The Universe was calling me to be a writer a long time before I picked up on the signal. I have always loved to read and books were for devouring and savoring and rereading time and again. I picked up on errors in printing and fonts and all sorts of stuff before I realized there was an actual format in which books were printed. Like the art lover who doesn’t know art yet knows what they love, I loved books and reading, and good writing. Books were, betimes, my only friends. No matter what else might be going on in the world, as long as I had a good book or dozen, that was good enough for me. As long as I had book there was very little that could go horribly wrong.
In 1992, I bought a computer so I could learn auto-cad. It weighed about twenty-five pounds, was called “an IMB clone” and was a “386” and it had a bunch of great features. It had a color monitor! It had ports for both kinds of floppy disks, 5.25 and 3.5, and it came with something called “a mouse”. No, really, I am serious. I cannot remember the specs on it but I did have 2MB of RAM, which was incredibly delicious at the time. Auto-cad, even with the blazing speed found in a 386 had to have a “warm boot” to get it to run, and I was never really good at drawing. But the real beauty of early computers was their simplicity; an owner could delete any file on the computer and delete any program on the computer.
So there I was, one day after I bought the computer, using DOS to look at the programs. Word Perfect, by Corel, why on earth would I need that? Delete, uh, maybe not, hmmm, maybe I ought to keep it. And I did. That was one of those life changing decisions, even if I didn’t think so at the time.
Then there was that day, six months later, when I still hadn’t figured out what to do with the computer, and it was October by then, getting chilly, and I was sitting in my truck at work, and suddenly this cop came up to me. He was the chief of police in that little town, and he started telling me about two men who had died the night before, in a town of two hundred, and while he was telling me this the more incredible and bizarre thing happened; I had the urge to write his story down. I wanted to start right then, while he was talking, and I looked over at the house where one of the men had died, and perfectly, in my mind, I saw Death sitting on the front porch swing, and right then, at that very moment, I knew I had to write this down even if I had no idea why or how.
That’s when I began to notice…things. And people.
The things I began to notice were details; the woodwork on a front porch, the brickwork on the side of a chimney, the way a tree hung over in a yard asking for a tire swing but the children had been gone for decades. The way rain pooled up in one place before finally enough votes were cast to move the body forward to somewhere else. I found myself trying to write scenes that lay before me. I watched the sun rise and wondered how many ways there were to describe the fire that eased the dark from the sky or banished it abruptly.
If you sat and watched people in a mall it was like watching water with bits of flotsam and jetsam. Some people drifted around, others seemed carried by the current, some swam upstream, and hard, and some just, were. I sat out to write about people, the people who were right there in front of me and damn, just as sure as I started thinking about someone who walked with a slight limp, and wondering what had happened, a human being appeared in front of me, inside knife range, and it spooked me. It still spooks me when they do this, and I have yet to figure it out.
Religion, donations, person to person sales, information as to where something might be, questions about something missing…I left a bag here, have you seen it? But a lot of people seek out other people to talk to about religion.
I developed a very keen sense of verbal evisceration to deal with these unwanted would be and wannbe soul savers, to be sure. But then I discovered that spiritual delusion can be a rich and nearly inexhaustible vein of stories about the human conditions which I have learned over the years to be mostly nuts.
People who are out talking religion to other people aren’t trying to convert other people; they’re out there seeking validation for what they believe. They’re out there wanting to dial someone up at random, hoping the call will be answered, and they want to put other people on the defensive, giving the faux crusader a feeling of power and glory for spreading the message.
How can you not love these people? They’re like drunks needed a hug.
Writing is a process very much like the spreading of belief. When a person sits down to write it’s a spiritual journey, but it is also an act of wandering the crowd, wondering if there is someone out there who believes the process has produced something someone else might want to read. I don’t write for an audience but I like the feeling I get when someone likes what I write. Somehow, as much as I might not like to admit it, there’s a bit of proselytizer in this process as well. The human condition is inescapable by us humans. From the five year old who finger paintings wind up on the refrigerator door to the crusty old neighbor who yells at kids to get off his lawn, we all produce something in our lives we hope in some way attracts the eyes and appreciation of other humans. And therefore draws them closer.
The people who are drawn to me, the wanderers who cannot seem to resist speaking to me about subjects ranging from Elvis still being alive to aliens causing global warning, are all looking for an audience, their lives spent in flash fiction, one day at a time, one story at a time, one delusion at a time, perhaps, but for some reason they are drawn to me, and for some reason I write about them, even if they never know it and I never know why.
We are all celestial bodies, inhabiting a space we’ve created in our own image. We orbit one another briefly, perhaps, but obey the laws of physics or some god or gods, and we continue on, alone or locked into orbit with another, and each day a new sunrise comes for most of us, and banishes the night.