Teaching Creative Writing – Linda LaRoche, Author, Editor and Instructor at CSN
Sometimes it’s fun to think about the beginnings of stories, without figuring out where they’ll end. Of course, if I can figure out where it will end and who the characters will be, that’s all the better. But a lot of times I only have a start, and I chew over that for a while, and then it disappears. So I’m passing along this start to you and maybe you can make something out of it.
I was at the doggie park. It was early evening and after my dog didn’t want to play fetch with me I purposely sat down on a bench. I chose a seat in front of a woman who stood along the fence who looked quiet. She wore a shabby outfit, was hunched over, and looked like she had a hard life and a long day at work. Just as I nestled in and began to look around me, another woman burst on the scene, a loud, tall Soccer Mom type who lit a cigarette and stood next to my quiet lady. I figured she would do what I would do, which was close my eyes and hope she went away. Soccer Mom asked the quiet lady about her dog, and lo and behold, they both had the same breed. The quiet lady began talking to her. They were both involved in divorce and custody battles, they loved their children, and were frustrated by various things. I was touched as I listened at what a surprising turn the whole thing had taken. These were two women who never in the world would have connected, and here they were.
A week later, I’m standing under a shady tree at the doggie park and three big bruiser types come in. They’re smoking and talking about some guy who was getting out from jail and I wasn’t sure if they were felons or police officers. All of a sudden a voice pipes up, and I’m darned if it isn’t my quiet lady wearing the same outfit. She begins talking to them about the last of the great heavy-weights, Mike Tyson and various other boxers and they begin a conversation.
John Cheever the short-story writer called the Chekhov of the Suburbs wrote a story about a woman who keeps showing up to visit people who are dying, and I began to get a spooky feeling about this lady. What if she was a figment of my imagination? What if she was a killer purposely looking for loud smoking types? What if she was just a really lonely woman who could only connect with people at the doggie park? What if I should just read a book and stop listening to other people’s chatter?