Some relationships begin like a knife fight, crouching and circling with your blade, seeking your partner’s weaknesses and protecting your own while an undeclared truce slowly develops and you begin to accept each other’s bad habits and weirdness. And so it was that at breakfast yesterday morning I noticed my wife smiling and knew immediately that I was in a lot of trouble. She never, ever smiles at breakfast so it rang every alarm bell I had and I immediately took an inventory of everything I’d done recently that she might interpret as inappropriate or “really not funny at all”. Before I could blurt out a blanket apology with the caveat that the thing with the lawnmower was not my fault, she tells me that it was our wedding anniversary and that she’d decided to remind me early in the day instead of waiting until after supper like she did last year....leaving me no time to buy flowers. But still, she could have reminded me the day before. So I was in a hell of a mood later that day in the store when Ivan, a local author, overpass engineer & bon-vivant, dropped by to chat about writing. It’s all about beginnings, he said, a book has to grab you on the very first page. I agreed and showed him the first page of my new novel which begins like this:
“As I ran from the poorly attired serial murderer, I thought of my recently rediscovered abused childhood, and about my brother Darren who was abducted by vampire aliens from the future, and my sister who escaped a Buddhist yoga cult only to overdose in a shipping container in the North Atlantic, and my cousin Moira who disappeared in Tuscany while looking for love and trying to stop the imminent nuclear holocaust to be triggered by a global terrorist conspiracy aided by the US government to find the Holy Grail before global warming destroyed us all.”
So, I asked him, what do you think? Now, Ivan is still somewhat Russian so he never answers right away. First he had to make the long-suffering guru face and then make that odd noise a parrot makes when you pull its tail feathers. Finally he said, maybe you should add a Scottish warrior. Women like that. You know, kilts and swords.
I don’t know, I said, I want to keep it believable.
That’s when a customer who looked like the giant Indian in the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” walked in and Ivan began doing weird things with his eyebrows and jerking his head in the guy’s direction and I’m saying calm down for Christ’s sake I see him. The giant asks me for the bible in Spanish and I tell him that I don’t even have the bible in English. What are you, he asks, a pagan? Now I enjoy talking to people about religion and politics, and commenting on their parenting skills, but I didn’t think this would end well so I answered that, no, I’m not a pagan, but Ivan here probably is. And I was right, it didn’t end well.