I’d been trying to come up with a story idea all week, unsuccessfully. Then on a Sunday night while I was brushing my teeth I had the germ of a story idea. The story would be about a series of seemingly unrelated events that would result in a desired conclusion. I thought of something that had happened to my wife and myself recently. We’d planned to go to our HMO (Kaiser) for a flu shot and then to our Indian casino which was about halfway between the HMO and our house for lunch and doing a little gambling. On the scheduled day I came down with a stomach ache and so we postponed the trip until the next week. By that time my stomach was okay, we got our flu shots, went to the casino, had their buffet lunch, which was pretty good, and my wife won $100 on a slot machine. If we’d gone to Kaiser the week before who knows what slot machine she’d have selected, probably not that winning one. This wasn’t exactly a series of events, just one, my stomach ache, but that was the idea.
Then it occurred to me that I’d written a story along the same lines many years ago. However, I couldn’t remember the title of the story or what it was about. This wasn’t surprising as I’d written over 400 stories since I’d retired from my State job some 25 years ago (I’d counted; I have an obsession for doing such things). Let me go back a minute to put this in context. After retiring from my State of California job, I’d somehow started writing for an alternative weekly newspaper in Sacramento, then for the Neighbors section of our local paper, the Sacramento Bee, then I’d started writing short stories, almost all of which appeared in online magazines. Over the years I’d self-published five collections of the stories, plus more stories which I added to a few longer works.
The next morning I went to my computer and started going through the stories I’d typed on it, trying to find the one I’d recalled the night before. My search was unsuccessful. Then I remembered that when I first started having stories published I’d printed them out and put them in a binder. I actually had two large binders before I stopped doing this. I looked through the binders and to my surprise found a number of stories I hadn’t included in my “Collected Stories” books. And I found the one I was looking for.
I’d titled the story “The Untouchable Man” and it had been in an online magazine dated way back to 2007. No wonder I had only a vague recollection of it. The untouchable man was one of the richest men in the country, also one of the cruelest. His wife, after years of suffering, was going to divorce him. He told her that he would ruin her. She reminded him she had a small amount of money of her own. He scoffed at her for donating her money to do-good charities and said he’d ruin her immediately if he wasn’t about to go to China to complete a deal that would make him even richer..
The story then goes to another couple where the wife is about to leave her abusive husband, saying that he was adopting the ways of his employer. Meanwhile, the rich man’s wife, fearing he’ll cut off her money, goes through her charities and decides to donate money to a women’s shelter. The other abused wife goes to that shelter, whose head tells her she’s lucky, they’ve just received a donation enabling them to keep open. The abused wife’s husband in his turn does what any husband whose wife has left him would do, goes out and gets roaring drunk. The next day the rich man is about to get into his limo to go to the airport when he notices that the chauffer isn’t his usual one. The substitute tells him that the regular chauffer is indisposed. The rich man says he hopes the substitute knows how to drive in the fog. The next morning’s headline is that one of the country’s richest men has been killed in an accident in the fog on the way to the airport; the chauffer survives.
The story I eventually devised wasn’t exactly the same as it involved two young couples, each of which had arranged to meet at a coffee house for a first date. One couple consisted of a nice but plain girl and a vain young man who’d agreed to meet her as a favor to her brother. The other couple consisted of a nice young man and a girl in his office who’d agreed to meet him because she had nothing better to do. As it turns out, she gets invited to a country weekend and stands him up. The vain young man does go to the coffee shop but when he sees the plain young lady decides to back out and leaves. The nice young man observes this, approaches the nice young woman, agree that they’ve both been stood up, continue to talk, go to dinner and eventually marry. It’s unknown if the vain young man and vain young woman ever meet.
I had ideas fpr a couple of other similar stories but decided to write only one because the chain of events started with President Trump firing one of his White House staffers, as he does with some frequency, and I thought it would be kind of fun to write. That was enough for the time being. Meanwhile I’d see if I wanted to do anything with “The Untouchable Man’ and the other uncollected stories I’d found or just lave them undisturbed.