One of the first short stories I wrote was a dark piece about a homeless man who took refuge in a cold city church only to become the subject of debate for hypocritical Christians one Christmas Eve. People fought, hypocrisy and self-righteousness battled, and the right characters played the roles of good and evil. As the story reached its end it was obvious – too obvious – that the poor homeless man had to die.
What made me reluctant to give it a different twist was that it really happened that way, sort of. There was a homeless man who died after being thrown out of a Chicago church one cold Christmas Eve. Everyone who read the news story was mad, indignant, and guilt ridden by the story, but the church had no comment. It all sounded too good (or bad) to be true except in the sterile reporting it received. It was too obvious. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it is also, often, more obvious as well.
Today my story, In the Bleak Midwinter, has six different versions – six different endings; and it hasn’t seen the light of day. It probably never will. I go back to the story every once in a while to remind myself of the struggle with being too subtle, too cute, too obtuse or too obvious.
I’ve learned that obvious is easy, but a good obvious is difficult.
Yet, there are times when obvious is precisely what is needed – to confirm, reassure, comfort, and please (instead of tease). There needs to be a happily-ever-after, closure, good triumphing over evil, right over wrong every now and then because there’s little inspiration in defeat – in constant and unrelenting defeat. The only alternative is to mock it – to mock defeat, with the obvious.
So when Not Today started, I knew – I just knew – it was headed nowhere.
You know those days when you wake refreshed,
as if it doesn’t matter how late you went to bed,
how much caffeine you had after whenever,
the pepperoni or spicy curry and too much bread
rested peacefully in a grateful belly all night long,
and good news was the lead story in the paper,
no bills were due, the bank where you keep it all
wasn’t robbed and doctors admitted bacon and eggs
was, again, the breakfast of champions;
you know those days when you don’t stub your toe
on that brick of a doorstop painted by
your daughter and therefore can never be cursed,
and your shirt was already ironed and the room was
bright enough to tell if socks were brown or black;
you know those days? Well, that’s not today.
So, I apologize for being too obvious… sort of…