Dud Campbell had been quiet for almost an hour, which brought concern to his wife, Anita. Dud isn’t the strong, silent type. He’s more like a quick, noisy type. After an hour had gone by in silence, he picked up a sheet of paper and began taking notes.
“Dinner’s pretty soon, Hon,” Anita said.
“Can’t eat now. Uh, can I have something later, maybe?”
“Sure. Hey, you okay?”
He nodded, then went for the coffee pot. He gave Anita a hug on his way back to the table.
“Been thinking. It’s the book again.”
We’re all aware of The Book. Dud’s murder mystery, which has been transformed over several years from eight murders in the first chapter (rejected by a publisher) to three murders in the entire book, to a murder/love story based on the unorthodox courtship of Randall Jones and Katie Burchell, has been a literary thorn in Dud’s side since he first got the idea. The titles haven’t changed, however. Dud still calls it “Murder in the Soggy Bottoms” and everyone else still calls it “The Duchess and the Truck Driver.” Because the two main characters are … well, you know.
“Anita, Hon, it’s this whole Dewey business…”
“I thought he was doing just fine with Emily.”
“He is … I think. Anyway, I was thinking that I could put some of their courtship story into the book. Maybe have the truck driver hide his profession from the duchess, and maybe the duchess could turn out to have a diesel fetish or something. So they have things they’re hiding from each other. It’s just … well, I don’t know where to put it in the book, you know?”
“Dud, just because Dewey and this Emily are in an unusual situation where she thinks he has a manure fetish, well, that’s interesting all right, but the book should be your story, not theirs.”
He sat and sipped and scratched with the pencil and looked at her and smiled.
“You know, at times like this, I’m almost sorry I started writing this book. With fiction, you can’t check to see what people did. You have to make it up as you go, and sometimes I think, well, how in the world should I know what these people are going to do?”
“May I make a suggestion?”
“Why don’t you just start writing and let the characters figure out what they want to do? You know, leave it up to them?”
“Anita Campbell, you’re a genius!”
He immediately got on the computer, didn’t eat any dinner at all, and didn’t come to bed until about four a.m. Artists sometimes have hard lives.
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