Writing is a more than a hobby with me, it’s a passion. Writing is more than enjoyment, it’s therapeutic. It’s an expression and an extension of myself. It’s a compulsion.
I feel a definite need to record memories of the past and of my childhood. The present is built upon the past. We should learn from the past, and understand not to repeat those same mistakes. That’s one of the reasons I write on these things, it’s a mission.
But I receive my greatest enjoyment from writing fiction. And this morning, after several hours of writing delight, I suddenly questioned my own glee in doing this. I asked myself, “Why do I enjoy this so much?”
Memoirs are recollections of actual people, places, and things. Fiction is writings about people, places, and things that are nothing more than the mental creations of the author. Creation is the key word here.
My second question to myself was, “Am I playing God?”
I remember a movie from many years ago, in the heyday of Hollywood’s pre-Star wars and Rambo flicks, when Heracles, Atlas, and Zeus, reigned supreme. The scene which made a lasting impression on me was of a gathering of the gods on high. They were standing on a fluffy cloud, with a large circular cut-out in the center. Surrounding this hole in the heavens, was a low marble wall. The whole thing reminded me of a circular, backyard swimming pool. The gods sat around on the edge of this opening, while peering down onto the earth below. They got their jollies by slinging flaming bolts of lightning onto the hapless mortals below, just to watch them jump, and by releasing Minotaurs and Hydras to chase them into the hills. These gods were at play, and their toys were folks like us. Is my writing like this? Am I ‘toying’ with ‘my creations?’
I don’t want to be God, or any god for that matter. The Bible tells us that we should strive to be ‘Christlike,’ by my track record proves that I do a poor job of it. So making a pretense of god-like-ness is not a consideration. So, what is it that pulls me toward fiction?
I do admit to having an active and fertile imagination. I always have and hope I always will. My mother summed it up perfectly: “He plays well alone,” she said.
And, so far that is, my memory is fairly strong. Couple this with coming from a large extended family (Mom was one of six and Dad one of thirteen), throw in the memories of all of those characters for a span of almost eighty years, and my brain has a wealth of subject material. My creative juices, as far as writing goes, are blessed by streams and rivers of memories emptying into that ever growing lake. Perhaps one day, as you read my musings, you may recognize a vague shadow of yourself. Relax! I seriously doubt that you’ll find any flaming lightning rods headed your way!
Readers often ask, “Why do you write?” Other writers sometimes ask, “How do you write?” Both are valid questions.
Growing up in the 40s and 50s, I had the distinct advantage over children today, in that most of our toys did not come ‘Ready To Play.’ They came in boxes – a box of building blocks, a box of Tinker Toys, a box of Lincoln Logs. Empty the box, add fun, and stir.
My favorite was a large metal A.C. Gilbert Erector Set filled with all manner of screws, bolts, washers, rods, plates and angles, wheels, pulleys, gears, plus a small electric motor. Oh yes, it came with a set of directions on how to assemble a wheeled toy or two… but the most fun was had by suppling a key ingredient of your very own… imagination. And then an amazing thing happened. Imagination bred creativity! And with imagination and creativity… nothing was impossible.
How do I write? Well it’s something like playing with an A. C. Gilbert Erector Set… but the screws, bolts, and washers are words!
But where do the ideas come from… the what to write about? Good question. I wish I really knew the answer.
You know how it is sometimes when you just want to sit in front of the idiot box and be entertained? You don’t really care what’s on… you just click the on button, and watch… regardless of what’s on, who’s on, or how long it’s been on. Well, sometimes, I find myself just turning on my thought process, and there, on my mind’s screen, there’s something there… and I watch. I didn’t look for this channel, it was just there, already on and showing. So I watch, and follow the program already in progress, and see where it might lead.
This happens often, especially during those sleepy moments of what are sometimes called ‘twilight sleep,’ both morning and night. I try not to do this while driving. Crazy, huh?
I’ve just learned a new publishing term, ‘flash fiction.’ It refers to short-short stories, quick reads, quick as a flash reading. The follows is such. It’s a simple story, but one filled with emotion. Chapter count? Definitely one. It came to me early one morning last week, while have in and half out of sleep. I can’t really say I wrote it… but rather watched it, as if it were a drama on stage, or a program on TV.
They’d been driving for 10 hours. They should have been there by now. So much for the best laid plans of mice and vacationers. It was not their fault, they’d planned well, or so they thought. That extra hour for ‘incidentals’ didn’t cover the multitude of unexpecteds they’d encountered today – road construction, an accident, and the novice couldn’t-care-less waitress. All had added to the list of ha-ha I gotcha delays.
