Where Do Your Ideas Come From? Part 4

This series is coming to an end and I already have regrets. If only I’d used roman numerals (part 4 part IV)to number my entries…

In seriousness, alas, this exercise appears to have been one in futility. I’ve written two beginnings of a story about a little white dog and have been unable to discover what the story is really “about.” The premise and location and characters were all promising, but nothing developed in the writing process.  One could take this as evidence a writer should not talk about work in progress.  Instead, I see it as not all potential ideas bear fruit, at least not right way. Perhaps I’ll come back to this project in a few months and see if I hit on something.

I will say, the second version of the story felt stronger to me. I got a voice in my head, somewhat similar to previous stories I’ve written, and switched from third to first person.  This change seemed to add something to the story.  It also led to more development of the potential love interest for the Male Protagonist.

If you’re curious, you can read the beginnings after the jump.

First version:

The sound his ears heard did not match what his eyes saw. The small white dog scurrying along the median of the highway was the only creature that could have produced that awful crying howling sound. Barry did think twice and checked his mirrors before shifting lanes and pulling off to the side of the highway. He’d driven past the sketchy motels that littered the stretch of Route 4 just before the entrance to the George Washington Bride many times, but had never stopped before. He unbuckled his seat belt, not really stopping to think if he was really going to dash onto the highway to rescue a little dog.

He jogged back along the side of the highway, the louder than expected sound of speeding cars dulling his thoughts, but he couldn’t avoid the sensation that he would only discover red splattered dog roadkill. His stomach knotted with revulsion.

One foot in front of the other, brought him back briefly to running cross country in high school, except instead of rolling hills of suburban parkland, he was moving past sketchy motels and gas stations. He took off his blazer and tucked it under one arm. It felt strange to be wearing formal wear while moving along the dirt and rock of the highway’s edge. He felt disconnected. First jogging, then speed walking, then running. Shouldn’t he have seen the dog by now? He tried to balance the mathematical equation in his head. The dog traveling one direction, his car zooming past, it’d taken him five or ten seconds to pull over, so he should be approaching the dog soon, right? And then he saw the dog and ran faster

A pair off SUVs, staggered in separate lanes, flew past: swallowing the dog whole for a split second and then were gone. The dog reappeared, its body flopping like a broken toy. Silence. No cars coming. He could do this.

As he entered the highway, his body moving step by step closer to the dog, he realized he really was doing this and he couldn’t believe it. Is this how heroes feel? He locked eyes with the dog and the dog froze. Just before reaching down he glanced down the highway and saw no cars were coming. “I gotcha buddy,” he said, and scooped the dog up.

Flashing agony sharp and he was engulfed in bright lights. Stunned, he didn’t know what had happened, but could see blood on his hands and arms and the dog running away and then the engulfing light and a loud honk and screeching tires. He darted off the highway; the car was a good twenty yards away, but the driver still gave him the finger as he passed.

He took a few moments to locate the white dog, who’d started running along the shoulder of the highway back toward his car and the bridge. He was within ten feet of the dog when he saw a lady in heels and black dress and standing beside her car.

“Stop that dog!”

She looked at him in confusion and horror, but did move to prevent the dog from going past her. The dog turned away from the highway and reached a chainlink fence and stopped.

“Is that your dog?” she asked, a half second before he asked her the same question.

He bent over and put his hands on his knees, simultaneously trying to catch his breath and discovering he could breathe again.

“You’re bleeding,” she said.

“He’s a biter,” he said. They both looked at the dog. Light from a streetlamp illuminated the dog and a streak of red blood on its back.  Yet, the dog lay still, serene, lightly panting as if after a brisk walk, and his paws lay sphinx-like as if near a warm fire and not the dirt and rocks outside an auto-shop.


Second version:

I met Johny on the side of the highway, streaks of blood on his hands and face, and a tiny white dog eluding him. Well, I helped corner the little rascal, who I’d driven past just seconds before. The poor dog had been flopping along the median of the highway emitting this awful screeching crying sound. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t stopped. So I pulled over and parked and started jogging back along the shoulder and that’s when I encountered Johny.

“He’s a biter,” he said. And I knew then and there. He’d had done what I supposed I would have done: ran into a three-lane highway to rescue a little white dog he’d only just seen.

To be honest, I don’t know if I’d have been that brave. Or foolhardy, depending on your outlook.  My life has not not a bed of roses, but I like living it.  See I was on the way into city for a first date with Beatrice. I’d been taken by her arms. She’d posted a few pics up from a recent dance performance and I loved how taut and muscular her thin arms were. She was going back to school to be a doctor, but still performed in a company. Something about having to switch careers and find a new way to define herself appealed to me.

Anyway, I obviously didn’t want to be late for a first date. Not many New York City girls will date a guy who lives in New Jersey in the first place and B had written me first to boot! She said she liked that the most private thing I was willing to admit was I once obsessively wrote figure eights in notebooks when I was in elementary school and that I talked to my mom every night before dinner.

With all that in mind, I’m not sure I would have run into the highway had it been me and not Johny.  And I wouldn’t have even known I’d be bitten for my troubles. Cause like I said, I like my life.  And running onto a highway at night, with cars going over 65 and certainly not expecting to see anyone on the road. Well, I don’t have to paint you a picture, do I?

With the little white dog cornered by the fence beside an auto repair shop, Johny and I both asked if this was your dog and I guess that gave us a connection.  Johny was wearing a backward baseball cap and patchy facial hair and I was in a blue blazer and nice jeans.  We were both very much out of place. We’d paused our lives to try and help a dog.  How many cars had zoomed past without caring?

We were in a kind of detante with the little white dog lying remarkably serene near a fence, his eyes smiling, and his tongue lightly panting as if he’d just been on a pleasant suburban walk. No indication at all of how frightened, and frankly homicidal, given the marks on Johny’s face, he’d just been.  Well, there was the apple-sized patch of blood on the dog’s back.  But Johny insisted the blood was from him.

Now I’ve never been part of a dog or any kind of animal rescue so I was sort of stumped on what to do. Do we call Animal Control?  But they might just swoop him and take the little guy to some shelter and he could be put down if no one claimed him. And that would be a shame given what we’d already done. The police? A frightened dog would be low on their priorities, but who else?

I had my phone out and was punching in a search: what do you do when you find a missing dog, when a car pulled off the highway just a few yards away. A lady in a fancy dress got out of the car and strode toward us.

“Is that your dog?” echoed out of all three of us and three heads shook in unison.

Johny didn’t like the lady, right from the start.  She told him he needed to get him cleaned up. I don’t think he liked how insistent she was. He doesn’t like being told what to do. Beatrice would be insistent too, I suspected, though we had yet to meet so I really had no idea. But on her profile, under dealbreakers, she’d listed: brushes teeth three times a day, makes bed every morning, and not a stranger to a razor. So I had my suspicions.

“I saw a car hit the dog. You need to call someone,” she said, looking at me.

“The police?”

She looked at me like shouldn’t I know the answer. I rent a two-bedroom and pay my bills on time.  I’m an adult. I should know what to do.  I looked at Johny.

1 Comment

  • Amaris Amaris says:

    “One could take this as evidence a writer should not talk about work in progress.”

    This is time-honored wisdom, for sure. Too much satisfaction, too many voices of input. I wonder how people manage it with collaborations.

    That second version jumps into the action better, catches.

    Good luck with this piece.

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