Sometimes I forget to just sit down and type when it’s time to start writing. And one of the stories that always recurs to me when I get blocked is the story of the guy who wanted to write something – I don’t know where I heard this story…maybe AP English? best class I ever took -- and he just sat down and started writing and maundered along until he got into a pretty heavy reminiscence about his war buddies and what happened to them all. Perhaps he had left the tent and the tent got blown up? Maybe I’m conflating that with another story.
In any case, I aspire to be funny, and when I get a little jammed and have trouble putting something together, and that story occurs to me, I always end up wishing that I’d instead heard a story about some guy who had writer’s block and decided to tie banana peels to his shoes and run in traffic. Because that’s comedy.
But, no, I’m laboring along here under the weight of a veteran who wanted to work out some issues and sat down to write, maybe he was smoking at the time (although I think he wasn’t having a drink because that would undermine the whole enterprise), and his mind wandered over his past until it fetched up against the Biggest Thing hiding in there, and that flowed out of the pen.
And one of my Biggest Things is the story of the time my friends and I flushed the Klan and regretted it. It was perhaps the one time when as an adult I truly felt most afraid for my life, although as I remember it, some part of me did not believe for a second that I was going to be killed or hurt. Instead, the Klansman with whom we actually spoke was kind enough to tow (well, more like yank) my car from a ditch where I had stranded it, and told us to get the hell out of there, which we did.
This was some years back, and the man took down my license plate number and since he was a volunteer fireman (I happened to know this) I assumed that he had buddies in the police services and that this particular chapter knows (or knew) who I am. So I mostly kept quiet about it, only passing the information on to a couple of trusted people and nothing seemed to come of it. I can only hope that those rednecks waited in fear–they were meeting illegally on land upon which I was trespassing, but which belonged to none of us–for the next several years for the hammer to come down, just as I did, the bastards.
So okay, that mostly-forgotten veteran has done it again, drawn out a reminiscence from an unforseen direction. There are more details, of course, and the symbolocogical elements of the story go deeper--loss of innocence, the town/country divide, even Homer's Odyssey (we were on our way to Ithaca)--but those don't figure into this essay. Someday maybe I'll write it up proper. But today, the exercise is enough.