Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Riddle: What does man love more than life,
Fear more than death or mortal strife;
What the poor have, the rich require,
And what contented men desire;
What the miser spends, the spendthrift saves,
And all men carry to their graves?

It was among the best, if not the best, Michaelmas feast we’ve ever thrown.  We had a fine mix of about thirty guests, new friends from among the residents of the co-op we live in, friends from thirty and more years ago, friends of some years’ standing, and from all walks of life.  They mixed and matched themselves and talked and talked.  The three geese we roasted were the best-tasting I’ve roasted – and the most expensive.  (The free-range poultry ranch I’ve been buying from told me her supplier of hatchlings had his place damaged in a storm this spring and lost a third of his chicks, so had to raise his prices.  So she had to raise hers, and my geese weren’t the only ones to get it in the neck.)  But they were splendid geese, weighing over eleven pounds apiece, and not very fat.   Everyone brought a dish to share and the food was delicious.  It was one of those parties where everything comes together just right.  At one table Michael, Don, and Susan were deep into a complex discussion of the mechanics and theory of classical music, at another Ann was holding forth hilariously on her three cats.  I didn’t want it to end.

For the purposes of my Watered Silk plot, I need my murderer to move the body.  Problem: it would probably be smarter to leave it where it is.  I’ve found that when faced with a conundrum like that, it’s best to leave off chewing on it and think about something else.  Fortunately, I had Michaelmas to distract me, and the day following it I spent with a friend.  One thing we did was enjoy the gorgeous fall weather by walking around a small lake in the neighborhood.  It’s set among big old trees and lined with tall cattails – with occasional glimpses of office buildings in the distance, easy to ignore.  Here and there a boardwalk cuts across marshy sections.  There weren’t a lot of people there, which was nice, and we talked about life and alarming political news – not too much, and since we pretty much share the same opinion, it wasn’t quarrelsome.  At one point, on a boardwalk, someone ahead of us had cut down a tall cattail reed and broken it into pieces to spell out I LOVE YOU on one of the boards.  Awwwww, we said.  A little farther along we came across a woman leaning on a railing looking into a shallow brook choked with duckweed.   “What are you looking at?” I asked.  “Look,” she said, “there’s a baby snapping turtle.”  And so there was, a late hatchling, soaking up the frail sunlight.  “I had a baby snapping turtle for a pet, once,” she said – to my delight, because so did I!  We exchanged stories about our cute-ugly tyke, how friendly it came to be, how it would take food from our fingers.  Hers loved earthworms, mine loved minnows.  Hers died its first winter, but mine survived for two.  I finally turned mine loose because he was getting big and even the double filtration system of my aquarium couldn’t keep up with his messes.  His second winter I took him out for a very brief walk in the snow because it gave him an extremely rare, possibly unique, experience.  It turned out she was the one who left the message in broken reed for her adolescent daughter, who was walking well behind her with some friends.  A very charming woman and what must be the odds of that encounter?

Anyway the break from the problem of moving the body gave my unconscious the opportunity to work on it undisturbed, and this morning, on waking, a little thought brought the solution into my conscious.

Riddle’s Answer:  Nothing


Julie said...

Isn't it wonderful how that happens? I woke up about 3:00 a.m. one night, with a fully formed secondary character in my head for my second book. She was important to the plot, and I'd been struggling with her. Then, suddenly, there she was! The mind is a mysterious thing.

Linda O. Johnston said...

What a delightful kind of distraction, Monica--and it was clearly one that let your subconscious get to work on your writing dilemma!

Linda O. Johnston said...
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Betty Hechtman said...

Your feast and fall walk, both sounded wonderful. Here in L.A. it is over 100 and hard to think it's fall. Luckily, I got my fall fix last week in Chicago.