I sit at a picnic table in the park by the river. I write in a spiral notebook with thick cardboard backing. The disposable fountain pen scratches across the smooth, ecru paper. Wind whispers through the branches above, joining the susurration of moving water below. The air is full of the spice of autumn.
My attention is focused on the page, on an interchange between two primary characters. They argue. The dialog flows from one to the other. It feels natural, but I’m not worried about whether or not it will read well. Not yet. There will be time to fix it later if need be. For now I just have to get it down on the page.
A man sits down at another table forty feet away. He is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. Sports sandals. He’s nice looking, and his dark hair is pulled back into a ponytail. He looks fit. He meets my eyes, then looks away.
He’s not doing anything but sitting there.
No one else is in the park at the moment. A few cars dot the parking area, and the bike trail runs nearby, so it doesn’t seem isolated. I feel safe in my town – and in this little area by the river. People are friendly and helpful here.
But there is something about this man. It has nothing to do with his appearance or his clothes or the way he looked at me. Well, maybe it does have something to do with the way he looked at me, but I don’t know what.
I just know that the still, small voice in the back of my mind tells me to leave. I trust that voice, and without hesitation I grab my cell phone, swoop up my notebook and pen and bag, and walk to my car.
Was I in danger? Maybe. Maybe not. But that voice has whispered to me for years. It tells me little stuff.
That scene doesn’t belong there. It has to go.
If you don’t add more potatoes to the soup it will be too salty.
You’ve dropped a stitch. Stop and fix it before you move on.
But it also told me to go down to a particular spot at the far end of the yard, in my bathrobe, late on a snowy, February night because something was wrong. I found Cheese Cat, hypothermic and unable to move. He’d been hit by a car.
It told me to the day the most profitable time to sell my stock options after I Left The Software Giant to Become A Writer.
It told me to call that number in my old address book even though I was sure it must belong to someone else by now.
And Cheese Cat is fine, fully recovered from multiple scrapes and bruises, busted teeth and a chipped pelvic bone. The injuries disabled him, but the cold would have killed him. The money from those stock options allowed me to truly start my writing career. And that number belonged to K, whom I dated back in the 1980s. I had no idea at the time that the whispered voice would bring me back to Colorado and to love, but it did.
So I trust that soft whisper out of nowhere, and I hop to when it tells me to leave a riverfront park.
Do you listen to yours?