Editor’s Note: The Philosophical Practitioner, by Larry Abrams, is part of The Writers Series, our highly popular series that features novelists who were influenced by Ayn Rand. The following excerpt is the first chapter of Abrams' 2011 novel. The protagonist is a philosophical practitioner - a new profession that emphasizes reason but doesn't slight emotions. His father's mind is going. His clients want to know how to live their lives. His now rich and famous old flame wants to get back together with him, but their lifestyles are very different. And a woman he's never seen before wants to kill him.
I had my feet up on my desk and my hands clasped behind my neck, trying once again to puzzle out why science progressed so much faster than everything else, when she walked into my office unannounced. Nothing wrong with that since I didn’t have a secretary. But she didn’t even bother to knock.
She paused on the threshold for the space of a heartbeat while her dusky eyes ticked off the contents of the room – me, my desk, my computer, a desk clock, a coffee machine, and my client chair. I could see her adding these up to a sum that must have meant something to her. She sat in the chair and said, “I saw your sign.”
I hadn’t yet seen her blink. A tall, big–boned woman, she had on the barest suggestion of lipstick and could have been anywhere from nineteen to maybe twenty–five.
“On my way home I looked up at the building and saw your sign in the window. So I took the elevator. Just for the hell of it.”
“Just for the hell of it?”
She crossed her legs and did a little trick with my hormones. She wore a moss–green sweater, plain black pumps with maybe two–inch heels and flesh colored hose under a pleated gray skirt. Sexy but comfortable.
She shrugged. “I told you. I saw your sign.”
“Lots of people see my sign. Lots of people ignore it.”
She draped an arm around the back of her chair. “Let’s say I’m curious. I never heard of a philosophical practitioner. I thought I’d see what kind of things you say. What kind of answers you give. How you’re different from a psychologist.”
“Depends on the questions. Psychologists tend to emphasize feelings over theory. We generally reverse that. But not always.” I paused. “Something’s on your mind or you wouldn’t have stopped.”
“Tell me what kind of practice you have here. What exactly you do.”
I shook my head. “Every client is different. It would help if you told me why you’re here.”
She gave me a long look and brushed back a few strands of straight black hair that had fallen into her eyes.
“It’s not that simple.”
“It never is.”
“I have no idea if you’re any good. I might be wasting my time.”
Her lips pursed as she studied me. When she finished she stood up.
“Why don’t we call it a day. What do I owe you?”
“I charge a hundred and twenty–five for a forty–five minute session. Less if the session is shorter. You have more than half an hour left if you want it. You’ve gotten nothing for your money so far.”
She fished some bills from her handbag, placed them on my desk and moved to the door.
“Maybe you’ll give me extra good advice if I come back.”
“Call ahead next time.”
“If I decide to come. If I think you can help me.”
“You haven’t told me with what.”
“You noticed.” She opened the door. “I’m about to kill a man. You may get a chance to talk me out of it.”
She started to leave, then spoke over her shoulder.
And she slipped out.