The Storyteller: A book is more than just page numbers

Carnegie Public Library in Montgomery, Alabama

Perhaps the most miserable thing in the world is a writer in search of a story to tell and a way to tell it, and who will read it when the book is finished?

I could tell he was a writer as soon as he walked out of the library.

His shoulders sagged.

His grin had faded.

His eyes were hollow.

And one of his tennis shoe laces was untied.

He had one pencil behind his ear.

It hadn’t been sharpened.

He had a folder in his hands.

It was empty.

He sat down on a bench beneath a gnarled live oak and reached in his shirt pocket for a cigarette.

He couldn’t find one.

“I don’t smoke anymore,” he said.

He shrugged.

His fingers were trembling.

“What were you doing in the library?” I asked him.

“Research,” he said.

“What about?”

“Black magic and a secret clan of Presbyterian pygmies in Southern Alabama.”

“Find much?”

He shook his head.

“Why not?”

“They don’t have many in South Alabama,” he said.



Caleb Pirtle III

This time, I shrugged.

“What’s the reason behind the research?” I asked.

“I’m writing a book,” he said.

“Started it yet?”

He nodded.

“Got a title?” I wanted to know.

He didn’t.

“Know your characters?”

“I’m going to have some,” he said.

“Good move,” I said.

He nodded again.

“Got a plot?”

“It’s a thriller.”

“Got a plot?” I asked again.

“Federal judge has a secret,” he said, “and the ambassadors of thirteen foreign countries are threatening to kill him if he doesn’t tell them his secret, and now he’s waiting for a beautiful woman to save him, but she’s a vampire, and his only chance to escape is aboard a UFO piloted by a zombie who doesn’t want to leave his mama, and she lives on a farm outside of Sylacauga.”

He paused.

His eyes narrowed.

He sighed.

“It may turn out to be a romance,” he said.

This time I sighed.

“How the book coming?” I wanted to know.

“It’s going well,” he said.

“How well?”

“I have the page numbers done,” he said.

I left him looking for Pygmies.

I knew he wouldn’t find any Presbyterians.

They don’t come out till after dark.

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