Where do I get my story ideas? Do I ever face writer’s block? Let me explain why I’m never at a loss for stories. Several years ago my wife Debbie and I left Miami heading to Key West for a few days vacation. I drove the two-lane road through the swamps, emerged at Key Largo and turned right to drive the length of the keys. An hour down the road we hit a thunderstorm and stopped to ride out the rain over lunch.
The town was Islamorada. The bar was open-air but roofed and shadowy with wide doorways allowing flashes of the outside light and the storm. We were sheltered from the rain. Palm fronds flapped at the corners of the wide doorways framing a view of the ocean. The parking lot was loaded with pickup trucks, each with a tool box on the back and the bar was filled with men dodging their carpenter jobs due to the weather. Or maybe it was just lunchtime. My wife and I sat at a table close to the bar and ordered fried fish sandwiches. I ordered a dark beer, Debbie ordered iced tea. The men at the bar were all well along on their beer. In front of each was a plate with leftover chips and sandwich crumbs. Their lunches were finished, but not the beer.
While we waited for our sandwiches I eavesdropped on the carpenters. One of them hunched over his drink and spoke to the bar, addressing the man next to him without making eye contact. “Man, I really owe you for what you did. I really needed someone to step up and help me with that. You came through for me.”
The guy he spoke to clapped him on the shoulder. “Not a problem. Not at all. Friendship is like manure. It just stinks if you don’t spread it around. But when you do spread it, everything comes up roses.”
Brilliant! I stored the philosophy away. Sometime, I promised myself, I would use that line in a story I was writing. I haven’t found the right story yet so I’m sharing it in this blog. Writer’s block? No! Every day I see something, or hear a line like that and I’m on my way with a new story.
Outside the bar a line of pelicans dipped by, drafting on the leader. A cool after-storm breeze turned the palms in a new direction above the harbor. The men finished their beers stood and left their money on the bar. The rain had stopped. It was time for them to go back to work. Debbie and I were also done. We paid and followed them out, driving on toward Key West, taking with us a new line for a new story.
Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel. Peter Stipe.com Facebook: PeterGStipe