Living with a writer is like holding an open house. Characters come and go; some I may know and some are strangers, but if they are around long enough I may get to know them better, unless my writer wife, Barbara, kills them off. I enjoy this open house environment because I can play a part in the character development or give suggestions on how to dispatch a character.
The story development of Line by Line has introduced me to a host of imaginary friends who have become members of our family. The good thing is that we don’t have to feed them or do their laundry. But, they are welcome to stay as long as they wish and I have a feeling they have moved in permanently.
Barbara’s writing has also stirred memories. When Maddy had been on the rails for three days in bone-chilling cold without having anything to eat, her situation jarred a specific memory. I read with great interest when she got off the train and found the house of a kind woman. She discovered the woman’s home through a hobo sign of a cat, which represented “kind-hearted woman” and usually meant someone could get a meal. The part that got me thinking was when Maddy entered the house–there was warmth and the aroma of chili and fresh coffee. When Maddy took the first mouthful of food, she savored the taste, the warmth, and the feeling as it traveled to her starving stomach.
This took me back to a time when I did some hitchhiking (when I was much younger, of course) and a friend and I were stranded on the freeway, hitchhiking to Chicago in early spring. The cold was seeping into my body and I was very hungry. We decided to head over to a Ho Jo’s to get breakfast. I didn’t have much money but ordered coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, and the feeling of the warm oatmeal travelling to my stomach was the best feeling I could have. On the other hand, we were not served by a kind-hearted woman because we were long-haired hippies and she couldn’t have been happier when we left.
Barbara’s book is also a wealth of history that never made it to most high school history books. The story of the Bonus March during the Depression has been an eye opener. The Bonus March had to do with World War I veterans not being paid a bonus that had been promised to them by the government. The veterans came to Washington D.C. by the tens of thousands and set up camps in a place called Anacostia Park . For two months, the veterans in the encampment suffered from the elements, as well as humiliation from a nonresponsive government.
On a recent trip to Washington we stopped at Anacostia Park , across the Potomac River , and it was filled with kids playing soccer and others enjoying a nice summer day. Not quite the scene from 70 years ago.
Today, the open house environment continues in our house because characters from Barbara’s newest novel are beginning to arrive. No telling who will be walking in.