Like a stuck song jailed in my brain, a good story has been simmering for weeks now. For the last couple of days, following a clear dream (that terrified me), the issue has not been how to develop the plot, but how to tell the story without casting a dark shadow on those I MUST draw the characters from. They have done nothing wrong. Exactly the opposite. They are perfect.
Perfect people give me the willies. In the six decades I've been watching, I've known exactly four perfect couples, and three folks who got it right on their own. The catch phrase is "old souls"; folks who instinctively know the right direction, choose the right partners and careers, are comfortable with their bodies and their faith or lack of it. Perfect people are untroubled (from this viewpoint). But evidently God wants to challenge all of us, because in every case, the perfect people I've known suffered some random disaster that dramatically changed or ended their lives.
They all reacted heroically, of course. But being close to the tragedies that felled them due no fault of their own, the rest of us suffered, too. Makes you jaded. Most of us fail the life test early on; I sure did. All I could do was start over, and celebrate the folks still on their game. But after watching them cut down, I'm like the fan at baseball watching a pitcher's flawless performance; you don't dare mention it, for fear it will end, and you'll be blamed. I love these people. I don't know if I could stand the heartbreak.
Of course I have to write the story, if just to purge it from my thoughts. The characters might be changed enough to deny liability should the plot or future similar events prove true. But I'll know. I know now.
The family was considering going to an "R" rated movie. The youngest in the group (four) wasn't interested. Neither was the oldest (eighty eight). Finding a sitter on short notice was proving difficult.
"What's wrong with Great-Grandma?" asked Great-Grandma, miffed that nobody had considered her capable of watching a kid for a few hours.
"We'll be fine", she said. "We both know how to use a phone if we get in trouble."
The cars hadn't left the drive before the evaluation started.
"Do you know how to make cookies?"
Yes, I do.
"We should make cookies."
No, we shouldn't.
"Let's go to the park!"
I don't drive anymore.
"Do you want to play on the computer?"
Do you know solitaire?
"Hmm. I think I'll take a nap."
"I'll get my bear. You start the movie."
"I can't go to sleep without my bear and my movie in my room."
OK. Get the bear. We'll see what we can do.
When the family came home, great-grandma was slumped on the couch, snoring. The four year old and the stuffed bear sulked next to her, arms crossed. The DVD player, the computer, and the kitchen needed reconfiguring.
The little girl has a new respect for her regular sitter, offering plainly that great-grandma "doesn't know much."
And the next time there will be an answer to the question, "What's wrong with Great-Grandma?"
My friend was worried about his sensitive youngest son. The hockey coach said the boy was distracted. His teacher (fourth grade) reported worse work than usual. Dad decided it was time for a talk.
Ok buddy. What's wrong?
Sorry Dad. I don't feel good.
Really? Should we see a doctor?
The boy started to weep. "It's Heather."
Heather? Hockey Heather? (The only girl on the Mighty Moose team.)
What about her?
"I'm in love. And it hurts inside... so much." The tears are falling hard, now.
Dad put his arm around his son and just sat for awhile.
Then, "Listen Buddy, I understand. I've been there."
Yeah. But listen. You need to leave a little room in your head for the rest of your life. You don't want to be like me.
"Look at me. I'm old. I'm chubby. You're mom tells me what to do." He opens his empty wallet. "I don't have any money. I don't have a degree. I can't even skate."
His son stared like he'd never really seen his own father. Then they hugged again.
"You're right, Dad", he blubbered. "I don't wanna be like yoouuu..."
Later, after they'd beaten the Mooscateers, the boy asked his father if he'd really ever been in love to the exclusion of everything else in his life. "Still am", He said. "Thank goodness you're half your Mom or you'd be worthless." He winked.
My friend hopes the boy carries a picture of him, pulls it out whenever he faces a life decision, shrieks, and does the right thing.