My amazing and brilliant wife and I were up all night.
That’s nothing new. We’ve been doing that lately; pulling all-nighters. With the baby’s wonky sleeping schedule and my love’s inability to simply lay her head on the pillow and drift off, she frequently doesn’t get her sleep until the gray rays of dawn penetrate the shaded windows.
We were laughing — I was hysterically so — about things. Lots of things. Things I’d written about mostly, but some of her one-liners are astounding in their impact and sophistication. I’m sure the line “Santa with rum dribbling down his beard” doesn’t make you laugh, but had you been there with us, it’d bring tears to your eyes and a stitch to your side.
While we spoke, trying to keep the laughter to a dull roar so as not to wake the children, she told me something about some of my writing. It was stuff I did a while back. I was experimenting with a new style, a new voice. I wanted a particular feel, a particular sensation, to come from the stories. To give it an air of authenticity, I chose historical fiction as my subject matter. My own history. I pulled stories of my childhood out of my memory and tried to spin them as I recalled them, but of course, they were only loosely based on reality. I augmented and just plain ol’ spun yarns when I couldn’t remember the outcome or details. In the end, I had a collection of stories I thought were hysterical, told part of my life that I can remember well and fondly (mostly), and of which I was proud.
The one aspect of failure that crept into them was, I tried to make them humorous and lighthearted. She told me they had an “edge” to them.
That was her word: “edge.” I asked for clarification. She told me it was a blackness, a dark overtone which, while the stories were funny, hung over them and made them darkly funny, not lighthearted.
This morning, with those same gray rays of dawn creeping over the ceiling and walls, she said it again, but she elaborated. She told me despite my best efforts, I’d not created Norman Rockwell-esque stories. She pondered, and stated:
“It’s more like Norman Rockwell with a Stephen King edge.”
I thought that was a perfect description of my life. I couldn’t have, in a million attempts, said it any better. (I hate that. I’m supposed to be the writer, dammit.)
I pondered that, and have been ever since. I think, despite the attempts, my family missed Rockwell when I was growing up. We ended up just west of Addams Family instead, except without the campy humor.
I really haven’t given those stories much thought since I wrote the last one some months ago. I started, and finished, Ghost Hunters instead, and it took me in a new direction. I’m not sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to ignore those stories and yarns gleaned and inspired from my youth. I may revisit them someday soon, if I can think of any new ones, and try to see if I can recapture that voice. It was a lot of fun, and I thought it had potential.
The image of Santa, slurring and sloshing around in his red suit, bulbous red nose fairly aglow with alcoholic rush, dribbling rum down his nicotine-stained yellowing beard will always be with me. If only I could paint images with my words as powerfully as my beautiful, dazzlingly sharp and articulate wife did, I’d probably already be on the NYT best-seller list.
Way to go, babe. 🙂