Every interview of a writer pretty reliably includes the question Where do you get your ideas?
Stewing on that the other day, my initial reaction was that my life was too boring to have any fodder for writing. And then I remembered This One Guy.
This One Guy
I knew him intimately; we saw each other daily for more than 15 years until a move and a few other important things separated us. We talked about everything, disagreeing on nearly everything of substance. But, since we had to put up with each other – and the relationship was not without benefits – we kept trying to convince each other year after year.
Long and short: we were an odd couple, but we were deeply connected friends.
I can confidently tell you that This One Guy believed in the American Dream, believed in meritocracy, believed that people basically got what they deserved. Whiners were weak and lazy, undeserving. Unlike a guy like him, who worked for everything he ever got.
And if you don’t believe his version of the simple facts of life – Barack Obama! Or Helen Keller! Or Some Other Exceptional Person!
They did it; anyone else could too if they would just buckle down and put their mind to it.
And then one day, This One Guy gets sent home, accused of embezzlement. To this day, I firmly believe that he was being framed, and if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the people who loved him, he would have been prosecuted.
I admit that I wondered at first whether I had missed some striking character flaw, but the amount taken made me laugh and convinced me of his innocence.
That much extra money, not subject to his wife’s approval?
Nope – I’d spent too much time on his boat to believe he had a few tens of thousands of bucks just gathering dust. That money’d have been hanging off his transom and bolted into the cockpit as a motor and electronics.
I have my theories about why This One Guy was targeted for a fall – the woman who actually did it was caught literally red-handed and kept her job, at least for a while – but the salient point here is that finding himself unfairly unemployed, accused, and without prospects nearly destroyed him.
At one point, he told me that while being questioned by police, seeing the evidence against him, he had the thought “that’s it, I must have done it” even though he knew himself to be completely innocent.
Recognize the story
As I sit here this afternoon, thinking about my one-time friend and all of the parts of this that I haven’t told you, I see so many threads that could be woven into something real.
Another writer could mine this open pit for years, I suspect, but I don’t want to write any of those stories.
That episode hurt me, too, and that wound is staying scabbed over.
It has been … maybe 5 years since I lost touch, and none of that occurred to me as potential story-fodder before now.
Admitting to myself that it could be has answered two questions: where I could get my story ideas and why I don’t want to write a memoir.