Ok. So I’ve started a new novel. Two pivotal characters begin to take shape. A slightly later time period than the one used with Irene is being investigated. The words and research move on and I am occupied — for the most part. Until a writing prompt asks for an imaginative recollection of some momentous event. Then, I can’t help but imagine a future event based upon past observations. The two characters evolving in the new work take a back seat for a moment and the what follows finds the page.
The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights does not deserve the underline distinction, that long solid line denoting a manuscript has metamorphosed from 8 ½” x 11″ letter-scored pages into a published and bound book, the kind of book a browser of aisles might tilt into their hands from a shelf in a library or selling venue of hand-holdable titles. Yet an author can daydream the same way a child can daydream and turn a tea party of dolls and stuffed bears into conversational friends.
So too, that child grown up, an author (of sorts) can imagine an event has come to pass the way a bride-to-be might practice writing her nuptialized name, Mrs. (fill in the blank) So-and-So, days or months before she says, “I do.”
Just so with this daydreaming author. I can see the title running vertically down the dark ocean-blue spine of The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights book jacket. The font is italicized, red, and slightly skewed as if hand-written. Horizontally at the base of the spine is my first name, lynn (lowercase “L”), centered over my last name, doiron; the font is Bodoni Bk Bt; the color is an off-white gray. Yes, a pale gray like the color of sea foam that trails just behind the crests of breaking waves.
Of course my eyes are closed as I picture the book, my book, on its shelf – on hundreds, thousands of shelves around the country, eventually, around the world as translations come into being. But for now, in my mind’s eye, a woman (I can’t make out if she’s thirty or sixty) has paused on the quietly polished floor running between spire-high rows of books in a large and airy, well-lit independent bookstore. Imagination tells me this woman knows the owner, that the owner has responded to the woman’s question when she first entered his store. Her question was, “What do you recommend? I’m up for a feast these days.” And his response, “Take a look at the one by Doiron,” has brought her to this aisle.
I strain to hear the book, my book, as it slides from the shelf to be held in the woman’s hands – but I am too distant, too far away for imagination to carry the lisp of binding and jacket leaving the shelf. She reads the back cover blurbs; she examines the cover photo of a human cannonball cannon, the tiers of crowded stands at an oceanfront amusement park as the cannon’s backdrop; she opens the book, glances at whatever lines appear on the right, then the left. She opens to pages somewhere near the middle of my book, a random page. Again, imagination doesn’t allow me to hear these pages as they’re turned.
Then it comes, the sound of her sigh, the resounding thump of all pages closed. In my daydream, I can’t bear it, this disappointment I’ve caused a potential reader, and I turn away from the aisle, the woman, the shelf with the hollow space where The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights with its red cursive title and my residual foamy name had once been displayed.
But hold on a minute!
. . . the shelf with the hollow space?
I choke out a laugh (this computer screen is my witness), delighted with the realization my make-believe buyer, this woman in khaki cropped pants and sage-green shirt, this woman of indeterminate years (and discerning good taste) had sighed with pleasure, with anticipation of the “feast” – not disappointment. I’m grinning still. Imagine that!
Note to self: Stop finding writing prompts and stay focused on the new work.