Beautiful Words

'Once upon a time' typed using an old typewriter

Beautiful Words

Ever have one of those moments…maybe at a party, or in a job interview, or maybe during a friendly (or even unfriendly) debate…where somehow, all the planets aligned, all the cosmic tumblers fell in place and you had the most absolutely perfect rejoinder, the most unconditionally brilliant answer, the most quintessentially genius response and…. subsequently, the room cleared, the heavens parted, and you knew that for one brief instant in your modest life, that, BOOM, you had just nailed it?

Yeah, me neither.

Let me explain.

I was a shy kid. But that didn’t keep me from wanting to date girls who were several stratospheres above me in looks, intelligence, and personality. However, because of my shyness, whenever I was around one of them, I spoke in sentences somewhat on par with Tonto. For a sensitive teenager, it was a devastating combination. I often defaulted to humor, which influenced girls to like me, but only as a friend. And, I had a hard time breaking that perception. When I would ask one of them out…which I did awkwardly…I could see their cheerful, light-hearted demeanor de-gloss as they realized I was serious.It was my first introduction to the primal human response of “fight or flight.”

Some of my buddies were accomplished athletes which gave them babe gravity. Me, not so much. I did play a little baseball. But I was pretty lousy at it. I was, however, amazingly good at infield chatter. In any case, my high school dating life was similar to my baseball career. I rarely got to first base there either. I did date a few girls and managed a kiss or two along the way. But afterwards they acted like they needed a tetanus shot. The good news, however, is that I have absolutely no worries should I ever be vetted for a position on the Supreme Court.

Going off to college gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself…try on a different persona or two as it were. To overcome my shyness, I would imagine and rehearse a conversation in my head first, especially one where I was asking out a girl. That way, I could be confident that things would go smoothly. It would go something like this:

Me:      “Hey Julie! You’re certainly looking hot today!”

Julie:   “Oh, you’re so sweet.”

Me:      “Are you heading to the Humanities building? Seems like I see you this time of day every Tuesday and Thursday.”

Julie:   “Yeah. (Sighs). Freshman Comp. I really stink at it.

Me:      “Ah, I doubt that. But hey, in the gee whiz department, I’m an English major. I could help you with any of that if you’d like.”

Julie:   “Oh, that would be fabulous! Do you mind?”

Me:      “Course not! Glad to do it. Tell you what…why don’t you meet me at the library around six tonight. We’ll grab one of the study rooms and maybe afterwards we’ll go grab a burger or something.”

Julie:   “That sounds great. You sure you don’t mind?”

Me:      (With relaxed, confident smile.) “Noooo problem. I’ll see you then.”

Julie:   (With dreamy, grateful gaze.) “Super. See you.”

 

Of course, the actual conversation would go more like this:

 

Me:      “Hey Julie! You’re certainly looking hot today!”

Julie:   “Do I know you?”

Me:      (Undaunted) “Are you heading to the Humanities building? Seems like I see you this time of day every Tuesday and Thursday.”

Julie:   “How do you know this? Are you stalking me?”

Me:      (Regrouping.) “I have a Western Civ class in the Humanities building this period. But if I’m not mistaken, you have a Freshman comp class.”

Julie:   “So.”

Me:      “Well, in the gee-whiz department, I’m an English major. I could help you with any of that if you’d like.”

Julie:   “I don’t need your help. I’m dating the professor?”

Me:      (Grabbing at straws.) “That’s good… I guess. Anyway, you want to go grab a burger or something sometime?”

Julie:   (Clutching her purse.) “I have mace.”

Me:      “Okay. Sorry I bothered you. Just go back to…you know, being radiant.”

Julie:   (Rushes away quickly.)

Me:      (Pretending to look at my watch while actually scanning to see if anybody witnessed this disaster.)

In time I got better at rehearsing upcoming conversations. Maybe even too good. I could exude a confidence in job interviews that landed me positions for which I was marginally qualified. I managed to make success stories out of these situations but early on it made for rough sledding.

So, before I drift too far off course here, let me get to the point…

In the process of imagining perfect conversations, I began to think of larger stories, stories about the everyday lives of the everyday people that providence had put in my path. But in those stories, I wanted to do something different and profound. I wanted to write stories that would awaken the reader out of the lethargy of life’s routines, to refresh in him or her a sense of wonder in the ordinary and the unremarkable. Perhaps that is why I often take time to describe a sunset, or the slow creep of morning light through a window, or the mesmerizing effect of stars against the vast canopy of a dark night. I wanted to write stories that washed away the haze of the familiar and the pedestrian disappointments that daily aggravate and occupy our attention. I wanted to write stories where, in the moment, the characters found the perfect thing to say…whether it be humorous, or tragic, or profound. I wanted to write stories with beautiful words.

“The Fullness of Time,” took three years to write and appropriately, it is the longest of the four Watervalley novels, almost 30% longer than the others. Perhaps that is why, despite my best intentions, I had to keep balking on the publication date. Under conventional formatting, it would be over 450 pages. It has a full complement of familiar characters and, of course, some new ones. But most importantly, it serves the goal of writing about those things that are good, and true, and enduring. The characters are real and funny and flawed, and the story is woven with numerous complexities. But in the end, there is in all the characters, a common thread of redemption, of understanding, and hopefully, a renewed sense of wonder. By the last page, it is my hope that you will find that in the illusory little town of Watervalley, all things come together…in the fullness of time.

Stay tuned!

 

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10 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Gail Teem says:

    I’m staying tuned! Can’t wait! Write on, write on!

  2. Gail Teem says:

    I’m staying tuned! Can’t wait! Write on, write on!

  3. Ann White says:

    Jeff, I am so glad number four will be out soon. I read number three again so I am ready. Pleas let us know when and where we can buy it.

  4. Pamela Burns says:

    Hurray! I’m glad to hear this news. Thanks!

  5. Tom Cheatum says:

    Brother Jeff!

    I imagine authors and editors agonize over this……450 pages! Ikes! I hope it’s long, I hope the length is due to the great dialogue that you write and the plot your weave. Looking forward to it!!!

    Tom

  6. Mary Simmons says:

    Looking forward to your new book and so are all of us at “Beyond Words” book Club.

  7. Freida says:

    I just found out about your books recently and ordered all 3. I am anxiously awaiting #4.

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