Eight Thousand Stories in the Semi-Naked City

by J.D. Rhoades

First off, thanks to Rob Gregory Browne for filling in while I was at
the beach. We had a great time, and I got to catch up on my reading
(about which more in future posts).

You
may remember last year about this time, I was getting ready to head for
the beach and wondering if I should just leave the laptop at home and
not write for a week. I ended up leaving the computer, but taking the
notebook, in which quite a few ideas, character sketches, one-liners,
dreams, and other flotsam and jetsam got jotted down.

This year, I busted my tail getting my WIP in submittable form, getting in a short story that I’d promised,  doing a couple of guest blogs, writing enough newspaper columns to get through the vacation, and generally working it so there was no deadline hanging over my head and no project due after I got back.   

But even when I’m not officially writing,  I noticed something. If you’re a writer, there are some things you can’t turn off. One of
those is the habit of wondering about, then spinning stories around,
the things that you see.

People always ask writers, "where do you get your ideas?" But, if you think like a writer, ideas…stories…are everywhere. Sometimes it seems like everything you see is an invitation to say to yourself, "I wonder what that guy’s story is?" then let your brain rush in to fill the void.

For example, we saw:

*
A young couple who came into a very nice seafood restaurant with their
toddler, sat down at a nearby table, ordered tea….then before their order was even taken, got up
and rushed out, in the middle of a thunderstorm so violent that the
mother had to pull her jacket over her and her little girl’s head to
protect them from the driving rain.

* A
beautiful blue-sailed catamaran  bounding joyously along the waves in the
morning, only to be seen later being dragged, sideways and half submerged,
behind a small motorboat that was laboring hard to pull the disabled
cat.

*The
mysterious phone calls to the  beach house at 8:30 in the morning. When
I finally stirred myself  go out in the living room an answer one, I
got a recorded message stating "This is attorney Melvin Weinstein
trying to reach (pause) Samuel A. Jones (pause)*. I have been trying to
get in touch with you for some time. It is VERY IMPORTANT that I speak
with you. Please press ‘9’ to connect." When I pressed ‘9’ to tell them
they had a rental beach house and there was no one there by that
name…silence, then a dial tone.

* A
huge freighter that paced back and forth on the horizon for a day and a
half, neither coming in to the Port of Wilmington nor sailing away.

* Two large  hand-made, but neatly lettered signs along the beach road  proclaiming ‘NO MOORE, MAY MOORE!"

Where
were these folks going in such a hurry? What happened to the catamaran and the people on it?
Why is Melvin Weinstein after Samuel A. Jones? Why couldn’t the
freighter come in or sail away? Who’s May Moore, and who’s had enough?

So have at it, folks! Post your own ideas of the stories behind those weird occurrences. I’ll tell you what I and the kids came up with in the comments.

*names changed

13 thoughts on “Eight Thousand Stories in the Semi-Naked City

  1. Wilfred Bereswill

    It seems, Dusty, that you survived a plane crash and were stranded on an island. Someone in the group found a catamaran, and tried to get off, but it ran into a viscious storm and sunk.

    Melvin Weinstein, from the Dharma Initiative tried to warn Samuel A. Jones (pause)* that a group of outsiders lead by a billionaire was trying to find the island and that they would be coming by frieghter. The frieghter arrived and spent a day and a half searching but even though it could be seen from the beach, they could not see the island because Jacob was channeling evil thoought their way.

    The young couple was assigned to find the Orchid Station and move the island. Quickly. Before the others on the freighter found them.

    May Moore was on the submarine when John Locke blew it up.

    Oh wait. Isn’t that from a TV show?

    Reply
  2. R.J. Mangahas

    Some of my best story ideas came to me when I would ride the T in Boston. Or just sitting on the commons in general. I think though one of the funniest characters literally walked into my job. I was working an overnight shift at a copy center in Boston when this guy walks in — no lie — dressed in a crushed velvet suit, one of those pimp hats with a long feather, 3 inch platforms. He even had gold capped teeth, gold chains and a ring on each finger. I almost expected to hear the theme from shaft or something. He wanted some cards made. When I saw the info, it said BROTHER VELVET, Percurer (that’s how he spelled it) of Fine Women. Saddest thing was that it was July. I guess life really is stranger than fiction.

