“How did you know?” You turn your teaspoon upside down and set its lip to the saucer.
“Know what?” I say.
“That it was supposed to be a book?”
You smile softly. “The book you are not writing. A Book of Beginnings.”
“Oh, now you are on my side?” I poke you gently and laugh. “It was too big for one walk.”
“I crossed over Clinton Avenue. The river was to my right—down, down the hills, and blocked by too many houses. The phrase popped into my head: ‘A Book of Beginnings.’ I’ll tell you about that phrase sometime. But not right now.”
“Why not right now?”
“Because I am going to tell you how I knew it was supposed to be a book. Not all stories need to be told at once. Some are better for saving. The phrase. I’m saving it.”
“You are so stubborn.”
“Good writers are like that. I claim the necessary stubbornness of the good writer.”
“A little full of yourself, too.” You wink.
“Good writers are like that. Too. They get to the place where they know things. I know I need to save the phrase. So stop giving me those moony eyes. Because I am simply going to answer the question at hand.”
You lean back in your chair, fold your arms lightly.
“I told you I’m too tired to write a book. But it’s springtime, and the irises are poking up and the crocuses just finished their purple striped blooms. And now I am not full of myself so much as full of ideas. It happens every spring. Well, since 2007 it has. Like someone opened a door that was shut for too long. And now every spring the things behind that door come tumbling out.”
“You are a door?”
“Maybe I’m you. I’m standing outside the door, waiting to catch what comes tumbling.”
“How do you know I’m waiting for anything?”
“Because you should have taken your teacup to the kitchen already, but instead you are sitting here still talking to me.”
“Okay, I’m waiting. Are you stalling? Because so far I’ve heard about the river and the crocuses and my lack of domestic urgency, but you haven’t said so much about how you knew this was a book.”
“I crossed Clinton Avenue. I walked up Belleview. I turned left. I don’t know the name of that street. But it’s the one with the big stone mansion with the standing-bear statues out front. I’ve sometimes dreamed of living there, but the taxes are too high and there’s no proper driveway. I walked up Prospect and on to the road of the Tudors. Big ones. Not like the tiny Tudor we’re sitting in now. I walked all that way and then turned around and walked all that way back. And the whole time I kept getting new ideas for A Book of Beginnings. That’s how I knew.”
“That’s it? You could tell by the length of your walk?”
“That’s it. And the title. All my books start with a title I can’t forget. My first book, by the way? Somebody changed the title. That was a bad move, in my opinion. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. Nobody is changing this one.”
“I thought you weren’t writing a book. And you’re already defending the title?”
“I’m defending the title. I don’t usually recommend this for a writer, but I’m doing it.”
You fiddle with the teaspoon and the morning light bends.
I watch you flip the spoon onto its silver back. “I know you like it, ” I say. “You’re still here.”
Photo by Sharon Mollerus. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Story by L.L. Barkat, author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing.
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