Friday, May 14, 2010

Recovered Snippet of a Story

I'm going to do something a bit different than I usually do on this blog, to see if there's any interest in this kind of thing.

Yesterday I was emptying out an old box of papers, and I found a sheet of paper in which I'd handwritten (in blue ink) the opening to a story. I know roughly when it was written, since it's on the back of a Yahoo! printout of driving directions with an October 2000 date stamp. But I have no memory of the story or the broader idea behind it. If I was going somewhere with it, the plan is long gone. All that remains is this opening.

So, I thought I'd share the opening with you...and, if you're so inclined, you can help me brainstorm story ideas. Who is Crystal Black? How old is she? What was her relationship with David? How did David die, and how long ago? What is the significance of the timing of her visits to the used book shop? What problem is she wrestling with, and how does it relate to David and to this used book shop, and this old message she'd carved into a bookshelf in the theology section?

Feel free to play! Here's the story opening:

Crystal Black would visit Zachariah’s Book Shop every third Wednesday just after five. She’d walk to the familiar place behind the mahogany shelves where Ritschl’s Doctrine of Reconciliation and Justification nestled close against Ramsey’s Basic Christian Ethics. There she’s settle, folding her legs under her on the floor. And she’d run her hand over words that years ago had been rough and splintery, but now were worn smooth and softened by the oil of her fingertips.

She’d carved those words into the wood with David’s pocket knife, which he’d lent her only days before his death because she’d needed something to unseal a box of books (always books). He’d meant for her to have it for just a moment, but somehow it made its way into the pocket of her denim coat. There it remained until she wore the coat again, two days after David’s death. Somehow her regrets always circled round that knife, as if it stood for all the words she’d never spoken and never heard.

The words had first been carved on a third Wednesday just after five, carved with tears and bitterness. Now there was only the ritual touch and, sometimes, a soft pang behind the eyes. The new proprietor of the shop recognized her face and nodded whenever she came in. But if he understood the rhythm of her visits he gave no sign. Maybe he thought she was a theologian. Maybe he was right.

Sometimes she’d buy a book, just to keep up appearances.


  1. David was her lover, but he always made it clear to her that he was going to enter the priesthood. Shortly after entering the seminary, he was struck in the head and killed by the wing of a marble St. Michael the Archangel, which fell from the abbey facade as he was entering the basilica for evening vespers. -- "Kathleen"

  2. The fact is that there are no less than three Necronomicons currently being published at a loss, therefore a communist, gangster, Frankensteinian computer-god has already managed to engage in the ritual cannibalism needed to cover up the evidence for creationism!

    David was the cover designer for two of the Necronomicons. Having noticed a pattern in the similarities and differences between how the books were edited, he attempted to track down the third. He was murdered in Prague. The only witness, a Romani adolescent, was expediently deported.

    The words Crystal wrote were "All things share the same breath," a message often attributed to Chief Seattle, but they really originated from screenwriter Ted Perry. She enjoyed the idea that, if we all share the same breath, then we all share the same words. Crystal is a fan of digital piracy of literature and academic journals. She already "owns" all the good books in the bookstore. All except the ones with David's covers. She reads them here, a few pages per visit.

    David sued Crystal and got an injunction against her using scanned images of his covers in her online catalog of links to pirated books, but later he became her site's most regular user and contributer. He didn't nullify the injunction, though; so when someone sent her a link to the third Necronomicon, she never posted it.