J.H. Muses

My grandmother drove a 1948 Lincoln until Daddy took it away

Grandmother Mabel drove a 1948 Lincoln until the crisis came. She drove through the new red lights in downtown by blowing her horn.

“That should be enough for them to get out of my way,” she told Daddy after the police chief came by to visit. The real reason was that she coBookcollogo3-2014uld barely walk and had a hard time lifting her foot in time to hit the brake.

Well, Grandmother also led the Prohibition movement in her day, so she was definitely not a hothouse flower.

The police chief said, “I don’t relish your job, Dr. Armstrong, but she’s got to stop driving that car.”

And that was that. Oh, I’m sure when Daddy told her, it was not that easy. Not long after, I was sitting in her living room playing Canasta on a Sunday afternoon. She looked at me with her lips in a tight line and said, “Did you know your daddy took away my car?” I just nodded my head and said nothing, concentrating on my Canasta game.  I had seen my father rubbing the back of his head, pacing the floor, as he waited on the police chief. I’d heard my mom ask, “What are you going to do, Jack?”

As a writer and editor, I wish I could have heard my dad’s conversation with my indomitable Grandmother Mabel. But that is where imagination comes in and hearing of similar conversations that occur in other households.

She’s a character somewhere in my novel someday. She let me spend hours reading Sherlock Holmes in the original red leather bound editions on her shelf and Longfellow in the original editions. I don’t know who ended up with those books. I heard my cousins sold them at a yard sale.  I loved each and every one. Who we become has a lot to do with the reading we did as children and those who encouraged us to sit in a quiet corner with a good book.

True story. Yesterday we pulled into the right-hand lane to get around a truck that had both lights blinking and appeared to be dead in the left-hand turn lane at the light on a busy four-lane street. So we eased forward around the long line that was forming in the turn lane and stopped at the red light.

About that time, an older gentleman appeared in my rear view mirror walking across traffic from the Walgreen’s parking lot. He climbed into the “stalled” truck, started it, turned on his blinker and went left. I guess if you’ve gotta go….

So in the middle of some online conversations I’m seeing about how to write “real” characters, I stepped back. I’m tempted to say bluntly, “Open your eyes. Look around you.”

But then I wonder if people really need to be told this? Maybe they are asking these questions in writers’ groups because they seek affirmation of their methods. That’s OK. We all do that at some point.

For years, I had young reporters walk in the door and tell me amazing stories about someone they had just interviewed who owned a business, but “Gosh, he’s won every speedboat race you can win! Trophies everywhere!” So they write the story and offer not one word about this amazing speedboat racer. Do you think that might have affected the way he went about creating a successful business? Every person has depth. Some may be rich and plummy like a fine wine; some may be a little bit of horse manure, but it all affects the end product.

So tell it like it is. That’s it.


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