J.H. Muses

Seeking a guy with a pet rat on a leash?


When you’re in a hurry at an I-55 rest stop in Mississippi, nothing gets in your way. But I closed my car door a little more slowly as I watched a young man walking his white pet rat on a leash. Where is Jeff Foxworthy when you need him?

I kept waiting for the dogs out in the grass to realize there was a walking snack in the vicinity, but they, too, were there for the rest stop aBookcollogo3-2014nd not interested.

The fact is that if you are looking for characters for your book, just lean up against your car at the rest stop and pick a few for your next novel or short story.

Go to Fred’s, or heaven help you, Walmart at midnight.

Once we got in late from a trip, stopped at a KFC around 9 p.m., and my husband and senior partner got into a fascinating conversation with a 94-year-old veteran and widower, who liked to go to restaurants late. This veteran had created groundbreaking technology during WWII. Yes, we checked him out. He was a walking legend.

Some years back, I recall a retired English teacher who dropped by my editor’s desk to share a photo of her Scottie sitting in a high chair having supper with her. “Here,” she said, handing me a painted rock. “I just wanted you to have this. I like to share these with my friends.” The rock read: “Time and tide wait for no man.” Geoffrey Chaucer.

I kept that rock for 10 years. Now I can’t find it. So I may have to go find a nice flat rock and paint it myself for my desk in our new office.

She should be in my novel, and in fact, she probably will be, along with a guy walking his pet rat. Life is just strange the way it offers up characters who are treasures like the people we just run across every day — if only we take the time.

And if we don’t, well, you know. A moment that passes never comes your way again.

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