The sun was shining when I woke up Saturday morning. I showered, got dressed, pulled on a sweater, and took Lady for an early morning walk. As she pulled me around the neighborhood, I could see the whole story playing out in my mind. It was like watching a movie. The whole novel was there. I just needed to figure out someway to get what was in my mind out onto the paper. I didn’t know if it would take 50,000 words. It didn’t matter. I just needed to get it out. If only there were someway to download what was in my brain straight to the computer. That would make life easier. That wasn’t the point, though, was it? The point was to actually go through the process of writing.
I got home and turned on the computer. Where to begin? I once read that the first line of a novel is the most important. It should grab the reader and leave them begging for more while at the same time shedding light on the story to come. That is a lot to ask of a few words, isn’t it? What if the author doesn’t know where the story is going? Thank goodness real life doesn’t have to come with an opening line. I would be in such trouble!
In my life, I had probably read thousands of “first lines.” Let’s see – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I think that was already taken. “It was a dark and stormy night.” Isn’t that the way Snoopy always started his tales? No, those wouldn’t work. I decided to go with the old standby – “Once upon a time.” I could always go back and change it later. Once I started writing, the words came easily. It was such a release just to let out all the thoughts and emotions that had been weighing on me so heavily for the past eighteen months. Before I knew it, two hours had passed and I had written over 2000 words. I was impressed. That was a good start!
Monday when I went to work, I noticed the National Novel Writing Month bulletin board by the community room. A few participants had already posted their names and word totals. I scanned the listings to see whether Mike had posted his. He hadn’t. I decided to post mine. What could it hurt? I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote “Lucy – 3200 words” and tacked it up on the bulletin board. Then, I headed off to the children’s room.
It was story time day. I love story time day. I run a group for preschoolers and their moms. The kids are so much fun. There is one little girl who comes along with her grandparents. It really seems to be the highlight of their week. That makes me feel good. Each week, I pick books about a certain theme and plan a craft to go along with it. This week, we were focusing on pigs. I was going to read the ever-favorite Three Little Pigs along with Pigs on a Blanket. We were even going to sing Ten Little Piggies – a take off of the more famous Ten Little Indians. For a craft, we were making paper plate pigs, complete with curly tails. I always feel like I’ve accomplished a good thing when story time is done.
When I was heading out for my lunch, I noticed Mike sitting in the cafe area, working on his laptop. He was working diligently, typing away with remarkable speed. He must have sensed me watching him because he turned around and smiled. That smile – no wonder it melted all the girls’ hearts.
“Hey, Lucy! How are you?”
“I’m good. How are you?”
“Great! I saw your total up on the wall. You’re doing really well. I’m glad that you decided to take the plunge,” Mike said.
“Yeah, I’ve been enjoying it” I admitted.
“See, I told you that you would.”
“Well, the month is just getting started.”
“True, but I think that you are going to do just fine. I look forward to seeing more of your word totals up on the board.”
“And how many words are you up to?” I asked.
“Honestly, I’ve gotten off to a rough start. Writing science-fiction isn’t as easy as I had hoped. I’ve read lots of sci-fi. I thought I would be able to create a new world without much difficulty, but nothing is materializing at the moment. I’m only at about 1500 words. I have some work to make up. That’s what I’m doing sitting here, trying to force myself to write. At home, there are too many distractions.”
“And here I am distracting you.”
“Don’t worry about it – I like that kind of distraction,” he said. I couldn’t help it. I smiled in spite of myself.
“Well, I need to grab some lunch and then get back to work, so I should be going.”
“Do you want to sit with me to eat your lunch?” he asked.
“Won’t I bother you? I thought you said that you wanted to write,” I reminded him.
“I do, but like I said, this story is going nowhere in a hurry. Maybe talking to you will help give me some ideas.”
“OK, seeing that it is in the interest of keeping your novel moving forward,” I said. “Let me get my lunch. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“I’ll be here,” he said.
I went to the break room and took my lunch out of the fridge. I also checked my appearance in the mirror. Mmm. I straightened out my hair and pinched my cheeks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any makeup on me to freshen that up. It would have to do. At least I had my favorite shirt on. I always thought the green in it brought out the green in my eyes. Why did I care, anyway? This wasn’t a date. He was just being friendly and trying to keep from working on his novel. I was a convenient procrastination tool, that was all.
I went back to the table Mike was sitting at. He had put his laptop away and was staring out the window. “What are you looking at?” I asked.
“Oh, I was just studying the people in the parking lot. Being a people-watcher is a good hobby for a writer. You never know when one of those people might make a guest appearance in a story. I think I just spotted someone who might make a good alien in my sci-fi novel. Everyone is fair game,” he replied.
“Yup, even you!”
“Oh no. You’re making me reconsider having lunch with you.”
“Don’t worry. I promise to describe you in only the most flattering terms.”
“Good to know,” I responded. “Here, I picked up a soda for you in the back room.” I handed him the can. “I hope Coke is OK.”
“Sure, that’s great. Thanks.”
“Would you like half of my sandwich? It’s peanut butter and jelly, or maybe an apple?” I held up the fruit.
“No, thank you. I can’t have you starving on my account. Besides, I ate right before I came here. “Oh, OK.” I put down the apple and took a big bite out of my sandwich.
“So, what is your job here at the library?” he asked. Unfortunately, my mouth was full of peanut butter and I couldn’t respond. I motioned for him to wait as I tried to swallow as quickly as possible.
“I’m an assistant librarian in the children’s section,” I answered when I could finally speak again.
“That sounds like an interesting job,” he said.
“It is. I like it a lot.”
“You’re good at it, too. My nephews loved the Halloween party that you put on.”
“Thanks. It wasn’t just me, though. All of the children’s librarians were hard at work that day. It is fun to work with the kids. I had seen you with the boys. I had wondered who they were.”
“They are my sister’s kids. Her husband split a couple years ago. The scum decided he didn’t want to be a father anymore. So, I try to help her out as much as I can. I watch the boys when she is working.”
“Wow! Not many young men would do that,” I said.
“I’m not that young. Plus, I really don’t mind. I like being with them. They are very entertaining!”
“Yeah, the kids I meet here at the library are pretty entertaining, too.”
“I like spending time at the library. I love the smell of old books,” he said.
“No way! Me, too!” I laughed. “I thought I was the only one! My friends growing up always thought I was a bit strange for sniffing books.”
“Don’t listen to them! They don’t know what they are missing!”
“Maybe you’re right. Anyway, this is my first job working in a library. I feel lucky to have it. I was a volunteer in my library back home, but this is the first time I’m getting paid for something I enjoy doing so much. Most days it doesn’t even feel like work.”
“I know what you mean. Most days what I do doesn’t feel like work, either.”
“What, exactly, is it that you do?” I asked.
“Would you believe me if I told you I was an undercover FBI agent?” he responded with a straight face.
“Really?” I asked incredulously.
“No,” he laughed. “I’m kidding. The look on your face was priceless, though.” I tossed my rolled up tin foil at him.”
“So what do you do?” I asked again.
“Seriously, I am an artist. I work for myself. I also teach a couple classes at a local college and at the Springfield museums.”
“Oh, so that’s why you have the time to be sitting here in the middle of the day working on your novel.”
“Yup. I’m a lucky man!” he replied.
“What type of art do you do?”
“Painting, mostly. I do portraits, murals, still lifes. I’ve even done pet portraits – whatever people are willing to pay me to do, really. I can’t afford to be picky. I’m just happy to be painting and getting paid for it,” he paused to drink some soda. “I like teaching, too. It’s fun to help people discover their hidden artistic talent.”
I looked up and noticed Rachel looking at me from the children’s room. I also caught sight of the clock on the wall. My lunch break had been over fifteen minutes ago. Oops!
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I have to go. I need to get back to work before my boss kills me.” I hurriedly gathered up my trash.
“Well, we don’t want that to happen,” he said. “It would be horrible to have a murder at the library.”
“I’ll see you later,” I said as I walked away.
“I hope so,” he responded.
I rushed back to the children’s room. “I’m so sorry, Rachel. I didn’t realize how late it was.” I started sorting some books to be reshelved.
“That’s OK,” she said. “I saw you out there with the good-looking Mr. Writer Man. How’s he doing?”
“He’s doing alright.” I responded.
“He’s doing better than alright if you ask me,” she said with a smug look. “Are you going to go out with him sometime?”
“He hasn’t asked,” I answered. “We’re just friends.”
“Just friends, huh? You weren’t looking like ‘just friends’ to me.”
“Well, we are,” I stated emphatically. “I told you, I’m not looking for a man. Anyway, from what I’ve heard, he already has a girlfriend.”
“That’s too bad,” she sighed. “I suppose it’s not surprising that a man that fine would have someone special. Still, there’s no ring on his finger. All’s fair in love and war. I say that he is still fair game.”
“Rachel, you’re awful! I’m not going after another woman’s man,” I said indignantly as I walked away to get back to my work.