I’ve been chewing on a new story idea for awhile. For me, this process means that the cottony bits of images that are floating around in my consciousness start to nag at me. At this point, the images are random, completely unconnected. For example, I have a strong image from my walks to school earlier this fall. Fall is football season, which here in central AL is a Very Big Deal. On my walks, I passed the local high school of my tiny town, and during the afternoon football practice, a number of men gathered along the school fence to watch the practices. Probably these were fathers, but perhaps not. There was something in the way those men leaned, with their fingers and the tips of their boots hooked in the chain link, that stuck with me. That’s one image.
Another image is of the neighbor’s dog. He’s a barker and has been driving me up the wall for months. He’s a big, white dog, a boxer mix maybe, and too thin. It bothers me the way his ribs show, the way he’s left out there alone to bark and bark. Sometimes I’d look out the window at him, both tormented by the noise and also terribly sad for that stupid, stupid dog (“radical empathy” is the buzzword in our house these days). For the last two weeks, the dog has been missing from his fence. No signs or sounds of him. A relief? In part. But I’m also worried. That’s another image: the g-d dog.
Others, smaller and less intense, are from my new neighborhood and landscape. I’ve been here for a year and some change, so my observations are still active (although, they should always be active, everywhere, yes?). There’s the way the leaves take forever to turn and finish falling, the bored high school kids cashiering at the local store, the rundown high school stadium, which I walk past on a gravel path that leads to the town park and from which we can hear Friday night cheers from our house blocks away. There’s the kid with the cape who everyone knows as the kid with the cape.
I don’t know where I’m going at all, or what these pieces will turn into, if anything, but something is there, something to which I am becoming alert. For me, that is a tremendously exciting time in the writing process. A jumble of puzzle pieces on the coffee table. If all goes well (and this semester EVER ENDS), perhaps I’ll have a corner snapped together soon.
Working title: Men on the Fence