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IDEAS for WRITERS
J. Austin Bennett
A friend once asked me where I come up with such outlandish ideas for stories. I told him to simply look around, outside himself, and try to put himself in the position of the person he was watching. For instance, we saw a man hunkered down on his knees trying mightily to shield his face from the cold windswept rain as he changed a flat tire. He was having difficulty even holding onto his slippery tools.
I wondered where he was going that was important enough to be out on such a bad night. I also wondered why he didn’t have AAA road service? (I didn’t mention that to my friend.)
While helping our stranded traveler, we learned that he was on his way to pick up his ten-year-old daughter, Sarah, for the weekend. His teenage marriage had ended in divorce several years ago and his ex-wife planned to leave for a long weekend with her latest beau. I asked him if it was serious and how he felt about the prospect of his former wife remarrying?
He said, “That doesn’t bother me as much as the idea that another man will be raising my little girl.” He went on to say that he had a girl friend that would be spending the weekend with him and his daughter. (If there seems to be a bit of a double standard here, well you noticed it too.) Throughout our brief encounter, it was clear that our stranded wayfarer really loved his daughter. Though this brief and tumultuous marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce, it produced the apple of this fellow’s eye.
When I inquired as to the effect of this enduring hatred between him and his ex on the child, his whole demeanor changed in a heartbeat.
“She constantly bad mouths me to Sarah. She’s trying to turn her against me.” His eyes were hot coals as he went on, “Jean isn’t the girl I thought she was. Our marriage was a mistake. Sure, I wasn’t ready to settle down and probably wasn’t the best husband in the world, but I’ve never laid a hand on Sarah, not even to spank her.”
I asked what he meant by not being the best husband in the world. It turned out that he and Jean were only married two months before he was chasing around. He said she didn’t care, but I don’t think even he believed that. The marriage lasted six months after the birth of their daughter. It was a year and a half of arguments followed by a slammed door as our motorist went out for a few drinks to cool down and find some friendlier companionship. He frequently didn’t return until after work the next day. The stormy relationship ended with a midnight trip to the hospital to set Jean’s broken nose. He assured me she deserved it. The broken nose part was an accident.
It wasn’t the first time she had been clumsy (she forgot to duck), but it was the last. She filed for a divorce the next day.
“You told me you’re dating. Are you ready to get married again?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Right now Katie and I have a good thing going. You might call it LWP.” In reply to my quizzical expression, “That’s Lust With Promise.” He laughed.
We put the tools away, the tire now changed. I noticed that he had in the back seat two cases of beer and a couple of bottles in paper bags. He was stocked up for the weekend.
As his taillights receded in the distance, my friend Mike remarked that some things never change. I guess some people don’t either.
Proverbs 3:27 reads, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” I cannot attest to this fellow’s goodness and I never learned his name. Maybe he opened up to Mike and me because we were strangers and it is likely our paths will never cross again. I’ve occasionally thought about Sarah. Although she is only ten, that is just a few short years from her own destiny as a woman. Will Jean be a good mother and raise her without imparting the bitterness she harbors toward Sarah’s dad? I hope so.
What’s the point of this tale? I’m not sure. A television series of the 50’s always ended with these words. “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”
We began with the quest of helping aspiring writers discover ideas. Stories are where you find them IF you take the time to look. A good quote to keep in mind is this one.
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck, 1902 - 1968
You could do worse than follow this advice. John Steinbeck was a pretty good writer.
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