When people hear that I write fiction their response is always the same. “Where do you get your ideas?” And usually I reply, “The shower” since that tends to be the place the Muse delivers for me. I’m told that water is a conductor of creative energy but I’m convinced my Personal Pontificator is something of a Perv. Writers pick up their stories here and there, wet and dry, in the car, on the subway, in the supermarket. From neighbors whilst on early evenings strolls with their dogs.
Her name is Edna and most nights she sits on a webbed lawn chair in her driveway, positioned gloriously close to the lilac tree in her garden. I see her regularly, when Puppy takes me for a walk. If I had to guess I’d say she’s about 95 years old, so dainty she appears weightless, as if a strong breeze might send her airborne. Just yesterday she called me over. We chatted in a small-talkish way until she launched into a tale about her own beloved dog, Skipper, who she’d had as a young girl. Skipper, she reported, came to her through her father, a landscaper, who had found the stray pup wandering along the roadside, unclaimed. He brought him home and Edna and the mutt became immediately attached to each other. But they lived in an apartment building in Brooklyn and when the landlord caught wind of it about four months later, they were forced to get rid of the dog. “I was heartbroken,” Edna told me. “My dad took him away and gave him to a customer who lived out on Long Island, 30 miles from us. About a year later, that customer said that Skipper had run off and they hadn’t seen him since. Then one day I arrived home from school and there on the front steps of our building, was Skipper, all thin and dirty and wagging his tail. We didn’t know how he managed to find us but I was so happy. My father had to pay the landlord extra money to let us keep him, but we did. Had that dog for 12 years. Best little guy in the world.”
“Wow! That’s some story,” I replied, impressed not only with the details but with her mind’s ability to recall them. I guessed that’s how it was when it came to remembering the things we love most. “Is it okay if I write about that?”
Edna nodded “Sure go right ahead. I always enjoy that program.”
“Yes. Oh, the name escapes me, but that TV show with the kid and his dog. Such sweet stories.”
It was then I realized that when considering whose tale (or tail) to re-tell, remake or re-create, consider the authenticity of the source. This one’s for Edna and for the little plagiarist in us all.