I woke with a start. The bedside clock glowed 4:07 a.m.. There was somebody in the room. I could feel it. I leapt from my bed. A half-drunk Viking lay sprawled in my reading chair, mumbling in a Norwegian accent.
"What the...!" I struck a threatening karate pose.
"Shhhh," the big guy slurred, putting a grubby finger to his lips. He leaned forward, swooned, performed a seated bow, and belched. "Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. McLeod. I'm your muse. They call me Eric the Jolley."
"Muse?" I said.
"Yes, your muse." He swayed in my chair. "I've read some of your stuff. Believe me, you need all the help you can get."
He slumped back in my chair and passed out. He snored like a freight train.
That was several months ago. That's how I got my muse.
Eric's a big-boned, friendly sort. Sturdy, some would say. On good days, his eyes are blue, but most days they're seriously bloodshot.
"Excessive consumption of stout," his wife, Helga, says.
"Bad allergies," Eric says.
His bulging, purple-veined nose looks like it got caught in a meat grinder.
"Too much stout," Helga says.
"Ski accident," Eric says. "Tree hit me."
His shaggy red hair is completely out of control.
"Won't use shampoo," Helga says, shaking her head.
"The rugged Viking look," Eric says.
A connoisseur of seedy bars, Eric freely admits that he drinks a bit.
"A bit?" Helga says.
"Stout," Eric says. "Guinness."
He has no willpower around horsemeat kabobs and regularly dribbles kabob juice all over his wool tunic. The rest of his Viking outfit consists of a reindeer coat, a fox-fur hat, doe-skin gloves, and muddy caribou boots. He doesn't get along with animal rights activists and smells a lot like road kill.
"A lot," Helga says.
The big Viking can tell a good story, but tends to overdo things when playing to a crowd. His friends call him Eric the Windbag behind his back. Unfortunately, Eric's new to musing and I'm new to writing -- the blind leading the blind, so to speak.
"It's a train wreck," Helga says.
"So how'd you become a muse?" I asked.
"Fair question," Eric nodded. "Writers do their best work in the middle of sleepless nights. The bars close about the time you guys get going, so the work fits my schedule."
"But I thought muses were leggy goddesses with firm, perky breasts who traipse around topless. I saw pictures in a book once. No offense, but if I'm getting a muse, I want a goddess."
"Not happening," Eric said. "Way too many writers these days. Only the better ones get the goddesses." He pulled a Guinness from his coat pocket and pried the cap off with his teeth.
"That ridiculous," I argued. "If I'm inexperienced and in need of oversight, you'd think I'd get an experienced muse and a better looking one. How'd I draw the short straw?"
"It is what it is," Eric said, chugging his stout. "Long story."
And it was. You see, Eric the Jolley was the very first Jolley -- way, way, way back when. Eons later, my mother was born a Jolley. So, Eric and I are remotely related -- very remotely.
"Think of me as a long-lost uncle," Eric said.
That's when it dawned on me that I'd heard family stories about this guy. An 8th-century Norseman, he was a founding member of a men's club called the Vikings. To get the club going, Eric and his fellow Vikings met nightly at Baggi's Bar & Grill in the village of Bodo on Norway's coast. Every night after dinner, Eric the Jolley kissed the lovely Helga goodbye and headed off to his Viking meeting where he and his friends worked on their pillaging plans, recruited new club members, swilled stout, and munched on horsemeat kebabs.
At closing time on a frigid night in February 771 A.D., Eric the Jolley took up his empty mug and bid his Viking buddies farewell -- the ultimate farewell as it turned out. As he stepped into the lamplight outside Baggi's, he caught a battle-axe in the left ear and died a quick, but excruciatingly painful, death. He says he writhed in agony in a deepening puddle of blood for a full minute before he was enveloped in the comforting light and carried away from the grisly scene.
"It was an accident," Helga said. "Just some kids tossing battle-axes around in the street. You can't blame the kids."
"Sad," Eric said, sniffling and wiping his nose on his coat sleeve. "My career was just getting off the ground. I was going to be famous. I was going to be the Viking you'd read about in history books." Eric shook his head. "But it wasn't to be. Cut down in the prime of life, I was. Before I could get the whole Viking thing going."
Eric went from sniffling to blubbering.
"So you're new to musing," I said.
"Starting with you," Eric said.
"You've never done anything like this before?"
"No," he said.
"Ever taught writing?"
Ever taken an English course? Know anything about grammar?"
"No. But I've got a grammar book. Been putting off reading it. No worries, though, I'll get around to it. Soon, I hope."
"It's a train wreck," Helga said, shaking her head.
If you'd like to read more of Sam's "musings" get yourself a copy of his latest book, BIG APPETITE.