She thought she’d write for an hour or two. But then two turned into six, which turned into ten, which turned into fourteen. By then, she had her entire short story completed, she thought, but she also had a major case of exhaustion. Without undressing, she collapsed upon her bed and immediately fell asleep.
When she woke eight hours later, she discovered she had written only half her story! But that can’t be, she told herself! She was positive she had completed the entire thing! And yet—
She wondered, could I have been so exhausted that I imagined the rest of the story?
With a huge blank spot in her memory, she took a shower, then got dressed in shorts and a pullover, and drove over to one of her more favorite restaurants for one of its fabulous breakfasts.
While chowing down on some scrambled egg whites and gluten-free pancakes, along with decaf coffee, fruit, and an order of faux hash browns (actually, they were made mostly of cauliflower), she suddenly got an idea for a couple more paragraphs. Taking out the pages of her manuscript from her purse, she used a pen to fill in as much of the rest of the narrative as she could, then found herself once again confronted by a major creative block. What was happening to me, she wondered?
She was so upset, she almost didn’t finish her breakfast. Afterwards, she drove over to a local park she had driven to many times before. She wanted to use the fresh air and possibly the bucolic scenery to see if she could get her creative juices flowing again.
The park itself was located pretty much in the center of town. It was used by a lot of families for various activities: picnics, bar-b-qs, games of toss, and playdates with pets.
This being a Sunday, it was crowded as usual, but there were still a couple of cement tables and benches open. Sitting on one, she pulled out her manuscript and stared at the words, hoping that they would jog something loose in her brain. It didn’t work. She found herself just sitting there, reading over what she had already written, but unable to go any further. That’s when she heard a voice ask, “Fiction or nonfiction?”
When she looked up, she found herself staring into the green eyes of a relatively handsome stranger who looked to be somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties. He was dressed in jeans and a white button-down shirt, plus he had on one of those grey sport jackets with the elbow patches that a lot of scholarly types wear.
Since she liked what she saw, she had no hesitation telling him fiction.
“It must not be going too well,” he stated.
“Why do you say that?”
Smiling, he replied, “After watching you for a couple of minutes, all I saw was you sitting there with your pen hovering over your manuscript, but nothing being written.”
She could feel her face getting red. “You’re right. I started this yesterday, but became so exhausted, I thought I had finished the story. But when I woke up this morning, I discovered I had written only half of it.”
His eyebrows shot up. “I’ve never heard that one before.”
“That someone was so tired they didn’t even know if they had finished their story or not.”
She found herself somewhere between embarrassed and angry. “So what do you write? she challenged, suspecting he might be a writer as well.
“Like you, fiction.”
“Yeah. I have several pieces in college magazines, and one in Playboy.” She guessed he could tell that she was feeling a little jealous, because he added quickly, “The fiction is just my hobby. Actually, I’m on the staff of the Coronet News.”
The Coronet News was a local weekly newspaper. Now for sure she was feeling the sting of jealousy.
“You mind if I sit down?” he asked, unslinging a well worn shoulder bag.
“No, go right ahead.”
He sat on the bench next to her, but far enough away to make it feel less awkward, then insisted, “Let me see what you have so far. Maybe I can get you unstuck.”
She wanted to reject his offer, but she knew she needed help. So, sliding her partially completed manuscript over to him, she sat in silence, watching as he read over her words.
She was prepared to challenge him if she didn’t like what he had to say, but he surprised her when he commented, “Not bad at all!” That improved her spirits a little. “But now, I can see where you’ve gone astray.”
Once again, a tiny shard of anger flared up, but as he continued to go over her story with her, she found herself agreeing with him more and more.
By the time they finished an hour or so later, not only did she have her entire short story planned out, they discovered they had more than a few things in common. Both of them were single and unattached. Both of them were writing speculative fiction. Both of them had one sibling and parents who were still together. Both of them had similar tastes in what they read, saw on TV and in movies, not to mention the type of music they liked to listen to as well.
The one major difference was that he was published and she wasn’t. But that didn’t last long. With his help, not only did her story get accepted by one of the major science fiction magazines, but it was nominated for a Hugo.
He proposed to her right in the middle of the award’s ceremony. She was so happy, she didn’t even care that she hadn’t won. By the same time the following year, she had produced more than just another award winning story.
His name was Brien.