Rory Pendrift swilled the last of his cafe latte—now ice cold.  The cup was stuck all over inside with recalcitrant bits of crema, hard now like the stubborn, mussy snowdrifts of early spring.
     Rory made his way out into the glare of a sunny Queen Street morning.  It was shaping itself into another aimless day, he thought to himself, as he paused a minute to ponder whether to walk east or west.  He chose east.
     It was part of Rory’s contention, as he proceeded to pick up the threads of his fitful, fragmented but ongoing analysis of the causes and meanings of his rudderlessness, that everything would be different if he hadn’t been saddled with his absurdly ambitious father, the Old Artificer, who was now throwing up condo buildings all over Toronto. 
     “Ivanhoe!!” he said out loud as he walked, thus considerably unnerving a middle-aged woman passing in the other direction.  “Why call a condo Ivanhoe?  You may as well call It Classics Illustrated!! 
     In fact the whole idea of naming was causing Rory distress.  How, for example, could he ever have titled his first—and so far only—book of poetry Dragon’s Breath? It was so fucking quaint.  So goddammed Arthur Rackham!               So gruesomely Edmund Dulac!  Every word in the stupid book seemed to Rory to sprout elves ears.  Every thought came equipped with little pointed leathern shoes curled up at the toes.  He fervently he wished he could recall all 250 copies that had been printed—at his own expense.  Well, maybe he still could.  It wasn’t as of any of them had sold.
     Six blocks further east on Queen Street, he went in to another coffee shop, sat in the front window—the chair now broiling with the blanketed heart of the midmorning sun, and—stupidly, he knew—ordered a second latte.  It came promptly, far too promptly somehow, and by the end of the second sip, Rory knew it wasn’t a latte he wanted at all. 
     He wanted a muse. 
     But where did you get a muse
     High-powered fashion designers had muses, he knew.  Like Valentino.  Like Yves Saint Laurent.  Maybe Karl Lagerfeld.  Alexander McQueen sort of did.  But did poets have muses?  Real ones, he meant, not remote Robert-Graves-White-Goddesses lounging about in the night sky.
     It’s what I need,” Rory said in a loud voice over his latte.
     “What’s what you need?” asked a young woman he hadn’t yet bothered to notice who was sitting a few seats over from him in the greenhouse-hot front window.   She was toying with an espresso and gazing at Rory with something like bemusement.
     “A muse,” he said, scarcely glancing at her.
     “Why?” she asked him.
     “So I can write better poetry.”
     “How does this muse person help with that?” she asked. 
     “I’m not really at all sure,” replied Rory, taking a sip of his unwanted coffee.  “She just helps you be a better writer somehow.”
     “But how?”
     “I told you,” said Rory, beginning to grow agitated, “I don’t know how.”
     “But you expect this muse person to know, right?” she said.
     “Well, I think they’re trained to know all that stuff,” replied Rory weakly.
     “Oh yeh?  Where do they get that kind of knowledge? The girl asked him.  “Is there s school for muses?”
     I know you can get a museology degree,” Rory said.
     The girl smirked.
     “That’s for studying museums!” she told him.  “Are you sure you’re a poet?  You don’t really seem very bright!”
     “Oh I guess I’m not, really,” Rory told her.  Not knowing what to say next, he them decided to gaze out the window onto the street and stay gazing until a certain number of people had strode by.  He watched them with little interest, just letting them settle into time like beads on a string.  After a few moments, he turned back to the girl.
     “Twenty-six.” She said.
     You let twenty–six people go by before you looked at me again.  An entire alphabet!”
     “Really?  Twenty-six?  I didn’t do it on purpose.”
     “Well, not consciously, anyhow.”
     “You counted them?”
     “Oh, not really,” she told him.  I just looked up when it felt as if an alphabet’s worth of people had passed by our window!”
     Rory was becoming intrigued by this strange girl, despite his best efforts not to be.
     “Who are you?” he asked her.
     “Who are you, first?” she asked back.  “I don’t want to be first into the fray.”
     :My name he is Rory Pendrift.”
     “A contradiction in terms,” she laughed.  “Rory is fierce like the roar of the MGM lion, while ‘Pendrift’ is tentative and goalless, a scratchy pen meandering across the paper, looking for completion, for closure, for haven, for rest.  You don’t know where the hell you’re going do you, Rory Pendrift,” she smiled.
     “No,” he answered quietly. 
     “So what‘s’ your name?”
     “Bongo,” she told him. “Bongo Bearance.”  
     She took a final sip of her espresso.
     “My father named me that—after a little cartoon bear in the funny papers when he was a kid.  Bongo rolled around everywhere on a unicycle.  He was a Disney character, but he was never very popular, and Disney finally dropped him. My real name,” she added sweetly, “is Bailey Bearance.  But Bongo sort of stayed with me.”
     “I like it,” said Rory.

     “Me too,” grinned Bongo.