They still had a hundred miles to go. They were now somewhere in the barren desolation of Western Arizona, and it was well past 1 AM. Considering their schedule, they had few options. Stop now and attempt to make up the time tomorrow? But they’d still be behind schedule. And – stop where? They’d not passed a motel for seventy five miles. Plus, that would cost extra money, money they could ill afford. The lost time would also cut into their time on the beaches of California… their long awaited dream vacation.
Wallace and Judith Bishop had been dreaming of this trip for years. They deserved it! Finally, all the kids were out of the house, and self supporting. Now was the time. Because they’d married late in life, and began their family even later, they were far past the age of typical beach people. Who cared if folks stared. They’d earned their stroll among the bronzed gods and goddesses. Now it was only a day away, if they could only hold out.
A few miles ahead, another weary traveler was counting the miles and hours ahead – not to sand and surf, but to hearth and home. With a fresh tank of coffee in his gut and a fresh mug by his side, Glenn Allen pulled his big rig out of the parking lot of an all night diner – a lone neon oasis in the dark desert. He had the 18-wheeler in second gear, the front wheels entering the black highway, when he thought of his wallet – the wallet he’d last seen beside his empty plate in the diner – the wallet somewhat sticky with pancake syrup. He fumbled, trying to dig into his back pocket, searching, while he silently cursed his ever increasing weight gain. The cab’s rear wheels entered the highway, and now crossed the center line. The big rig now covered both lanes, at a forty-five degree angle. He was focused on the wallet, not on completing his turn. A delay, far less important that the wallet, was fast approaching, and now lay in the path of the rig.
He touched the wallet. Aha! he thought. He had it after al…
I’m told that folks never feel a thing, that is, in a full blown highway crash. One second, all is well with the world. Your mind is doing what it was doing in the previous micro second. Then it happens. Instantly, you cannot see, hear, or feel. That fate’s reserved for the lucky ones. Others, are cursed by seeing, and knowing what’s coming. They see. They hear. They feel.
Judith and Wallace were among the lucky ones.
Their vision, hearing, and tactical senses returned after the crash, but only briefly.
The 5 folks in the diner heard the crash. One claimed she could actually feel it.
The Bishops vehicle hit the rig between the cab and trailer, no more than 5 feet behind where the driver sat – his wallet still in his back pocket. The Bishop’s well worn Chrysler literally cut the rig in half – coming to rest in a tangled heap – almost twenty yards past where the separated cab and trailer came to rest. The posted speed on this stretch of desert highway was 75, and the Bishop’s were doing ever mile of that, if not more.
Thankfully, there was no fire. When both mangled vehicles came to a stop, all was quiet and dark once again. Not a single light shown from either vehicle, save for one tiny bulb in the shattered dash of the Bishop’s Chrysler. The feeble light was hardly half the illumination of a birthday candle. The patrons of the the diner strained thru the plate glass window to see what had caused the terrible noise outside, but outside all was dark once again.
The Wallace Bishop, stunned an uncomprehending, barely clung to life. What had just happened? Was he dreaming? That’s it. A dream. A really bad dream. He was in bed. He’d just awakened. Yes, that was it! Through his foggy vision, he saw Judith. Funny. She was upside down. Why was she upside down? Or perhaps, it was he who was flipped.
The solitary bulb, somehow still drawing power, cast a soft light on Judith’s face. She was smiling at him, or at least, trying to smile. A crooked rivulet of red ran down her cheek and dripped from her chin. Her silvery hair fell across one eye. He reached to brush it out of her face, but could not. His arms seemed no longer to work.
His own life’s blood was draining away. Then, some degree of understanding returned to his starving brain… and he came to realize that this was his ultimate delay. He’d often wondered when his time would come, and where he might be. And now he knew – somewhere in the vast, almost empty desert. I wonder if the angels know where I am? He thought.
He didn’t have long. And he knew it. He wished that I could only hold Judith, just one more time. And he leaned toward her, which was not close enough, not close enough at all. He was growing weaker by the second.
“I… I love… you.” he managed, with great difficulty. He saw her lips moving, slowly, trying to speak. She was trying to tell him… but his vision was fuzzy.
In his final moment Bishop felt the hand of an angel on his hand. He tried to smile, but he couldn’t. His fleshly body had breathed its last.