A story has caught hold. The plot is still unformed and the idea is in pieces, more a collection of impressions that I’ve laid out on paper like a cook assembling ingredients on the cutting board.
Here are a few of them:
- The short story “Stab” by Chris Adrian, told from the perspective of a boy stricken mute by the death of his conjoined twin brother. The boy is befriended by a strange orphan named Molly, who is killing her way up the food chain: rabbit, cat, dog, horse . . . human. Juxtaposed against the savagery is a lovely scene in which Molly catches dozens of fireflies in a glass jar and releases them behind her as she runs down a dark hillside. The beauty and evil in Molly are fascinating.
- Cape Fear. The movie is fantastic all the way through, but it’s the chilling eroticism between De Niro and Juliette Lewis that I find most compelling. She knows he’s dangerous, but he slides through her apprehension with the blade of his male charisma, dangling the mystery of sexual emancipation before her nose like a hypnotist with a gleaming gold watch. When he walks away, we see her awaken and the fear reassert itself. Lewis stole that scene, by the way–from De Niro. Not an easy feat.
- The Town, starring Ben Affleck (I know, but he’s terrific in this movie). I like the gang of thieves, and the relationship that develops between the architect of the ring and the girl they took as hostage during a bank robbery. Many things about the plot don’t work for me–I’m not sold on the shoot-’em-up thriller–but I love a bad boy. Maybe instead of the thief’s redemption through the healing power of love, this guy could be responsible for a good girl’s fall from grace. Which is usually the way it happens, in my experience.
- A ghost town (originally built around a copper mine) called Jerome, between Prescott and Sedona, Arizona. The town is thriving, in its way, home to a ragged population of artists and shopkeepers, and heavily photographed. But the town itself is slowly sliding down the mountainside. Many of the buildings are propped up on stilts, swaybacked and broken, and every now and then they lose one over the edge. I love the metaphor of a town hanging by its fingernails, and imagine it fictionalized with an odd assortment of characters, everyone trying to hold on.
- Daniel Tammet, one of the few prodigious savants known to science who can describe the synesthetic experience of making complex calculations in his head. He holds the record for reciting over 22,000 digits of π, flawlessly, in five hours, and learned to speak Icelandic in one week for a live television appearance. Wouldn’t a person like this be valuable, in a Rainman sort of way? Worth abducting, especially in the days before computers. Worth a gender swap, for the sake of a story.
I think I’ve got enough here to work with. It’s time to start cooking.
What’s on your cutting board?