The Muses: Part II

Photo by Janet Towbin

This is part II in a series looking at what inspires my writing.

2. The Masses

I often spot someone when I’m out and about who catches my eye and makes me wonder, “What’s your life like? What were you like when you were a kid?” Those people sometimes end up being the main characters in my stories. Sounds kind of creepy, I know, but it works.

A few years ago I took a road trip with my family. We drove halfway across the country and ended up in Wyoming. We stayed in a bed and breakfast with Devil’s Tower (you remember, the figure Richard Dreyfuss sculpts out of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) in the backyard. Also staying at that bed and breakfast was a twenty-something guy who went by the name Green. He had long dreadlocks, walked around barefoot, and taught my kids how to find porcupines at night. He lived in his car and worked two months out of the year. The rest of the time he drove around the country, stopping to go rock climbing. He only had one responsibility—his cell phone bill. His parents made him carry one so that they could know where he was every now and then.

An artist's rendering

Green fascinated me because he was the EXACT opposite of me. I bombarded him with questions: Do you ever get lonely? How many years will you do this for? What exactly happened when you picked up that hitchhiker you just mentioned?!?

It wasn’t until two years later that I wrote a piece of flash fiction about him (and yesterday that it was published on The Alchemy of Writing!):



At twenty, Jack bought a beat-up Ford and told his mother he wanted to climb big rocks. He pushed the backseat down at night and slept with his head in the trunk and his feet by the gearshift. Five miles outside Devil’s Tower, a hitchhiker stabbed him in the gut with a jackknife. While he bled in the road he wondered why anyone would steal a beat-up Ford with an industrial-sized bag of Lucky Charms in the trunk.

Now I really hope that this didn’t happen to Green. But he sparked a story for me, as did his big bag of cereal he stored in the back seat of his car (from which he fed my kids while I looked on trying not to have a seizure). I have no idea where he got that from.


  1. Alex

    April 4th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I can’t believe you let your kids eat cereal from the back of some guy’s car. How do you know he didn’t use the bag as a pillow?

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