SO WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
Did you know that more than half the entire coastline of the United States is in Alaska? That fact has nothing whatsoever to do with my blog here, but its an interesting fact and may lead me into a short story or a novel one day.
Readers and convention-goers raise the question frequently. I was in a bar the other day. Well, it was really a restaurant, with a couple of friends. We had just finished a library gig, the three of us, and decided to stop for a drink before we wandered on home. It was a small bar in a small city in south-central Minnesota. It was a fall evening, not so long ago.
Now, I have to pause here, dear reader, to say that this incident has nothing to do with my forthcoming short story, “A Winter’s Tale,” from Echelon Shorts. That story idea came to me while I was looking through some of my winter photographs made in South Dakota.
Sometimes in bars the acoustics or the way people are grouped, or something or other makes it possible to eavesdrop on conversations, whether you want to or not. So anyway, we’re in this bar, having a couple of drinks and critiquing our just-finished book event. There was a pair of folks, married for a long time, I’ll bet a quarter, sitting at a nearby table, each with a hand around a half-filled beer mug. They were an ordinary couple, dressed in ordinary clothes. The man was overweight, balding, his thin hair was mostly gray with some darker strands. It was oddly combed. You’ve seen men like that, going bald and combing their hair to try to cover the bald spots.
The woman with him was still attractive, although it was pretty clear she wasn’t paying much attention to her looks any more. It appeared to me her long hair needed a good wash and set. She was wearing a shapeless sweater over a man’s shirt. I couldn’t tell what either of them wore below the table but I’m willing to bet it was jeans or work pants of some kind.
I nudged one of my companions and whispered, “Look, I bet they’re married to each other and they’re fighting.” She agreed after studying their body language and suggested the subject of their argument was an old one they’d had many times before.
We watched for a while, listened to snatches of their argument. Mostly they kept their voices down, but they were pretty intense. They each looked as if they’d like to kill the other. They finished drinks and the woman sort of bolted up out of the booth. The guy dropped a couple of bills on the table and stood up as well. When they turned to walk out of the bar, they were holding hands.
Observation, research, recollection, call it what you will. Am I using that incident in a short story? You bet. Watch for it.