Bradley found it was easiest to talk to his imaginary friend, Russell, while getting dressed before the full-length mirror in the bathroom. In such a setting, Russell became both a congenial valet and good sounding board. He would stand to the side and let Bradley talk.
Russell had been around for as long as Bradley could remember. A little portly, a tad balding and approaching 30, the two of them looked a lot like each other. Russell was more devil-may-care in his attitude, though. They had grown up together and now, getting ready for the most important evening of his life, Bradley needed to search out Russell’s opinion more than ever.
BRAD: We’ve been together a long time and you’ve always given me excellent counsel. I have to come to you again because this is one more time when I’m not sure what to do.
RUSS: I appreciate what you’re saying but as I’ve told you before, the advice doesn’t really come from me. It comes from a very dear friend of mine, someone you refuse to believe in.
BRAD: You do understand my skepticism, don’t you?
RUSS: Not really.
BRAD: What you’re saying is I’m getting advice from an imaginary friend of an imaginary friend of mine, right?
RUSS: If you say so. She doesn’t seem so imaginary to me and what she says is always spot on.
BRAD: The advice has been excellent. When I wasn’t sure what career path to take, you convinced me start-up software development was a natural for me. And I’ve made a bundle.
RUSS: Absolutely true.
BRAD: And there have been several other times as well, although not as many as I would like. I’ll never forget when I made money betting on the Super Bowl. It was amazing.
RUSS: I remember. She told you, through me, to go against your team and pick the underdog, not only to cover the spread but to win outright. It paid off handsomely for you.
BRAD: Yes. It was a win-win situation. I was sure if I put money against my own team, it would give them a better chance of coming out victorious. It would be divine retribution.
RUSS: You have a fairly big opinion of yourself, don’t you?
BRAD: My only complaint is that you or this secret buddy of yours don’t help me often enough. But hang on a second, you’ve never told me before your other friend is a girl.
RUSS: If I don’t imagine a female companion, how am I ever supposed to meet a woman? Besides, you now have a girlfriend. Where’s that leave me? Do you want me to be lonely?
BRAD: I guess you’ve got a point. Actually, I suppose it would defy logic if you didn’t have a special friend.
RUSS: One might even say it would be hypocritical of me.
BRAD: Yes, isn’t that interesting? You would be both denying your own self and losing out through self-denial. Why shouldn’t you have a certain someone? Is she nice?
RUSS: I think so.
BRAD: And you two spend your time talking about me?
RUSS: Give me a break. No!
BRAD: Well you must talk about me or how would she know what information to pass on.
RUSS: Sheila and I talk about all sorts of things. I could tell you it’s usually pillow talk, but that would be bragging. So let’s pretend she and I get together every night over dinner.
BRAD: And talk about me?
RUSS: We talk about world politics, the economy, movies, music and the latest trends. Feelings too, if I’m not careful. Then sometimes, occasionally, you come up in the conversation.
BRAD: I need the two of you to give me a lot more tips.
RUSS: That won’t happen.
BRAD: Why not?
RUSS: Because Sheila doesn’t like you. She likes me. She only gives you enough useful information so you’ll keep coming back to me. She’s trying to keep me alive.
BRAD: What if I threaten to never see you again?
RUSS: You won’t. You’re deep-down needy and greedy.
BRAD: Okay, is there anything she wants from me? I’d be happy to sign a contract.
RUSS: For what, your soul? Sheila won’t agree to something like that. She doesn’t have horns or a long pointy tail. She’s a sweetie and I’ll ask that you speak of her with respect.
BRAD: But she knows everything and she always gets it right. I have to tap into that.
RUSS: You’re exaggerating.
BRAD: Well she knows a lot more than you do. Explain please.
RUSS: I think she can delve into your sub-conscious better than I can.
BRAD: That might make sense when it comes to my job or my relationships. But it doesn’t explain how she got the bet right.
RUSS: Don’t you have a theory that explains it? You’re always saying you cause what happens to your favorite teams. If you don’t do things in exactly a certain way, you’ll put a curse on them. For example, you know sometimes they play better when you’re not watching.
BRAD: That can’t really be possible. There are billions of people in the world. I can’t have a direct personal influence on the way a game turns out. Although I have to admit it does seem that way sometimes, doesn’t it? If I don’t put on my game-day jersey with the salsa stain on the front, comb what’s left of my hair in the wrong direction and eat nachos, they usually lose.
RUSS: The deep sub-conscious is at work. It’s where Sheila lives and thrives.
BRAD: That’s amazing. She can really go in there and make those things happen?
RUSS: Naw, I’m just putting you on. I saw how she got the bet right. She flipped a coin.
BRAD: That can’t be true. Are you telling me I risked $1,000 on a coin toss?
RUSS: Yep. And you won $3,000. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?
BRAD: Okay, I still need some insight anyway. You know I’ve been seeing this new girl, Karen. I really like her.
RUSS: I’m aware. I told you she was right for you. But that was only after Sheila gave her nod of approval.
BRAD: Right, well now I’ve bought her a ring and I’m thinking of asking her to marry me tonight. But I don’t know, I’m starting to have second thoughts.
RUSS: Why, what’s the matter?
BRAD: For one thing, if I tell her about you two, she’ll think I’m crazy.
RUSS: Go ahead and ask her to marry you. Sheila is convinced she’s the girl for you. And her intuition in these matters is dead on.
BRAD (not entirely convinced): We’ll see.
Later that evening, Brad and Karen enjoyed a spectacular meal at their favourite bistro. They were seated at a table with two extra spaces. At first, Karen was mildly disappointed since she noticed there were several intimate and romantic one-on-one table settings in remote candle-lit corners of the room. But the food and ambience were so good, she quickly recovered.
Finally, Brad broached the subject that had been dominating his thoughts for days. He asked Karen to marry him. But before she could answer, he explained there was something he had to tell her. Something she might find alarming and that could cause their break-up.
Out of fairness, he wanted to make her aware of his one little idiosyncrasy. He didn’t want Karen committing to something she might come to seriously regret later. He told her about Russell to begin with and then he went on to outline the newest revelations about someone named Sheila.
Karen was a lot less shocked than Fred thought she would be and her first question wasn’t much of a surprise.
KAREN: Is that why we’re sitting at a table in the middle of the room with two extra chairs?
BRAD: Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit one of the side-effects of my condition is rampant superstition. I thought it appropriate for Russell and Sheila to be here tonight for this big event.
KAREN: Then let me say you’ve made a big mistake.
BRAD: I was afraid of that. I’m so sorry. I’ll go far away and leave you in peace.
KAREN: That’s not what I meant. What I’m saying is when you made the reservation for four, you should have made it for six. (Pause and deep breath.) I have some friends I would like you to meet as well.
There’s more amusing dialogue to be found in Ms. Phitts and Mr. Gatheral Spar Two Rounds.