky, as just then Andrew said, “My turn to buy I think. Peter, come with me and help carry them.”
He went with Andrew. There was a bit of a queue at the bar, so Peter said, “I’ll just nip to the loo.” Having emptied his bladder, Peter went back to the bar only to find Andrew clutching three drinks.
“That one’s yours,” Andrew told him, indicating the glass of lager on the bar. Andrew went ahead, so Peter picked up his glass and took a sip, a very small sip, since he was hoping this one would last the rest of the night. However thirst got the better of him, so he took a second and then a third sip, or rather more of a glug.
He turned from the bar, and was just taking a fourth sip, or possibly glug, when quite suddenly his elbow was jerked up and most of the drink splashed out on to his face and down his shirt.
“Oh my god I’m so sorry.” The girl looked very upset as well as contrite. “Are you all right?”
“Well, apart from my clothes being all wet and reeking of booze, and losing most of my drink, I’m fine.”
“I’m so sorry,” she repeated. “The least I can do is buy you another one,” and before Peter could say anything she had caught the barman’s attention and was handing Peter another drink.
“Are you with anyone?” she asked.
“A few mates.” Peter noticed the girl had really nice hair and, while not as skinny as modern fashion dictated, looked rather attractive. “What about you?”
“I was supposed to meet a friend here.”
“Hasn’t he shown up?”
“She. No, she just sent me a text to say she can’t make it.”
This remark made Peter wonder about her sexual orientation, but he asked, “Would you like me to sit with you?”
“Are you sure? I mean I wouldn’t want you worrying about me spilling your drink all over you again.” She looked slightly anxious, but she also smiled.
“I don’t think you’re likely to do that again. At least unless you make a habit of it.”
As they sat down, she said, “I don’t think it’s the best of pickup techniques. And not very reliable either. I’m Lucy by the way.”
Aha! Peter thought. I think that means you’re probably not gay.
They chatted for a while, and then Peter thought that, despite his meagre funds, he should at least make the offer to buy her a drink. His calculation was that, since he rather liked this girl, it would be worth the investment.
Lucy forestalled him by saying, “It’s getting a bit crowded and steamed up in here. Do you fancy coming to my place for some coffee?”
Peter looked at her and decided he would like nothing better. He said, “Are you sure? I mean, you don’t really know me.”
“Oh, I think I’ll be safe enough with you. Come on, it’s only just across the road.”
Peter was pleasantly surprised that Lucy’s flat did indeed turn out to be just across the road. He was also pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. They sat on bar stools in the kitchen sipping coffee when the front door was opened with a key. It was a young man, perhaps a year older than Lucy.
“Hi Mark,” Lucy said. Mark put an arm round her and hugged her, but did not give her a kiss.
To Peter this did not augur well. It meant they took each other for granted. Peter wondered if he should make his excuses and leave. Mark wandered off.
Lucy said, “If you took your shirt off I could rinse it and bung it in the dryer.”
“I can hardly sit here without my shirt on. What would Mark think?”
“Oh don’t worry about him. My brother thinks I’m a fast worker”.
(from Andy Smith's Workshop)
I could have been different
If my life had not happened
The way it did
If I had not been ill at school
Done A levels
I would have been more conventional
But I would not have been me
I would never have known war
I would never have seen those limbless boys
Those athletic young men
On the verge of manhood
Suddenly dependent cripples
I would have been anti-war
Only in abstract
I would have gone to university sooner
Done a conventional job
Instead of my decision
To work for myself
Never to work for others again
Never met Jill
Never had my family
The one I have
But I am me
I have created
What I have
What I am
And those around me
I created them
Without these I would not be me
And they would not be at all
Then I would not have lost my daughter
Because I would never have had her
She would never have existed
Neither would my son and living daughter
The loss is so great
Just one event
Has such a catastrophic impact
So affects my life
I want get back to who I was before
To feel the happiness and pride