Sunday, March 18, 2007

the crime

as you can probably tell, i didn't get a chance to craft that short story that i'd been planning (and also mentioned here) before i left to visit the SPU MFA students at camp casey, and now that i've been humbled by their brilliance, i'm afraid that the best i can do for this first-person narrative is a basic plot outline:

the main character starts by nervously introducing herself as whitney, a nordic do-gooder with rather central american tastes. we get the sense that she doesn't really want to be here, narrating her story to a thousand invisible cyberfaces.

(although, i'm not really sure how this hesitation would be communicated to readers; after all, unless she breaks the illusion that this is a story and directly addresses the crowd, how are we to know that this whitney is uncomfortable in the spotlight. still, it's a necessary bit of foreshadowing, so a solution must be found.)

she then sets the scene in the cosmetic aisle of the community drug store. a wild looking man in a trench coat and fuzzy pink slippers approaches her and asks for shopping tips. he speaks out of the side of his mouth and smells like alcohol. he seems desperate. the elderly woman who was camped out at the table of free estee lauder samples flees, but whitney considers the alarm bells in her head and can't help but assist the man as he shops for his two girlfriends. if i weren't so clueless about cosmetics, i might mention all of the product types that he tosses in his cart, but perhaps it's sufficient to mention that whitney is surprised by the breadth and volume of the man's generosity.

the story climaxes a few minutes later as whitney finishes her shopping and joins the man in line. his lips twitch as he approaches the clerk and announces, "that this is a robbery."

sure enough, the man appears to have a gun or a convincing ketchup bottle in the left front pocket of his scrappy corduroys. as whitney tells the tale, she spreads the tension on thick. thoughts of violence fill her mind. she peels her attention away from the man and the emptying till long enough observe other customers: a nine-year old tugging insistently at his mother's jeans and estee lauder lady peeking from behind a stack of holiday urns.

and then the man is gone and the police arrive. she then learns that some of the employees think that whitney is an accomplice. at this point, my notion of the story grows cloudy. if i'm writing creative nonfiction, she tells her story to the officer, runs through the store to repurchase her goods (the man took them with his perfume), and has trouble sleeping the next night. if i'm a fiction writer, she is arrested for the man's crime. or better yet, perhaps it's all a rouse and she turns out to be a real-life accomplice.

well, i suppose it doesn't matter much: there is no story, just an outline.

but there is an afterword!)

espn. "andrew's bracket as of sunday night."