“Muse Match.com,” by Susan Chertkow

Apr 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I was desperate.

I never thought I’d use an online Muse service, but there I was signing up on one, paying for premium features, adding my photo and profile to dozens of other aspiring writers. My writing block was impenetrable, my slump insurmountable, my misery inescapable. So I surrendered to the Almighty Algorithm of Muse Match.com and waited for their lifeline. Hadn’t the company promised they’d match me up with a supernatural being versed in my field, a spirit whose coaching skills matched my needs? Hadn’t there been glowing testimonials from established writers here and abroad? I was a believer.

As for my profile, I rewrote it at least twenty times. Did I mention my writing block? I listed my genres: Bizarro Fiction, Bizarro Romance, and Bizarro Crime. I had recently switched from Westerns in order to tap a contemporary market. I provided a writing sample and listed my publications (meager), my aspirations (modest), my income (minimum wage.)

For my picture, I borrowed my friend’s cat, Schnitzel, who assumed an erudite pose next to me in exchange for multiple treats. I wore a black sweater and jeans—my best coffee house look.

Then I waited. One month went by. Then two months. Then four months.

Finally, I received a message from Muse Match.com: “We’ve done a lot of digging and we found a Muse Match for you. Her name is Philomena and her photo is attached.”

Just when I was beginning to think Muse Match.com was a scam, I acquired my own muse—Philomena—and her photo, too! Actually, it was an out-of-focus photo, but I suppose that was due to her immaterial nature. Floating in layers of gauzy chiffon, Philomena frolicked among Greek columns. She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t old either—sort of locked in at middle-aged. It was hard to tell. Did I mention that the photo was out-of-focus?

I hadn’t any doubts she was a real spirit—either an ancient goddess or a descendant of one. To my delight, Philomena sent me a message:


I enjoyed reading your profile, and I look forward to working with you. I’m not familiar with Bizarro Fiction, but it sounds intriguing. Unfortunately, my caseload is heavy, so all I can offer you is a Shared Time Muse Arrangement, say once a month on a Tuesday for 45 minutes. Let me know if that works for you. Philomena.

I was disappointed—she called me by the cat’s name. (My fault. I shouldn’t have identified him.) She wasn’t familiar with Bizarro Fiction, and her availability was extremely limited. I had notified Muse Match.com about the lack of matches for me, but their response was a list of writing prompts. Philomena was my one and only option. I accepted the terms.

Did I mention that I was desperate?

The Build-Up

I counted the days, hours, and minutes until Philomena’s arrival for our Tuesday session. I fantasized about my muse unlocking the doors to the Literary Fort Knox. I took out a fresh yellow pad, a pen, and refreshed my computer. I wanted to be a good host, a worthy client, so I prepared refreshments—coffee, tea, and a plate of Pepperidge Farm Assorted Cookies.

The Let-Down

Philomena arrived like a chiffon-covered Rose Bowl Float—a voluminous entity all fuzzy and faded around the edges. She appeared out of focus, just like her photo. Her British-accented voice was billowy, soft and mellow. To my dismay, she spent the first fifteen minutes of my session extolling the accomplishments of her favorite client, 17th-century hymnist Isaac Watts, who wrote hundreds of enduring hymns.

Obviously, the Almighty Algorithm of Muse Match.com got my needs all wrong. I was deflated, demoralized, and despondent. Philomena managed to notice my mood shift while bolting down the cookies.

“Dear Schnitzel, how can I help you?”

“First of all, my name’s not Schnitzel. Schnitzel is the name of my friend’s cat. I borrowed him for my photo. My name is Ian.”

“By the way, these cookies are wonderful!” interrupted Philomena. “I like the variety. I like them all.”

I handed Philomena the box of cookies. She emptied the contents and arranged each one in a circular pattern on the plate.

I tried to describe Bizarro Fiction. “They’re modern horror stories sometimes filled with gore and carnage, basically weird stuff and twisted plots. Actually, why am I even talking about them … I can’t write anything. I have a severe case of writer’s block. I’m sure you’re good at what you do, but I need a modern muse. Do you know any modern muses?”

“I’ve met a few at our bi-centennial conventions. Hmm, before I go, I may as well teach you how to write a good hymn.”

I couldn’t hold her back—not by protests, nor by references to our session’s concluding time. Philomena was unyielding. Patiently, she taught me how to infuse a hymn with piety and praise, universality, and vivid poetic elements. In overtime, she showed me how to update a 17th-century exorcism that casts out demons. Then we performed the rite.

The Outcome

When Philomena floated out in a cumulus cloud of chiffon, I had to admit I felt much better—more relaxed, yet energized. That exorcism did wonders for demolishing my writer’s block. I was happy to pass the ritual on to other writers and artists. Then I went on a writing binge—writing modern odes of praise, in celebration of everyday marvels, such as Zip Loc Bags, Anti-Depressants, Doritos, Netflix, Duct Tape, Blogs, Febreze, Non-Stick Pans, Breath Mints, Caller ID, Guacamole, Face-Time, Carry Out Foods, and Grub-Hub. Eventually, I created my own blog and acquired hundreds of loyal followers. I wrote a hymn, too.

If you ever apply to Muse Match.com and come in contact with Philomena, keep an open mind.

Have an ample supply of cookies, take careful notes, and be sure to tell her Schnitzel sends his warmest regards.


Susan Chertkow is an artist and writer. She has a poetry blog at tuesdaypoems.com. She is also the author and illustrator of the urban fantasy novel, The Gnome and Mrs. Meyers, which is also a podiobook at gnomehomestay.com. Susan resides in Chicago, but claims her imagination dwells in multiple realms.

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