I have so many writing notebooks from over the years, and every now and then I love to go through them and see what jumps out at me as possible inspiration. I especially like to write down quotes from other writers, or lines from books or essays or short stories. Here is a favorite one from Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) that I just unearthed from an old notebook. Since many of my short stories involve dead husbands, I particularly love this: “The best first thing to do, when you’ve got a dead body and it’s your husband’s on the kitchen floor, and you don’t know what to do about it, is to make yourself a good strong cup of tea.”
Perfect British understatement…
(This short-short story was just published in the online literary journal Train Flash Fiction. I love writing flash fiction. For one thing, it’s really short! But not as easy as you might think. Trying to write a story in a few lines or under 500 words is sometimes more challenging than having all the pages you need. This one clocks in at 174 words. Link below or read here.)
She thinks she might be getting dementia. As soon as she thinks this, she writes it down in her notebook, because if she is getting dementia she might not remember she is getting it, and she will have lost this moment of lucidity forever. So her notebook, with its lists and notes, will be critical. It will be her guidepost, her hedge against dementia. That and long walks and her crossword puzzles. Not Sudoku though. She has always hated math and gets irritated at those Sudoku people on trains with their smug whiff of superior intellectualism, although it occurs to her that they might feel the same way about her and her crosswords.
There are some things she would like to forget (her divorce, her cruelty to her ex). And there are things she would like to remember (maybe she could make another list?) But the things she would like most to forget seem to be the very things she can’t.
The mind is a truly screwed-up thing, she thinks. Brilliant. Write that down.
I found this amazing set of books at a swap meet several years ago: “With the World’s Great Travelers.” I think the set was about $40. The bindings are pretty shredded and the book covers are not in the best shape, but the inside pages are intact and very readable. I love browsing through them to get possible story ideas. There are a lot of first-person travel stories from a world that no longer exists. Case in point: The Pink and White Terraces of New Zealand, a onetime “Wonder of the World,” that was obliterated in a volcanic eruption in 1886. I used the descriptions of travelers who had seen this wonder, and wove it into a story of a young woman who might have traveled there. You can read my story in a separate post today.
Today I ran over to the Chicago Botanic Garden as soon as I got an email that was sent out to members, that two corpse flowers were going to be in a rare dual bloom for about twenty-four hours. As a writer who has written several short stories about husbands who meet unsavory endings, I knew I had to witness the blooming of a corpse flower. Not sure how I will use it yet, but there are certainly some possibilities…