Monday, October 26, 2015

Story: A Squirrel on a Hot, Thin Phone Wire

From time to time the subject of Attention Deficit Disorder comes up in a conversation in which you are a participant or an eavesdropper.  During some of these occasions, the ADD acronym is taken one step farther either by the use of the acronym ADHD or its full iteration of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The occasions are rare when conversations you overhear, either as a participant or eavesdropper, do not devolve into someone assigning a blame.  Some of the assigned blames strike you as sounding imaginative enough to be plausible.  

More often than not, when the conversations reach the point of assigning blame or, worse yet, accusations of a particular individual being afflicted with either variety of attention deficiency, you find yourself pointing a finger and directing a question mark at yourself.

You could look upon this response as a measure of how suggestible you are or where you would fit on some unknown psychologist's or neurologist's index of hypochondria.  The thought is not lost on you that you have within one sentence pointed the blaming finger of at least ADD if not ADHD and being a hypochondriac.

At this point, you're reminded of how, from time to time, in the right group of student writers, you point at them and you the additional fingers of being control freaks, obsessive behavior and compulsive behavior.  A writer who is not any or all of these culturally designated afflictions is, in your belief, walking the cusp of all of them, pretty much at the same time.

When you find yourself growing bored, you tend to tune out on a conversation.  In the process, you look for something of potential interest to focus on.  Only this morning, you were at a regularly scheduled Monday morning editorial meeting, where the agenda points and subsequent discussions have never approached boredom.  

And yet, there you are, at one of the outdoor tables of one of your favorite coffee houses, forcing yourself not to look tree ward and upward to a visible patch of either telephone or electric line.  Past experience tells you that at least one squirrel will traverse this power line within a given five minute interval.

No matter how attractive or interesting the diversion, a squirrel traversing a phone or power line is made even more intriguing by your memory of once having seen the raucous outcome when two squirrels, each traveling in opposite directions, met while you were watching.  Is the lure of casting your gaze upward to the power line a point of interest, a distraction, or attention deficit?  

Are you contributing to whatever the answer is when you remember one of your favored Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy routines wherein they are piano movers, tasked with moving a piano over a gaping chasm on a rope bridge.  Halfway across the gorge, they encounter a gorilla, coming in the opposite direction.  The bridge is not wide enough for either party to scrunch up to allow the other to pass.  Although the piano is no concert grand, it is nevertheless a presence to be reckoned with.

You have progressed from the potential encounter of two squirrels meeting on a narrow passageway at least twenty-five feet above the ground to one of your favored comedy routines, which is of itself a metaphor for the chaotic and fraught conditions attending the attempts to get a difficult task performed.  

For you, being embarked on a writing project is the equivalent of trying to move a piano over a highly flexible bridge, which is difficult enough in its own way without the added-but-necessary complication of a gorilla, heading in the opposite direction.  When you are composing, you are not supposed to be thinking much during the early drafts, scarcely questioning such rational issues as plausibility and interest.  Nevertheless, there you are, thinking about metaphors and complications.

When you are not thinking about moving pianos, gorillas, and flexible, rope bridges, you are aware of being a control freak, of being obsessive, especially if you notice a misspelled word, and of your compulsive nature, because you feel compelled to have your characters treading close to the unprotected edge of some steep escarpment, much higher than the twenty-five feet the squirrels negotiate.

The realization returns again and again, in a number of ways; when you are within the territory of a story, sharing not only the point of view of the major character but the multifarious sets of awareness belonging to all the other individuals within the scene, you realize this is the equivalent of being high on any or all of the psychedelics you have been high on.  You are also high on enthusiasms, distractions, implications, and squirrels.

On those days when composition does not come with ease, seems to resent being extracted from you, you realize how far indeed you've been distracted from reality on those good days, when the writing comes with as much purpose and determination as the squirrels.

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