I rubbed my temple and wished that she would stop the lecture and rub it for me. "You of all people know that I can't write if I'm in a happy mood. It just doesn't work that way. Which is vaguely depressing in and of itself, really."
"Definitely, guy, definitely. Which makes you really tiresome to be around sometimes." She tilted her head forward to light her clove off the candle on the trunk that doubled as the coffee table.
"Not my fault," I said. "I blame you. You're the muse. Get to musing already."
"Hey, I'm doing my job." She blew a cloud of thick smoke at me. "Who inspired you to start writing this book, anyway, if not me?"
She leaned forward suddenly, struck by a coughing fit, one hand over her face, smoke pouring out her nose and worming between her fingers. Between coughs, she snubbed her cigarette out in the dish holding the candle. "Ali? What the hell are you talking about? I'm the Muse around here, buddy!"
I shrugged. "Yeah, well, you've been slacking. Too much smoking and self-importance, not enough inspiration."
She made a soft rumble in her throat. "Hey, Mr. Cheery, be careful. Piss off the Muse, and you'll be stuck with that funeral scene for weeks. See if you aren't."
"Eh. There's two funeral scenes now. It just seemed to fit together better that way. Oh, and don't worry about the bit in the bar, either. Jess gave me an idea for that one."
She shrieked. "You slut! Two-timing me... no... three timing! You are so going to get your ass kicked."
"You weren't doing your job well enough, Muse. I out-sourced."
"I'll out-source you, you mother--"
I held my hands up. "Hey, hey, calm down. Don't take it personally. I'm not knocking your work or anything. I'm just opening myself to a few different influences right now."
"Strike!" she cried. "As of right now, I'm on strike! Let's see how many more chapters you get done without me. We'll see how far your girlfriends get you in this one, boy-o." She folded her arms across her chest and glowered at me.
"Jesus, Muse, chill out. You're not being replaced... just... umm..."
"You know... hum... what's the word I'm looking for?"
She harumphed. "See? You won't last out the week without me. And the word you're looking for is idiot."
"Right, that's it... Hey! Knock that off!"
She growled again. "Idiot."