The sunlight snuck through the blinds like a guilty memory. But that's not what woke me up. It was the telephone - you forget one night to turn off the ringer, and you get an air raid siren.
"Dillard? It's me. Actual Factual Bear."
The Berenstain Bears. Beloved children's icons. And royal pains in the ass. I had enough of their act when I was four. Their Laura Ingalls Wilder clothes, their constant moralizing - hell, they don't even look like bears. If I was getting a call from them, that spelled trouble. I poured myself a mood swing and prepared for the worst.
"This is getting big, we're going to need your help on this."
"What do you mean, we, poodle-face," I growled. As if I had any business turning down a client. Ordinarily I'd say it was the booze talking, but the booze was busy doing a Gene Krupa in my temples.
"They're getting stuff upside down on this Beckham thing. We need people to set the record straight. They're saying Beckham was too good for MLS."
"He had five goals and ten assists last year. Alan Gordon had five goals and eight assists. And if the entire league was terrible, wouldn't a world-class player find the opponents easier to beat, rather than more difficult? It doesn't add up."
"Not my problem, bear," I said. "I work in metaphors." Click of the telephone sounded like a cocked revolver. I went back to see the Sandman.
It was dark before I slept it off. By then it was all over the papers. All over the radio. Everywhere I looked.
I floored it to the station - they were all smiles. "We don't need you now, Dillard," said Actual Factual Bear smugly. "We got our metaphor. Canales nailed it."
"But it's not a relationship breakup. It's a business deal. It's a breach of contract. It's about money. You don't have a romantic relationship based on money."
"That's not what I heard about you, Dillard."
"Leave my personal life out of this." The squadroom chuckled - I felt the room turn against me. "Okay, then, it wasn't a relationship, it was a marriage. And California is a community property state. Beckham wants to break up? Fine, the Galaxy gets half his stuff. Come on, that works."
A few murmurs, but Actual Factual Bear shook his head. Stupid fictional children's character.
"Too late, Rex. Tomasch just sealed the deal."
Time to fold. My head sank like the Lusitania.
"You've lost your metaphor touch," Actual Factual Bear said with unwelcome sympathy - like he'd just beaten a first-grader at chess. "We'll see you around."
Rule of thumb - any day you talk to a bear is a bad one. Biggest metaphor of the week had slipped through my fingers, and I had no client. And now, no way to pay for my Real Salt Lake season tickets.
It's a tough road, being a metaphor cop.