by Jackie King
Once upon a time I could jump out of bed, slip into jeans and a T-shirt and be ready to go. I could even skip makeup if I wanted. But times have changed. Getting dressed in the morning has become a complicated thing. First of all I have to sit on the side of the bed and stare into space for a few minutes. I call this ruminating.
This ruminating, or pondering or musing or reflecting, can get out of hand, especially for a writer. Every fleeting thought about the past has a way of morphing into some sort of a story; and there’s so little time available to anyone at any age that careful selections have to be made.
Which idea would be most interesting to readers? Who should I choose for my protagonist (aka hero/heroine), I ask myself. And how could I bump off those folk who annoyed me most? Hummm?
For a young male protagonist I think of a boy I met one winter when my mother was teaching in Telluride, Colorado. That was back in the fifties (and yes, I am that old!). In an emotional moment my mother, who was a gifted teacher but had little patience with fools, had resigned her current position in a small railroad town in Oklahoma. This was where I had survived my junior high years and its stereotypical mean girls and boys. I was so ready to leave. So we traveled by bus to Colorado.
No one could help falling in love with Telluride. It was nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and you had to leave town on the same road you entered. I also fell in love with the people who lived there: miners mostly. My best friend’s dad was a chemist with a drinking problem. Once he came home at night and peed on their black, cast iron stove. It sat in the living room and heated most of the downstairs.
But I digress.
The boy was named Robert, and I thought he would make a great hero in my story. He was sort of a tall Harry Potter type, glasses and all, and I had a huge crush on him. Unhappily for me, he already had a girlfriend. His parents had more money than most and he got the first contacts I had ever heard about. That was back before the technology was perfected, and these were glass, cumbersome, and I was told, uncomfortable. The kids called him “Bubbles,” so he got embarrassed and ditched the expensive gadgets. I’ve always wanted to use him in a story.
I’d have a bit of trouble with the villain, though. I can’t think of anyone in Telluride in 1953 that I wanted to murder. Guess I’d have to transplant one of the mean boys from the railroad town we had left. I know just who it would be. An odious boy who raced past me in seventh grade, pausing a second to make a grab at my groin area. One of the most humiliating moments of my young life. Oh yes, he’d make a perfect antagonist. (i.e. bad guy). Or maybe I could even murder him on paper?
All of these thoughts passed through my mind before I slipped into my fuzzy slippers and trundled off to start my morning toilette. And people think us oldies live dull lives.
Little do they know.
This is the first time I’ve told anyone this tale. Not even my mother or my sister. Too embarrassed, I suppose. Sad isn’t it? That naughty boy was the one who should have been mortified.
Think back through your own growing up and tell me the secret humiliation that you’ve never shared with anyone. My readers and I will never tell.