Or maybe it was going to work. I can’t remember. But I think I have the idea down.
I let it sit and fester for a while and see if I could talk myself out of it – I can generally talk myself out of a story if I can’t think of a way I can end it. And, the stories don’t always end the way I want them to (the characters, when they come to life, sometimes refuse to die just the way you would like them to). But so long as I can see some kind of an ending, I’ll follow it through. If I lose the ending as I write it, I let it sit for a while and see if it can’t fix itself in my head. If it doesn’t, it remains a work in progress. But enough about my method.
Guy has a job. Not sure what kind of a job yet. It might be my kind of a job that I have now or a job I’ve had in the past. I’m certain it will be automotive. He is driving home from work and when he gets home, his street is blocked off. This because his house is on fire and his family is inside. They are all dead. And he is left alone. And he shuts down. Completely.
He takes time off of work. A leave of absence. He has to. He can’t cope. As he is dealing with the arrangements for his family and for the settlement for the house, it eventually comes out, in the newspaper, mind you, it is not revealed to him directly, that the family was trapped in the house and the emergency workers all listened to them scream in agony as they died. They intentionally turned on their sirens to drown out the noise so they would hear them. All they could do was spray water to put the fire out and make sure it didn’t spread. Between the heat and the flames and the smoke they all died. The death was hard enough to handle, much less hearing about how they died.
He goes to get drunk. When he goes to the bar and he starts to drink, the more he drinks, the more he tries to come up with creative ways to deal with his pain. And ultimately, what he ends up doing, is going back into the kitchen and start to cook. He’s a regular at this bar, and not that he cooks at it, they all know his pain, so they, as friends, let him distract himself. As the night goes on and on, he cooks more and more and more and is managing as well as any of the full time people and he is encouraged.
Now, at this point, it is revealed that he is feeling less and less and cooking more and more. Which is supposed to be a symbol internal to the story that says that he is starting to stop sharing with people and instead is putting his feelings into his food. And the ultimate thing will be that he develops a case of autism – or other antisocial mental disability – where he is incapable of expressing any emotion except through food.
But he also drinks as he works. More and more and more. And he becomes what I call ‘scary drunk’ which means none of his reflexes are dulled and none of his thought processes are dulled, but he is completely uninhibited. He talks and thinks freely, but in ways he otherwise wouldn’t. No one is worried about him because in their drunken way, they think he is starting to feel better.
When all is said and done, and the shift is over and it is time for him to go home, all of them offer to give him a ride home. And he insists that he doesn’t need one because someone is coming to get him and he wants to be along anyway for the most part. After much talk and discussion and convincing on his part – remember, he’s scary drunk, but they don’t know it – they leave him be and go on their way. Once they are all gone, he reveals (internally, mind you) that the only person he could have called was his wife and he can’t call her because she’s dead and suddenly that makes him angry and he decides to teach her a lesson so he goes and gets into his car to drive himself home.
In the process of driving himself home, he starts to lose the scary drunk and become just plain drunk. And after he becomes just plain drunk, he manages to wrap his car around a pole in a parking lot. He’s okay, and he hasn’t hurt anyone, but his car is a complete write off. The cops send him to the hospital to get checked out and then he is sent to the police station to spend the night in jail. He has no one to call so he has to wait until the morning to be arraigned.
One of the images I had was him eating McDonald’s for breakfast, and because such it is empty food, such soul-less subsistence, he designs a proper meal in his head to be served for breakfast for a family of four. As he is being arraigned and talked to, all he can think of is what he should make and how it should be prepared and the challenges of making breakfast for people and how it is really so much harder than making dinner. As this is all going on in parallel, he is able to arrange for bail, but he can’t have his license back until his court date and he runs the risk of losing his license for a year or more. He doesn’t care, he still continues to think about food.
He continues to cook and cook and cook. And he will make it, set a table for four, eat his portion, and burn the other portions in a fire pit he’s dug out back behind the motel he’s living at. And the lawyer comes by eventually, without him ever having to go to court, and gives him his sentence. He now has a parole officer he needs to report to, he needs to attend 4 sessions with a psychiatrist, and he loses his license of a year, this excludes the month he has already been suspended for. Our guy agrees to it, signs what he has to sign, and lets the lawyer leave.
So, he sells his car, gets the insurance money from his house, and then he takes a cab to the bar where he first left from. They all know what has happened and they have mixed feelings. They feel bad for what has happened but mad that he could be so stupid as to do what he did. But they see him but they see a different man. They see that he is hurting but he doesn’t say anything about it. He doesn’t know how to talk about it. So, he tells them what’s happened and he asks if he can have a job working in the kitchen. He wants to cook.
And then there are a series of ‘recipes’ or dinner menu items that he prepares on the menu that are designed (haven’t designed the meals yet, myself, but I will) around the 5 stages of grief. And for each one of these items, there is a story surrounding the menu item, and throughout it all, the guy only expresses himself through food. The last meal, the meal of acceptance, is the penultimate meal. Because the story ends with one, final meal.
He does have a love interest in the story and that is the final meal he cooks. Because he has developed such feelings for her, and he still can’t express himself, this meal is the most important meal, because it is not just a meal of love. And he still is incapable of expressing himself so she has to ask questions based on what she is feeling while she is eating to guess and ask him questions about how he feels. I have parts of the exchange in my head, but not at all sure of how it is exactly it is going to go.
The denouement of the story isn’t in my head yet, but the final meal is. I want to denouement to tie it all together without being too dramatic. Just to draw a picture and to give the reader some idea how it is he is going to start his life again, without going into too much detail. I want to denouement to be like reading the menu at an exclusive restaurant. I want them to see all of the delicious choices and combinations they can make, all of them good, just waiting for them to decide.
All of this came to me on one drive home from work. I played with it for a bit, but you gotta trust me when I tell you that it burst forth, fully formed, born, armed like Athena from Zeus’s forehead.
So, what do you think? Good idea?