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 just 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 better of it than I can.
I was on the train. It was late and I purposely chose a seat behind a man who looked quiet. He wore a shabby suit, he was hunched over, he looked like he was going home after a long day’s work. Just as the door began to close, two very loud drunk people burst into the train and sat right next to my quiet guy. One was a very, very tall man and the other a very tall woman. They asked the quiet guy what stop he was getting off, and lo and behold, we were getting off at the same place. I figured he would do what I would do, which was close my eyes and hope they went away. But the quiet guy began talking to them. They were all involved in divorce and custody battles, they loved their children, they were frustrated by various things. I was touched as I listened at what a surprising turn the whole thing had taken. These were three people who never in the world would have connected, and here they were.
A week later, I’m sitting on the train and three big bruiser types get on, or, as Woody Allen would put it “hairy knuckle types.” They were 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, from deep within the 5-seater and I’m darned if it isn’t my quiet man. He begins talking to them about Mike Tyson and various other boxers. They start to talk.
There’s a John Cheever story about a woman who keeps showing up to visit people who are dying, and I began to get a spooky feeling about this man. What if he was a figment of my imagination? What if he was a killer looking for drunk people? What if he was just a really lonely guy who could only connect with people on a train? (What if I should just read a book and stop listening to other people?)
What do you think?