In fiction writing, we never know when an idea will come or what’s waiting “around the corner,” as Tobias Wolff examines:
I was on a bus to Washington, D.C. Two days I’d been travelling and I was tired, tired, tired. The woman sitting next to me, a German with a ticket good for anywhere, never stopped yakking. I understood little of what she said but what I did understand led me to believe that she was utterly deranged.
She finally took a breather when we hit Richmond. It was late at night. We rounded a corner and there beneath a streetlight stood a white man and black woman. The woman wore a yellow dress and held a baby. Her head was thrown back in laughter. The man was red-haired, rough looking, and naked to the waist. His skin seemed luminous. He was grinning at the woman, who watched him closely even as she laughed. Broken glass glittered at their feet.
There is something between them, something in the instant itself, that makes me sit up and stare. What is it, what’s going on here? Why can’t I ever forget them? Tell me, for God’s sake, but make it snappy–I’m tired, and the bus is picking up speed, and the lunatic beside me is getting ready to say something.
Interesting things penetrate the crazy world of the everyday. It’s an amazing image. It makes us think about “what’s around the corner.”