As I’ve mentioned a few times, I work for a local news organization. We publish the daily newspaper for our area. It’s not uncommon for visitors to stop into our lobby to get help with their accounts or to share “news.” (Once a woman stopped by to tell us she saw a cloud formation in the shape of Jesus. Another time a woman brought by an oddly shaped sweet potato.) But sometimes the messages visitors bring really make me think. Like this instance...
Receptionist on the phone: "Leah? There's a ... gentleman in the lobby. He wants to speak with someone in the newsroom about a...uh...a story he wants published."
Me (sighing, not too subtly): "Really? I'm so busy. Can you take his name and number? Or tell him to leave a copy?"
Receptionist: "He won't leave until he speaks to someone personally." (Big pause while I tried to figure out a way to squirm out of the request.) Then she whispered, "He said God told him to come."
Me: "God? As in, you know, the guy upstairs...in heaven, I mean?"
Receptionist: "Yes. God. THE God."
Me: "I'll be down in a minute."
I'm not sure why I gave in so easily, relatively speaking, but I went downstairs and introduced myself to the man. He was maybe in his mid-60s and called himself "Golden Boy." He proceeded to tell me he'd done terrible things in his life. Because of his choices, he'd lost his wife and his children. (Thankfully he clarified that they were estranged, not dead.) He'd been to jail and served time for serious crimes.
While he spoke, his eyes remained on mine, steadily, without a blink.
In his hand he held a laminated sheet of pinkish-purple notepaper. At the top of the sheet he'd written, "God said," followed by a series of sentence fragments, prophecies of the end of the world by means of cataclysmic natural events, exhorting the reader to publish. He handed it to me and watched while I read it.
My insides churned. I looked up from the page. "I don't understand. Why did you bring this here?"
Man: "The word needs to get out."
Me: "I'm sorry, sir. We can't publish this."
Man: "I didn't say I wanted it published in the paper. I said I wanted the word to get out. I don't care what you do with it. God told me to bring it here. I'm looking in your eyes. I can see you understand. You do with it what you will."
With that, he turned to leave, looking back as he shouldered the door open. "God put it in your hands now. You're the one."
Even now as I think of that moment, shivers skitter up my spine.
When I told the editor about it, she asked me why I hadn't called security. I said, "He seemed harmless enough. It's not like he was going to kill me with paper cuts."
"Leah," she said with a kind of tone she typically reserves for a misbehaving puppy, "if someone comes in the lobby and says God sent him and that you're the one, call security."
I know she's right. And I know I'm terribly gullible at times. But the writer in me loves those encounters, the ones that wrap themselves around our imaginations and form the roots of our stories. The encounters with strangers that make us ask, “What if?”
What if God had sent him?
What if it was God's nudging that made me go down that day?
What if there is some message in there we were supposed to impart to the world? (See my imagination running amok here!?)
I haven’t heard from him since, but judging by the natural disasters that have taken place in the years since, he might have been on to something.
Just thinking about it now, my brain is going in a dozen different directions that make me want to start writing, start shaping those thoughts into a story...enough so I’m tempted to put aside my long-suffering WIP to get started! Maybe I’ll use it as incentive instead: Leah, you can work on the “You’re the One” story ONLY WHEN you finish your current WIP.” Who knows, it might work!
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. She blogs here on the 6th and 22nd of each month. Learn more about her writing at leahstjames.com or visit her on Facebook.
Wow, what an interesting experience. Hey, you could always use the "you're the one" encounter for your Christmas story next year! Thanks for sharing and getting my imagination working!
What a scoop,Leah. Even if this was chemistry at work in a man's brain, it's still interesting and, as you say, full of delicious 'what if's.' I'm glad you're going to make something of the experience...and you regard it as a gift and not a burden. Can't wait to see the results!
He could be a spy left over from the Cold War and this missive could have been meant for another spy. Make him older so dementia has set in and he can't tell you're too young to handle this...er...your character. Then odd things start happening. Small, but odd. And the drop dead gorgeous cop you go to thinks you're a nut. You could start out with "I think God sent me. I'm not sure. But He sent an old man to me and now..." OMG,Leah, what a fun romance. Every crime scene the cop's called to, SHE's there to report on it and the cop quips, "Don't tell me. God sent you."
Hmmm, Jannine. That's a thought! That would be different, wouldn't it?! :-)
Those encounters can definitely be a writer's gift, Rolynn. And I appreciate every one, even though the individual moments might be aggravating!
Great ideas, Vonnie! I need to print this page because I'll never remember! Thanks!
Wowweeee--really good idea for a book, Leah. I'd be happy to steal it but YOU'RE THE ONE!!!
I know, Andi, right?? Maybe I better get cracking on this one! :-)
Wow. That surpasses even the Carmel Pine Cone police log! I hope you're keeping a file of these experiences to use later. I've got a nice fat folder of police log entries for my next series.
I need to start a file, Alison. Honestly, some days (usually at the time of full moons), I could fill a binder! Great ides.
Love this!! Yes, rife with plot possibilities. Finish your current WIP, then start on this, ASAP! :)
Okay, okay, Ms. Editor...if I have to! :-)
That would have creeped me out
Oh my gosh, Leah, you have to use this!! Maybe it's why you're "the one". So now you totally made me remember an incident that will fit perfectly into my current ms. Dang. Wish it wasn't so late in the day, I'd go write it right now. It's a story about my mother in law's father that died in the morning but his secretary said he was in the bank (he was the manager) in the afternoon to finish some work. Oh yeah! I'm using that. And you GO for it.
It did, Robin!
I'm hearing Twilight Zone music in my head, Brenda! :-)
Leah, you have to jot down all these ideas that come to you. Write down every idea you think of. Your long-suffering WIP can wait. Just get it all down. You don't have to write the story yet, but if you don't get everything down now, you'll forget it and the moment will pass. Seize that idea.
Thanks, Diane. You're so right. I used to keep a notebook in my purse for just that purpose but took it out at some point and forgot to put it back! Some writers I know keep notes on their phones (which some dictate using the voice-to-text software). I might have to force myself to figure that out.
Very cool! And you’re off!! (No pun intended ;-)
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