Character sketches that are fictional but based on real characters, like us.
Probably in his 50’s, reasonably fit and with greying hair and beard that would be classified as distinguished, there was something unconventional about him that made him attractive, at least to women and children. It was probably that he didn’t mind talking to them, and didn’t mind topics of conversation that women and children might actually find interesting. He had men friends too, of course, but men were often busy during the day and Bruce, well… I’m not sure that he had a busy time.
I think he envisioned himself as a gentleman farmer, with ambitious ideas of working his little acreage into a productive garden, with fields of hay and grain to support his herd of milk cows, several horses, and a pig or two. But in reality he was not a particularly wise farmer. It was his good luck to have married a woman who doubled as a farmhand. He dreamed, she did.
A gentleman farmer always has other, more important pursuits however, and Bruce’s pursuit was writing. I always attributed his interest in people to his need for characters to put in novels. His writing was also how I came into the picture – that, and living on the adjacent farm. We shared a fence.
Bruce was a friendly neighbor. His daughters were good babysitters too, and his wife was nice enough to let me come over and buy fresh milk. I wasn’t particularly happy when he wanted to keep his angry bull at our farm. It was in the pasture in front of our house where it terrorized me and the children. On the other hand, he did occasionally drive his horse and wagon over and offer us rides, which we thought was pretty cool. The relationship felt reciprocal.
One day Bruce was sitting in my kitchen, in his farmer outfit of bib overalls and flannel shirt, discussing a manuscript he was working on. By the way, he wanted to know, would I mind doing some proofreading for him? I didn’t mind at all, in spite of the fact that I was raising two small children and working shifts at the local hospital. He was a real writer. He had a manuscript, whereas I was only wishing I had one. Being a proofreader for Bruce would be one step closer to the world of writing. At the very least I would be keeping my grammar skills current.
His manuscript was not finished, but more of a work in progress, and Bruce began inviting me over to the farm to help him work on the next chapters. He had his writer’s loft, accessible only by ladder, a place of pride complete with typewriter, his writing library and reference books, and a bed where he evidently got all his best ideas for plots. His description of it had the same flavor of excitement that my younger brothers used when describing their treehouses or forts in the hayloft. It was his hideaway, where he went when his wife was out milking the cows or weeding the garden.
“I’ve got some ideas for this chapter. Come and see what you think.” he would say. Right, I thought. Your kids are in school, your wife has taken a second job to support the farm, and you want me to join you in your hideout… No, just not going to happen, in the interest of maintaining good neighborly relationships. Mind you, Bruce would have been horrified to know I had second thoughts about joining him to work on the next twist in his novel, and I would have been embarrassed telling him. There was just a faint creepiness about the whole thing.
And as it turned out, I never had to tell him. But that’s another story.
These writing exercises are part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Can I write a post for every day of the month except Sundays? I don’t know, but this is my 10th year (kind of a special landmark), so I have to give it a try.