Generally, the last five seconds of the 29th minute of the 10th hour every day are, at best, much like all the rest. Not for me, though. I can tell you what I was doing during those five seconds every Tuesday through Sunday for the last year.
I work in a wholly unremarkable cafe in mid-town.
The list of things I know about her could fit on the side of a coffee cup. She has green eyes. Her hair, black, has gone from short to shoulder length and back. She doesn’t have a favorite coffee, as far as I can tell. Some of the regulars mix it up from time to time, but her order is always a wild card.
The first week I thought she might be a lawyer because of the suits, but then there were shorts, dresses, and once, a gorilla outfit. I asked her, “Are you an actress?”
She said, “No, I’m a gorilla.”
She once wore a black burka and followed it up the next day with a pink one.
She sits in the same booth, if it is available, sets her coffee to the side and looks at her watch. When it is time she closes her eyes, inhales slowly and then exhales. She opens her eyes and that is that. She sometimes reads the paper, does a Sudoku, types away on her laptop, or just stares out the window.
In March and April the sun light floods the booth and her olive skin speaks of angels. It doesn’t matter if I have a customer, I spend those five, precious, favorite seconds, watching her singular breath. The world goes quiet and for 4.9 seconds I can’t look away.
Today, a year of curiosity, distant admiration, and modest stalking came to an end. After the inhale, for no reason, her head turned slightly and she opened her eyes. She caught me. We spent the next 2.5 seconds just looking at one another. It could have been magical, had the next 30 seconds not been a decent into chaos.
What happens next? Meh, we may never know.
What we have here is an example of what makes me happy. It isn’t the story on the whole (or part, as the case may be), but a singular moment within. A moment that the reader never sees. It is between the author and the narrator.
It is a point where the narrator slips something in the writer didn’t see coming, much to both their delights.
That moment…that sneaky little unprepared bit of writing that leaps forward and fills one with the excitement of a first kiss? It is pure joy.
When I read a book I judge it by the number of times I am forced to set it down and marvel at a singular finely crafted passage. Elmore Leonard consistently provides five or more such moments. A good writer will offer up three delicious morsels and I will be fed.
Are you curious? Would you like to know, specifically, where in those 345 words I experience writing euphoria?
Okay, I’ll tell you.
I had thought about this little scene two days ago, while driving from Iowa City to Martelle. All of it, except one part. When I typed, “Are you an actress?” she had, in every instance that I’d imagined it, said, “No.” That was all.
The “I’m a gorilla,” just sort of showed up. It made me chuckle. Did you laugh? I hope so.
But it wasn’t just a laugh line that was the source, it was all that one infers about the type of person who would come up with such an answer. It speaks to her intelligence, as one couldn’t imagine a dullard being so quick. It shows a confidence in what wasn’t said afterwards.
Most people would feel compelled to explain, to answer the unsaid questions, “Why are you wearing a gorilla costume?” but not her. She is quite content to leave it at literal. It is playful and mysterious and, if I may be so bold, sexy as hell.
Is there more to the story? Yes, sure there is. I don’t know what it might be and it may never come to the page, but it’s out there.
That is what makes me happy.
Oh, and one more thing. People who subscribe to my blog. They make me doubly happy.
About The Author
Brian Meeks writes a blog at Extremely Average, and his Henry Wood Detective Agency books are published and for sale in paperback and also ebook. He’s been hawking his second book on a blog tour and doing a mighty fine job of it: Check out his Amazon second book.
Official Brian Meeks bio: He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in Economics. He has also written a book about the 1986-87 Iowa Hawkeyes Men’s basketball team titled, Two Decades and Counting: the Streak, the Wins, the Hawkeyes Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble.