Marie tried to write despite Ron reading over her shoulder, looming just at the edge of her vision. That would have been distracting enough even without the stench of the vile thin cigars he smoked, and of course—
“You know you’ve got three adverbs in that paragraph already? Are you even trying?”
“I’ll worry about phrasing later.”
A fingernail clicked against the F key without pushing while she tried to jump back onto her train of thought. Duller clicks as she typed a few words, a few lines…
“Didn’t you spell that name with an i rather than y in chapter one?”
…and a patter as she dropped her fanned fingers onto the keyboard rather than going for Ron’s eyes.
“You are not helping.”
“Hey, I’m your muse. Means I’m the expert for creative work here.”
Marie glared up at him and gave a barely audible growl. “Whoever thought this’d be the job for you must be a complete idiot.”
“Your invective isn’t exactly imaginative. Besides, the people doing the assigning are experts, too.”
Telling him to go away while staying where she was to continue work without him watching had never worked before, so she just got up. “I’m done for now.”
“Yow. Don’t be so touchy. You’ll never get anywhere—”
Marie interrupted him by walking right through him, making him waver like a mirage.
Ron “tch”d before disappearing in a shower of sparks.
The next time Marie went to work on her novel, Ron popped back. As always. She would have brought an axe if he hadn’t been incorporeal. As things stood, she tried to ignore him.
“Bad news for you, you’re getting what you asked for.”
That cheerful proclamation did make Marie curious. And worried. “Getting what?”
“Rid of me. There was some mixup with the paperwork, and I shouldn’t be working as a muse.”
“So I was right.”
“Oh, no, there was no idiot who-thought-I-was, just an idiot who switched two sheets.”
“Whatever… They aren’t going to send a replacement, are they?
“I didn’t ask. Don’t think so, unless you wish again.”
“Wonderful,” Marie said dryly, turning to the screen. “So shove off.”
She sighed with relief when he disappeared a moment later.
Ron was just as glad being rid of the little ingrate. After a change of career, he’d certainly be assigned to someone who appreciated his input.
He showed up early at the Agency for orientation. The instructor gave him a brochure with information about his assigned future position. It sounded a perfect fit. His satisfied smile failed when he read some of the terms.
“Here, what is that supposed to mean?” he asked the instructor, pointing out a paragraph.
“That means that you are required to be semi-corporeal while interacting with your assigned human.”
“But why’s that?” Ron remembered one previous client throwing a wine bottle at him while he had been in that state. It had hurt.
He did, and sputtered with outrage. “Beat up, stabbed or shot?!”
The instructor made a calming palm-down gesture. “It might not come to that. At least not regularly. But the fact of the matter is that for some creative people, the main reason for externalising their inner critic is to get a way to get rid of it.”
“I’m here to teach,” the instructor said, nodding towards half a dozen other people that had wandered in. “You’re welcome to listen and learn along with your prospective colleagues. It might be a good idea to get the full picture, rather than rushing off half-cocked to complain to the Agency.”
Ron made a disgusted noise, but then pulled himself together and found a seat. He even kept from snapping at the guy next to him, who gleefully reminded him, “We live to serve, pal.”