Last week, my Walking Friend and I went walking. Walking is a vital part of the agenda when you call yourselves walking friends.
Walking Friend and I live across the street from one another. Sometimes we do a short run (45 minutes around the neighborhood) and sometimes a long haul (3 miles, with hills). We jabber away while we walk because we are friends and because walking while talking burns more calories. Walking and talking are two of my favorite activities. Walking and talking while eating a chocolate croissant would be my triple crown of favorite activities.
A few walks ago, I told Walking Friend a story about a woman named Diane. One afternoon, Diane’s car was rear-ended, which was made extra interesting because the trunk of her car was packed full of water bottles she was on her way to deliver for some event. The crash burst a bunch of the bottles, so in addition to a car accident, there was a minor flood.
When the police arrived to do an accident report, the officer turned out to be an ex-boyfriend of Diane’s. It was not a pretty break-up and she had successfully avoided him since. Now, here he was in uniform, all spit-shined and polished and not exactly thrilled to see the woman who dumped him because, among other reasons, he was minorly obsessed with always being spit-shined and polished. Diane herself is usually put together and fashionable, but of course, on this day she went out wearing no make-up, in old jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals. To top it off, when she came around the car, she slipped on the water, slid into the concrete median—and broke her little toe.
Car accident. Gushing water. Ex-boyfriend. No make-up. Broken toe. Not the best day for Diane.
I tell this to Walking Friend. She laughs. It is funny, in that sick you-can’t-help-but-laugh-when-somebody-trips-and-falls kind of way.
Walking Friend is a nurse. I’ve never had a broken toe, so I ask, “What’s the treatment for a broken toe? It’s not like you could put it in a cast.”
Walking Friend laughs a little more. “We just wrap it or do nothing, but you could put it in a cast. Like maybe the cop would call the EMTs and the EMT would be a friend of his, and he’d get them to put her in a full leg cast for revenge for their break-up.”
I stare at her, wondering what kind of EMTs she deals with at work. “Couldn’t you get fired for that? Or sued?”
“Sure,” she says, “but as long as you make it sound believable, it could happen. Right? Isn’t that what you tell me all the time, that people will believe anything as long as you make it seem plausible?”
This is true. I do tell her all the time that readers will believe just about anything if you make it logical and believable. But that’s fiction. This is—
“Wait a minute,” I say. “You do realize Diane is a real person and this really happened. Right?”
Now Walking Friend stumbles on a rock in the road. “No! I thought it was one of your stories! Oh, poor Diane!”
It is my turn to laugh. I tease her about her evil plan to put Diane in a full leg cast for her broken toe.
“It’s your fault,” she accuses me. “Before we started walking, I never thought of stuff like that! Now we walk past someone’s shed and you say, that would be a good place to hide a body. Or when someone drives fast down the street, you say they might have just robbed a bank. If there’s a strange car in the neighborhood, you think it’s an FBI surveillance team. Remember when there were lights on in the empty house and you said there were squatters?”
“There were squatters!” I remind her. “The cops came and rooted them out.”
Squatter Night was one of the best nights in our neighborhood. I was at Walking Friend’s house, chatting with her kids while she put on her shoes. Suddenly her young son cried, “There’s a police car in front of the house!”
We all rushed to the bay window, just in time to see a second police car, with no lights on, zoom up the street and park in front of my house.
“Turn out the lights so they can’t see us!” I said. The kids did and then the four of us plastered ourselves against the glass and watched the cops sneak up on the empty house on the corner. A little while later, they came around the side, flashlights showing the way as they led two young people in handcuffs. It happened quickly and calmly, but it was still exciting to witness in real life.
“I was right about the squatters,” I remind Walking Friend. “I said it a hundred times but you didn’t believe me. Empty house. Lights on at night. It was a perfectly plausible idea.”
“I give you that one,” she says. “But the dead bodies, the bank robbers, the FBI surveillance van, that’s a bit much. You need to tone it down, because now you’re making me think weird stuff.”
She has a point. Once you start to think like a fiction writer, everything seems to have possibilities for suspicious activity.
I’m about to say okay when we walk past a house with the windows open. It’s a mild evening so open windows aren’t odd. What is odd is, from the house, we hear moaning.
She shoots me a look. “Don’t say it’s someone being dismembered,” she tells me. “It’s probably just people having sex or something normal like that.”
She’s right. Of course she’s right. But I can’t help myself.
“You know,” I say, “I once read that in every neighborhood, there’s at least one house of swingers. You think that’s ours? Maybe they’re in there having an orgy?”
She sighs and tells me I’m hopeless. But I notice her giving side glances at the orgy house….
Do you have a friend who is not a writer, who listens to you inflict your sickly creative ideas upon them?