Never Meet Your Idol


I don’t know what to do with my hands as I stand at the door waiting to meet my idol: the legendary writer Phillip Herns. I switch between holding them in front of me and placing them in my pockets. I’ve never noticed my hands this much before, they’ve never seemed so cumbersome.

Why did I wear this jacket? I can’t take it off, the shirt underneath is too small and pulls tightly against my stomach, the lower buttons threatening to release from their shaky grasp. I’m meeting Phillip Herns. Why the fuck didn’t I buy a new shirt?

Finally, he opens the door and shakes my hand.

‘Hello. My name is Tony? I’m the one who rang about the interview?’ I say, with an inflection that makes each sentence sound like a question rather than a statement. Am I asking him a question? Am I unsure who I am? I wipe my clammy hand against my jacket.

‘Hmm,’ Herns replies with a tight-lipped grin.  

He turns and stretches his arm towards where we’ll be sitting; a timber desk in an otherwise empty room. It has just one drawer, similar to what my son uses for his homework. I’d imagined something grander, mahogany perhaps. There are two chairs, one that matches the timber desk, and a black high-back chair which appears to have come from elsewhere in the house, perhaps relocated especially for my visit.

He still hasn’t spoken a word to me.

I sit down on the high-back chair and assess the clutter on the desk: a novelty coffee mug with a cartoon cat and the words FLUFF OFF; two notebooks littered with yellow plastic tabs; an empty glass, dusty; and a silver picture frame containing a black and white photo of a plump, middle-aged woman with a tight grin and smiling eyes. Taped to the bottom right-hand corner of the frame is a small newspaper clipping of – holy shit – Donald Trump’s bulbous face.

Now it all makes sense. The old guy’s just an asshole. A Trump supporter who’s decided he’s too damn important to open his mouth to properly greet me.

You know what they say: Never meet your idol.


The young man appears nervous. It’s never a good sign when people are nervous to meet me, as I’m bound to be such a disappointment. I’m just an ordinary man. A good writer, but ordinary nonetheless.

The boy’s a good writer, too. I’ve checked out his work. But when he shakes my hand and appears so nervous, wearing a jacket in this heat, his hair neatly combed with sweat beads on his forehead, I lose my train of thought and can only think of what a disappointment I’m about to be. I guess the young bloke will still get a story out of me, at the very least. I’m sure he has the talent to make it work.

I lead young Tony to where we’ll be sitting, over at my work desk.

He sits and looks around. Somehow, in between the front door and the desk his nerves have been replaced by agitation. At least, that’s how it seems. His eyes are darting around the room and he’s tapping his right foot while he sits, as though he’d like nothing more than to race off home to his family already. Poor bloke. I’d be agitated, too, if I traveled to see an ordinary fellow like me.

I wish he’d take his jacket off.

As we sit, I look over to the picture of my mother. She passed away nearly twenty years ago, and I still remember the day she died. Eyes open, not like the movies. She was a stubborn woman, fussy at times, but always with good intentions. When I was a boy she used to tell me: It’s easy to be kind to kind people, but it’s the unkind ones who need it most.

I’ve never quite been the man she’d like me to be, I don’t think. The sort of man who could be kind to absolutely anyone. But I still try. I keep a small picture of the most horrible person I know stuck beneath her photo to remind me to keep trying, every day.

Well, here we go. I’m going to bore the hell out of this boy, I’m sure of it.

You know what they say: Never meet your idol.

Denise Mills is a freelance writer whose just-for-fun work has appeared in spaces such as Complete Sentence Lit, Free Flash Fiction, Cabinet of Heed and more. She Tweets at @denisey_pooh.

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