What I like in life is not what I like in fiction.

It's a beautiful day when nothing happens.
It’s a beautiful day when nothing happens. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

WHAT’S GOING ON? I asked him.

Nothing, he said.

How sad, I thought.

What did you do today? I asked him.

Nothing, he said.

How sad, I thought.

Then another thought struck me.

In life, nothing happening is not a bad thing.

In novels, at least for me, nothing happening is a death knell.

Rhett Butler left Scarlett in Gone With the Wind.

And I couldn’t believe it when he walked out the door.

Atticus Finch lost his court case in To Kill a Mockingbird.

And I couldn’t believe that good had not triumphed over evil.

The whale whipped Ahab in Moby Dick.

And I saw a man’s obsession kill him before the whale.

The world came to an end in On the Beach.

And I wondered if it could really happen that way.

A girl lost her innocence, her home, and her life in The Diary of Anne Frank.

And life was empty because she was gone.

Soldiers died for a cause they didn’t understand in All Quiet on the Western Front.

And still I am haunted by the mother who sat up all night to look upon the face of her sleeping son, know she might never see him again because, come morning, he would march off to war.

A boy had to kill his dog in Old Yeller.

I hurt for days.

That’s life, to be sure.

That was also fiction.

And every moment was gripping.

The stories stunned me.

They frightened me.

They enthralled me.

They made me cry.

But something happened on every page.

And that’s why the books became classics.

Day to day living is different.

I don’t want my wife to leave me the way Rhett left Scarlett.

I don’t want to go to court, much less lose, the way Atticus did.

I won’t want to get whipped by a catfish and certainly not a whale. I’m not obsessed the way Ahab was.

I don’t want the world to end.

I’ve lost my innocence, but I am clinging to my life and home.

I’ve seen war and come home again.

I’ve had to put a dog or two to sleep, but I’ve never had to shoot one.

On the whole, I like nothing.

Don’t want to read about it.

But I like it when nothing happens in my life.

Nothing is not tragic.

Nothing is not divisive.

Nothing is not evil.

Nothing is not deadly.

Nothing doesn’t keep me awake at night.

Nothing is not sad.

Nothing tells no lies.

Having nothing happen is the best way to spend another day.

Secrets of the Dead is Book One in my Ambrose Lincoln series.

 

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