A Long Time Passing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 5

Getting A Grip

I spent the next two days outlining my next story. I wasn't sure if it would become a novel or stay in the short story realm. These things had a life of their own and once it unfolded inside my brain, I would need to see where it wanted to go. That might sound weird to the novice, but characters and story lines were never born complete inside my head. They were born as ideas and grew into whatever they were to become.

I had little control over it and went with the flow of the words with some characters demanding to take center stage while others stayed in the shadows. I'd develop the characters I met as I went. Much of the time I wrote from what was already inside my mind, using people I'd known or observed as fodder for my pen, grist for my mill. I'd just go off on a tangent, following it down the super highway that ran through the middle of my brain, and I just went along for the ride

The main thrust of my ideas concerned the small elements we encountered each day and how even an insignificant happening could alter your life. My first thoughts on the subject were those that might come from the spiritual world. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted go with because so many readers have so many differing views on spirituality and how it impacts their lives. This would require a careful balance or perhaps some darker elements might arise to facilitate the idea beyond the few pages of outline.

I knew the story wasn't there yet, but the idea seemed strong, and I was left to depend on my instinct for guidance. This was the time that was crucial to the story. The direction it would take rested on the inspirations that would come from the recesses of my mind. Because I'd just come off a project, I had to be careful not to confuse this story with that story. Todd Sweeney had pushed me into going right back to work. I couldn't be sure my brain would stand for it.

I knew if the story didn't feel right, paragraphs written were easily removed. I could alter the entire direction with a few mouse clicks. The computer age had certainly streamlined the writing process. I'm not sure it did anything for the quality of the arrangement the words took but it certainly made it easier to move them around if the mood struck and to move them back if the story demanded it.

With a few clicks I could erase a days work or alter it in a way that would keep anyone from recognizing it from the day before. Technology was responsible for a more thorough look at what I wrote. I could move a single word or entire paragraphs of text, fitting it in where it felt right rather than where it came out of my brain. There was a new dimension created by the ability to immediately see it where you thought it belonged.

I had nurtured my new creative mood since my meeting with Todd Sweeney. He would always ask me about my next project. I usually didn't have a clue. After putting him off, as soon as I would arrive home I would be fleshing out an outline involving something that had been buzzing around inside my head. I once worried that I might run out of words if I wrote too much, but I always found another story in there, waiting for me to get around to it.

It was the boy that put the skids to the flow of words. I hadn't forgotten about our chance meeting but I relegated it to a secondary drawer inside my brain, one I opened when I wanted to open it. He was persistent, pushing open the drawer I had shut behind me, leaving me to tap my number 2 yellow pencil on the top of my monitor while I pondered his entry into my life. He immediately distracted me from the lilt of my words, and once the wave stops, like the anxious surfer, you wait for the sea to give up the next wave.

The image of the boy ran through my brain over and over again, the one from the dream, not the one from the actual event. Who was he? Why did he pick me out of all the people that roamed around looking for parking spaces near the Italian restaurants? Why me? Was there something I needed to know? Was I missing something? Did it have anything to do with the direction my next book might take?

I never knew where my stories came from, but I couldn't afford to overlook anything. There was always a trigger that launched me headlong into a tale, and there it was, or wasn't, or might be, or maybe it wasn't anything at all but what it was. How could I afford not to follow my curiosity? It had always been true to me before. It was what I needed to do.

As I sat wondering, I looked at the clock. It was half past ten. If I left immediately, I could make it to town by eleven. I could be back on Eastern Avenue and see if he might be there. If I circled the block long enough he was bound to appear. There wasn't any way for me to go on working until I found out what it was that bothered me about that boy. I saved my work, put up my pencil, and turned off the computer.

"I'm going out dear?" I said as I walked through the living room where she was watching television.

"At this time of night, Tom? Where are you going?"

"Back downtown. I need to find something out, research," I said.

"You hate going downtown. Can't it wait until morning?"

"I'm afraid not. I need to go in the evening to do the research I need to do."

"This has to do with your new book?"

"Something like that, dear. I'm not sure yet."

"You be careful. It's getting chilly and might rain again," she said, as I kissed her cheek before going down the hallway toward the garage.

Kathy knew that when I was writing she needed to give me a lot of space. There were never any questions when I did something out of character. She always waited for me to decide it was time to clue her in on what it was I was doing.

I still couldn't figure out what it meant as I drove into town. I had to talk to that boy. I had to find out what he wanted. I needed to find out what he was doing out there. I didn't reject him. I did have a meeting. What did it mean?

When a writer can't write, he needs to resolve whatever it is creating the block. I knew who was creating it and now I had to find out why. There was a larger picture, one that ceased to live in my world but was alive in his. Something about his reality had to do with my own. I was sure the meeting hadn't been an accident. He had been sent to accomplish something. I had to find out what it was.

Once you put a particular series of events into motion, it becomes difficult to get them stopped.

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