I’m telling you, it’s getting a little disconcerting, this writing gig. Things keep happening… things I’ve written about are showing up in my own life and I’m just a shade worried. For example, in the first Bobbie Faye book, the story opens with her trailer being flooded. Just a few weeks after writing those scenes, one of our rooms had a major flood which would have spread to the rest of the house, had I not caught it. In all my life, I’ve never had a room or a home flood. But surely, that was just coincidence. Then I wrote about Bobbie Faye having to deal with a certain scary critter, and a couple of weeks later, I open my back door and there was the very critter, bigger and scarier than I had described… on my welcome mat, attempting to come into my house. (Yes, I slammed the door.) If Bobbie Faye had car trouble, I had car trouble later. If something showed up unexpectedly for her, it showed up later for me. Now, if the reverse had happened… if something had shown up and I had said, “Gee, wouldn’t this make an interesting twist?” and then used it, there’d be no problem, because that would be normal.
Unfortunately, my life has never been “normal.”
I’m steadily working on book two, and there’s a tremendous amount of chaos going on in Bobbie Faye’s world, with a rather large number of people showing up at her door and complicating her life when she was just minding her own business. These characters are odd, walking far enough outside the beaten path to make you wonder if they’d ever known there was a path in the first place. And I had this moment… I distinctly remember it… when I sort of chuckled to myself, grateful that I hadn’t ever had a large number of people suddenly converge on me and create havoc in my life. That was the moment I should have smacked myself and started thinking about lucky things instead, but it flew by me with nary a suspicious thought attached to it, not even a little tiny hint of precognitive worry to warn me. A couple of weeks later, my husband called in the middle of the day, in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm, and the conversation went something like this:
“Would you mind,” he asked, all politeness, “if I helped some people today?”
“Helped how?” You see, I know my husband. This is never an innocent question.
“Oh, there are some girls here. They’re bicycling to LSU. They’ve got a performance there tonight and they’re soaking wet. I don’t think the storm’s going to let up soon enough for them to bike the rest of the way in.” (He was about an hour by car from LSU, so they would not have made it.)
“How many girls?” I asked, knowing exactly which part of that entire explanation to focus on.
“Oh, a couple,” he said.
“How many exactly is a couple?”
“Yeah, and they’re pretty ragged. They’ve been biking up from New Orleans, and they slept outside last night and got eaten up with mosquitoes. I thought we’d give them a ride to the house and then Nick [our employee] would shuttle them the rest of the way to LSU.”
“Well, sure,” I said, knowing it couldn’t possibly be that simple, “but you know I’m writing, right?”
“Right, I’ll handle everything. You won’t even know they’re there.”
Uh huh. Are you buying that? I wasn’t buying that, but still… I thought, how big a deal could it be? They’ll get to the house, and get shuttled the rest of the way to LSU, maybe take an hour out of my day, good deed done, etc.
I went back to writing the chaotic scenes with Bobbie Faye and the crazy crew following her, and a little niggly worry started nudging my brain, but did I pay attention? No. No, I did not. Because apparently, I’m not very smart. About thirty minutes later, when my husband and Nick were en route, I got another phone call.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, “but some of them might need to use the bathroom.”
Well, of course some of them will, I thought. What’s the big deal about… oh.
“What do you mean by ‘use’ the bathroom?”
“Uh, they kinda need to take a shower. You know, before their performance, and I said it’d be okay.”
“Showers? And by some, you mean…”
“Well, all. I think.”
“Uh huh. I don’t know if I even have ten clean towels. But I’ll see what I can do.”
So I frantically ran around and started cleaning and finding towels and soap and making sure the spare bathroom was actually inhabitable.
When they arrived, Carl came inside first with a really sweet, sheepish expression and said, “Thanks for doing this.”
“Sure. No problem.” (That translates into: “I will chop you into little pieces later when there aren’t ten witnesses.”)
“They might sleep outside tonight. Would that be okay?”
“Well, they have sleeping bags and tents, but no place to set up, and…”
“Carl, it’s storming. It’s going to keep storming.”
“So, inside’s okay?”
I looked around at our living room, mentally calculating the square footage per body ratio, and figure if they can deal with the carpet instead of a bed, sure… inside’s okay.
He went outside to tell them, and I went to the door to meet the first one, who’s not that much younger than myself. She was the sort of de facto leader of the group, and I shook her hand, and introduced myself. Then I asked her name. She looked at me with a completely straight face and said, “Thistle.”
I could not make that up if I had tried.
After the introduction, in marched the most ragged, muddy, bedraggled, bohemian, merry band of troubadours I’ve ever seen. They were many ages, shapes and sizes, (seven women, two men, and one whose gender we were never quite sure about). To a person, they were very polite. They had lived such a phenomenally different life than I had, they were quite fascinating to talk to. Later on that night, three of them danced with fire for us and one breathed fire (quite the sight to see up close). They were sweet and polite and cooked for themselves and refused all food, in spite of the fact that I had plenty and I don’t think they had nearly enough. They cleaned up after themselves and were nothing but neat and kind, totally debunking my younger son’s rather astounding freak out that his parents had completely lost their minds and had let in murdering thieves.
(“Mom! They could kill you in your sleep and take the TV!”)
(“Son, they’re on bicycles. Where would they even put the TV?”)
By the next morning, they had gone on to their different lives; Baton Rouge, it turned out, was their last show on their folk-song tour, and some of them were going back home, some on to other adventures. It was a bit frantic there for a while, getting everyone in, showered, fed, back to out to the performance and then setting up a place for everyone to sleep, but I did at least have it much much easier than Bobbie Faye’s chaos, and no one shot at me (unlike her).
However, now? Now, one of the characters is named Thistle.
And next time I decide to contemplate Bobbie Faye’s world? I am going to seriously contemplate having Bobbie Faye win the lotto or become filthy rich. I may be slow, but eventually, I learn.
I’m now itching to see that movie, Stranger Than Fiction, because seriously, it’s getting weird. Has art ever imitated your life? Or your life, art?
Toni McGee Causey
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