    Reply
  3. toni mcgee causey

    Samuel A. Jones killed May Moore using the catamaran and making it look like an accident. The young couple were clearly assassins, working with a prop baby to completely distract all of the patrons while their partner, Melvin Weinstein, was in the back of the room murdering Samuel A. Jones because he shouldn’t have left a sign behind, giving the police a clue (Melvin is pretty strict on his trainee hit-men that they always have a cover story and never leave clues.) The ships? Where Melvin rendezvoused with the young couple, who never showed up because they are still trying to change a diaper and figure out how to make the prop baby quit screaming. They were arrested when they kept putting the diaper on its head.*

    *no actual babies were harmed in this story

    Reply
  4. JT Ellison

    The young couple were Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Jones, on the run from the head of a pharmaceutical company that Samuel worked for. He discovered a cure for cancer, then realized, a la I AM LEGEND, it would kill everyone. The company wants to move ahead, are manufacturing the cure on the freighter. But without Samuel, they can’t find the last ingredient to make it work. Unfortunately, Samuel keeps seeing signs that say No Moore, and knows they’re directed at him. His mother’s name was May Moore, and he realizes they’ve taken her and killed her in an attempt to keep him on the project.In a desperate bid to flee, they steal a catamaran, which later crashes. The pharmaceutical company thinks they’ve drowned, but they grab on to a tiny piece of flotsam and ride the current north, wash up on the shores of Virginia, and get away.

    Hey, it’s early…

    Reply
  5. Louise Ure

    The first image in those stories that grabbed me was the young couple. Did they just realize they had no money? That they left the iron on at home? That their child was ill?

    All five of these would be great story-starter exercises for a writing class.

    Welcome back, Dusty. Hope you had a restful vacation!

    Reply
  6. R.J. Mangahas

    Oops, forgot to post the story. Silly me.

    Apparently, a gentleman by the name of Ed was friends with Samuel Moore. Ed asked if he could use Samuel’s beach house to entertain a lady friend. What Samuel failed to do was disconnect his line. IT turns out that Sam was a sleeper for an unknown organization the call that morning was the call to activate him. Unfortunately, the organization decided to activate him the same week that Ed borrowed the beach house. Now, a man in a black suit steps out of a car and approaches the house.

    (This is what results from staying up too late and reading up on secret organizations)

    Reply
  7. Lori G. Armstrong

    Glad you had a great vacation, Dusty, welcome back.

    Yesterday as I was riding with daughter #1, we passed a couple who were walking on opposite sides of the road – both red-faced and panting, ignoring each other, so I began a story about what could’ve happened between them, complete with dialogue and the black moment. My daughter looked at me and said, “You can’t ever turn it off, can you?”

    Glad to see I’m not the only one!

    Reply
  8. Pari Noskin Taichert

    JD,Sounds like you’re rested, that those creative juices are flowing. Louise is right that any one of these would be great for a writing class.

    #5A gorilla marketing campaign to get rid of one of the island’s most notorious and insidious politicians. May Moore has all the money, but her opponent has grassroots support.

    Reply
  9. Zoë Sharp

    ‘A huge freighter that paced back and forth on the horizon for a day and a half, neither coming in to the Port of Wilmington nor sailing away.’

    Sure, and didn’t we have an autopilot like that once …

    ‘A beautiful blue-sailed catamaran bounding joyously along the waves in the morning, only to be seen later being dragged, sideways and half submerged, behind a small motorboat that was laboring hard to pull the disabled cat.’

    Catastrophic capsize shortly proceeded by the words, “Oh, let him steer. What’s the worst that could happen?”

    Reply
  10. Zoë Sharp

    And, yes, I realised a moment too late, that it should have been ‘preceded’, not ‘proceeded’.

    But yet, it’s 1am here, and I was still working at 3am yesterday morning, too. My brain is fried!

    Reply
  11. Stacey Cochran

    Tracey Atkins exits the Food Lion in Raleigh, North Carolina on a sweltering June morning carrying a baby in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other. Machinegun fire rips across the parking lot. The baby starts screaming, and as he hits the ground, the former school teacher-turned-professional-wrestler Tracey wishes to hell he’d gone to Harris Teeter instead.

    Only, as he’s lying on the ground covering up his screaming child, he sees a Harris Teeter bakery van tear through the parking lot… crazy Republican Middle-Eastern terrorists pointing their machineguns at anything that moves.

    Reply
  12. Jake Nantz

    The phone continued to ring. Wigham chewed his lip as he waited for the lug to pick up. He gripped the voice recorder in his left hand.

    “Come on, pick up the damn phone.”

    A figure moved into view, a strong man with a full head of hair and no limp. Not the right guy. Shit.

    The wrong man reached for the phone, and Wigham heard a tinny click in his ear. In his frustration he’d forgotten that he still had the line open. A quick press of a button and the phony Weinstein tape was rolling.

    The idiot actually pressed “9” as he was told, despite not being the appropriate recipient of the call. Sheep, what use are you? Wigham hung up.

    A glance at his paperwork and Wigham felt foolish. The 6 must’ve been a 9. He switched the phone wires in the junction box to #9 and glanced through the scope of his Remington 700. The phone in the house two doors down rang.

    Reply

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