I read my instructions to find a character for a story. It was simple. “Your mission, Chuck, should you accept it, is to spy on people. Take note of the little things that happen. Then you will discover a character.”
If I was uncomfortable with being a blatant spy I could say I was merely a keen observer, the instructions added. I set out, notebook at the ready. I would give it a try. I would find my character. Hah, this will be easy.
It’s funny how the little things around us is just part of the landscape. That is until we look at it differently. Maybe it something we notice with a quick glance out of the side of our eye.
While I sat, I was drawn to the front window. Outside the wind was playing nice with palm fronds. Taking a closer look, I could differentiate different shades of green, shifting patterns as they swayed. They had some inner core supporting their ballet. Does that not suggest a character? Is it like someone who bends with the wind, yet remains firmly rooted to the tree? Characters like that tree grow, have a life span, then pruned to make way for more. Will that be my character?
No, I knew I needed to find a real person and the mall seemed like a good place to observe people. I hoped I wouldn’t stand out as peculiar while so doing.
I vetoed the first person walking by. What kind of story could I imagine fitting the face of that sour-looking woman? The day was too full of Florida sunshine for that.
A man with a crown of white shuffled past. He looked like he had just walked through a snow blizzard. He moved slowly, pushing his walker ahead, inching his way to the end of his story. Was he a decorated war vet? Maybe a former professional athlete? How about a retired mobster hitman?
He looked intriguing, I have to say. Yet, he wasn’t the character I was searching for.
Then it happened. A passerby caught my eye. He appeared to be two, maybe going on three. His head kept turning toward me as he walked, more pulled along by an impatient mother. I couldn’t look away, his eyes wide held my gaze like a magnet. Was that a smile he flashed or was it more of a half grin leaning towards a smirk?
We exchanged something. It was a temporary connection. That brief moment spanned more than seventy-five years between us.
His eyebrows rounded. It was definitely a smile.
I flashed a grin in return. But I saw the way he was keeping a firm hold of his mother’s hand, needing her reassurance. I knew I had found my character.
That’s okay, little guy, I thought. I wished I still had a mother’s hand to hold onto for comfort.
I wanted to tell him there was something out there, beyond the line of the horizon. It was a life’s journey that would have dead-ends and detours. I wished him God speed. I wanted to tell him to ignore the olde tyme map with the notation that ‘here thar be dragons.’
Ignore that, I wanted to say. Keep looking over the horizon.
Yep, I think that young boy in his camouflage outfit will definitely have a part in one of my stories one day.