Maybe lightning didn’t like my Great American Novel.
June 4, 2014
As it does, I make plans to sit here at the computer in air conditioned comfort and resume work on the Great American Novel, which I always refer to as GAN.
Sounds more important when I do.
Not the first time I have set off in pursuit of a GAN.
My first attempt was years ago when I adjourned to a mountain cabin with the goal of producing a GAN during a long break from my newspaper job.
I set up a table on the cabin’s front porch, hooked up an electric typewriter (this dates my attempt and shows you it was technologically eons ago) and began to pound out my GAN there at a little mountain cabin with the soothing, flowing river in front of it.
I put the typewritten pages in a metal cake pan, which I kept beside me.
There in the quietude, the creative thoughts danced joyfully into my head, exiting through my inspired, fast typing fingers and onto the anticipating page.
Be mine, GAN.
Did that day after day.
The pages piled up in the metal pan.
GAN was being born.
Page one. Page two. Page three. Page . . .
Chapter one. Chapter two. Chapter . . .
I was in the creative moment – and that was years before people started overworking the phrase of being “in the moment.”
More days came and went.
More pages in the metal cake pan.
Soon GAN would be born.
Ready for the world.
Agents would be knock, knock, knocking on my cabin door, making a nuisance of themselves.
The summer went by.
Life was good there on that porch beside the little flowing river in the cool, invigorating, encouraging mountain air.
One afternoon a mountain shower moved in over the little cabin by the flowing river.
I was not too mindful of it, since such showers often came in the afternoon.
Kept pounding the electric typewriter.
Had to finish filling the metal cake pan.
Summer soon would turn to autumn and I had to complete GAN and head back to civilization, where other assignments called.
A bolt of lightening struck inches away from my electric typewriter and my GAN-filling metal cake pan.
Fire sparked, spit high, high into the mountain sky.
Then, in a nanosecond, it sizzled, streaked unencumbered down its own bolt, aiming, burning directly at the cake pan and then the porch floor.
With a vengeance.
The pan rattled. The cabin shook. The cabin porch floor vibrated violently.
In unison, they – the pan, the cabin, the porch floor — collectively screamed for help, for rescue.
When I finally recovered, I sat there, laughing.
What if that bolt of lightening had hit a bullseye — namely, me — and my electric typewriter and my GAN-filled pan?
It would have fried the lot of us – me, my typewriter and my GAN in the pan.
Fried us all.
Cremated us all.
Ashes to ashes.
Later, The Bride would say that maybe God never intended for me to write the Great American Novel.
That’s why He sent the bolt of lightening.
Shot over the bow, my brow, so to speak.
Great American Novels, she pointed out, often are not written in America but rather in places such as France, Spain and England.
In any event, in the bolt of lightening aftermath had anyone happened across us there at the cabin they probably would have just tossed the ashes into the little flowing river that ran by the cabin in the mountains, watched them drift away and been done with it.
And the world of the written word would never have known about our Great American Novel.
The world of the written word would have gone on, sans GAN.
Which, come to think of it, is sorta the way it turned out anyhow.
Roger Summers is a journalist, author and essayist.
Please click the book cover image to read more about the heart-warming collection of short stories of Roger Summers in Heart Songs From A Washboard Road.