The local California Writer’s Club branch hosts an annual short-short story contest every year. I hadn’t intended to enter until this morning when one of those end-of-the-night inspirations slipped into awareness. A story idea: A reprobate is convinced that “they” are stealing our memories, and he is probably right.
I wrote the opening with relative ease. We’ll see how it goes; openings are easy, but I also have a great fondness for this kind of character – the guardian or the wise one whose appearance is humble or even repulsive. You meet him – he is most often male – in various guises in movies and fiction:
He is found in myth and scripture. John the Baptist is a classic example, who must have dismayed a lot of the city people who came out to hear him.
Tilopa, (989 – 1069) one of Tibetan Buddhism’s greatest teachers, was expelled from a monastery and made his living as a sesame pounder, a pretty low rung on the social ladder.
Once in a while, you meet someone like this in real life. I read an account by a man who wanted to go to India in search of a guru, but then found his teacher, a Zen master, earning his living by fixing washing machines in a laundromat 12 miles away.
When my wife was a social worker at Loaves and Fishes, a local center that helps the homeless, she was startled one day as a small hispanic man climbed out of a dumpster in a parking lot. Significantly, his name was Jesus. Mary’s eye’s still light up when she tells what a joyful man he was. The meeting was so unexpected, but left such a vivid memory, that she thinks of him whenever the subject of angels comes up.
These reflections led me to think of one of my all time favorite fantasy novels, King of Morning, Queen of Day, by Ian McDonald, 1991. The story features a pair of otherworldly guardians who look a lot like bums as they craft powerful magical charms from bottle caps and debris. McDonald came to mind when he published his latest novel in December. I haven’t yet read the new one, but I’ll discuss King of Morning next time.
Meanwhile, has anyone else encountered an angel, a wise man or woman, a mentor or a guardian who showed up disguised as an “ordinary” person but then turned out to be anything but?