Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sans linens

There’s an egg salad sandwich at large, last seen circa Thursday in a small brown bag in the company of a miniature muffin.

I’m the only one that seems particularly upset by this fact.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t do well with “missing.” It’s just not a concept with which I’m comfortable.

Much to my family’s dismay, I still log hours each week in search of a blue striped bed sheet that went missing in late winter.

A 10’ X 8’ sheet doesn’t simply disappear. It’s lurking about my house somewhere, and the possibilities are unsettling.

Missing things have a brief window of time to turn up before garbage day. After that, someone will shrug and proclaim the item was “accidentally thrown away.” Everyone accepts this. It’s a reasonable explanation in which we can all take comfort—Whatever it was didn’t just drop off the face of the earth. Of course not. We move on. Order is restored.

I’ll submit right here that if everything chalked up to the dump actually turned up there, our current understanding of the landfill issue would be redefined. We'd take to burning our trash in the streets, as I understand they're currently doing in Naples.

Something the size of a Queen bed sheet doesn’t get accidentally thrown away, and I’m pretty sure the sandwich wasn’t either.

The sandwich—a hasty purchase made at the height of my “major book tour”—was purchased at the suggestion of sister while we were in line at the coffee shop at breakfast Wednesday morning.

I thought her efficiency had reached new heights when she suggested that I order lunch as well. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a moment to realize that she only meant for me to purchase the lunch for later consumption and not just snarf it down it right along with breakfast.

The sandwich kicked around. It spent time in my sister’s office refrigerator. It went to my mother’s house. It was nowhere to be found when I became famished between assemblies at the middle school.

The sandwich was eventually transferred to a brown bag and handed to me at some point on Thursday, and from there the details are murky.

The journalist in me likes to report, analyze and interpret events in a way that is enlightening and informative. To me, missing represents sloppy.

To reach a part of a story where there are simply no details smacks at best of poor research or sketchy interviewing. At worst, it’s a lack of creativity—an inability to connect the dots, to frame events in a meaningful way.

Now, my dad says that good writing should take a reader all the way to nine, but let them find 10 on their own—his personal interpretation of “show, don’t tell.”

Which leaves some wiggle room for uncertainty.

I guess that insisting on tidy, neat and conclusive excludes most of life. A basic tenant of all writing is really the unknown. If we all knew just where everything stood, we wouldn’t need newspapers, or books, or blogs.

Typing a concluding sentence is not to be confused with the end of the story. A finished article is really just an illusion, after all.

Story subjects go right on living beyond the margins of the newspaper.

Sandwiches disappear, laundry vanishes.

And a good story can still be put to bed—even without sheets.


Catherine Wannabe said...

I can't help you with the sheet, but I have the sandwich, and I had a laugh when I found it - more hearty than the wheat bread.

James Macumphry said...

I love it, so keep up the good work!

Icon-1 said...

Hey! There's an unclaimed egg salad sandwich sitting in my fridge! I guess I know what I'll be having for lunch today.

:-) Thanks Run


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