Writing 101: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Assignment: Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

I wish this conversation were 100% completely fictional.

I sat with nausea and bone shivers thinking I almost drove to Door County for one of those parties. At the time I felt like a dud, deciding to stay home in Madison to house hunt instead of joining my friends in a goofy winter ball. She hosted this fantastical dress-up party in a new hip book store which brought in a live band to really bring the house down on an otherwise dead March night. Later I viewed my friend’s fun photos on Facebook, safely sitting in my pajamas and petting my dog. People looked so happy. People danced with illuminated carefree faces. It was easy to tell serious imbibing enhanced the progression of dance postures from giddy to sultry. I remember feeling jealous, and now I feel safe and relieved. However, I am nauseous for my friends.

My last conversation with the book store owner was a simple inquiry about my husband’s pristine graphic novel collection, eight of ten in a popular vintage series. I’d take fifteen dollars a piece or the whole collection for one hundred, something like that. I compared it to eBay prices and I was offering a very fair deal. Despite all the hubbub about this guy and all the high praise and recommendations from my friends, the guy reacted, in my opinion, like a lazy ass. But what can you tell from an email?

I didn’t lose any sleep over it. He was the dork turning his nose up on a deal, so I never paid him any more attention. Oh but the stories. Every time I visited my home town, friends of most ages bent my ear over yet another grand time they had at this book store right downtown on the main thoroughfare. Who heard of a book store hosting rock concerts and risque birthday parties? Apparently anybody who was anybody partied there at least twice this past year. I was now the tourist and left out.  Weekend after weekend the Facebook feed burst with photos of happy people dancing and drinking in front of shelves of beautiful leather bound books and my cheeks burned with envy. I’d hear another story of how I really should have been there!

Until just the other day.

The wedding was over and my friend wanted to grab a night cap together before we all passed out from a night of fun in Madison. She knew craft beer called her from a short safe stumble away from my house. We took advantage of the situation.  Once we sat down over an amber rainbow of goblets, she planted her forearms on the high top and leaned in.

“You heard about Mindy, right? Well, her husband?”

“No!” I reacted. “Well, wait, I think I saw something about someone saying how sorry they were that the book store had to close, but I didn’t know she had any association with the book store.”

“Yeah, that Frank guy is the father of her child,” she told me. Her light brown hair stood stiff and stringy, like a woman who has been bouncing around the dance floor all night, which she was. And her shimmery lipstick almost wore off completely but still left residue on her glass. She looked so single. “He got busted for child porn and all kinds of stuff.”

“What?!”

“You didn’t see it in the news? The Feds are involved and everything. Some Fed guy noticed that an IP address from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin was downloading child porn off the internet, and it was his.”

“Who?”

“Frank (bleep)!” I somehow never ever heard his last name. Something never settled well with me with this guy, now that my brain stitched together my visual memory of this creepy frail nearly albino older man my friend hung out with years ago. I always hoped that this weirdo wasn’t the guy she actually procreated with, but once I saw the ghostly scary-looking little girl they made, I knew he was the guy. And now that creepy guy is the owner of the cool book store all my friends raved about. It didn’t compute until my friend tied it to this headline typed out across my mind. “Creepy Burnout Book Store Owner Busted for Child Pornography.”

I gasped. “But their daughter! She’s like, what, six? Does he….? Has he…?”

“There’s rumors,” She nodded and planted her hand in the air like, ‘Don’t go there.’ “There’s rumors. All kinds of rumors about that.” And she swallowed half her goblet of beer.

I shuddered.

My friend looked me in the eyes through her serious eyebrows. “He also had hidden cameras in all the bathrooms, and admitted to taping people having sex in his book store. I used his bathroom many many times, but I never stayed for the after parties. People would just talk that it would get crazy.”

“Have sex in his book store? Who has sex in a book store?”

She nodded and tapped her fingers on the high top. “Supposedly he had a bed in the basement of the place. I guess it was all set up, and that’s where the parties would get really wild. I guess. I don’t know. I never stayed that late there. But there are stories. There are lots of stories. All kinds of stories. And now the Feds have footage of some of it. Who knows what else they are going to find? Who knows what he watched. I mean I used those bathrooms. I used those bathrooms plenty.”

My reaction to this news froze my fingers to my glass and it rarely touched my lips.

“What about Mindy?” I finally asked.

“I don’t know.” My friend shook her drunk head like a slow grunge move. “I don’t know how she would never know, actually. The Feds found all kinds of data, I mean seriously huge folders and files on his home computer. Home computer? How did she not accidentally find any of that?”

My head started spinning. I think someone asked if they could drink my beer.

All I kept thinking about was that poor little Tim Burton character of a girl and how on earth her own daddy could be into child porn. How does a daddy get into child porn? And watching women and men in the bathrooms? He no doubt ogled over my friend adjusting her bra and her dress due to her large bosom, there in his bathroom, party after party. MAybe not. He got off on children! Nausea bubbles in my throat.

And a friend is married to this guy.

“No, engaged,” my friend corrected.

“Well that’s off now! Thank God! I hope!” I still shuddered and felt my stomach turn.

I believe the whole conversation ended with the cry, “What is wrong with people?”

I shuffled back to my Madison home, three and a half hours away from that book store, and hugged my husband. It felt so good to be a happily married woman who chose to stay home and snuggle with her husband, falling in love with his sweet sleeping breath. Sometimes choosing home is not lame. It’s good.

But don’t you be fooled, reader, there is no good ending to a story like this. Even though it’s not me, many people are hurt, and some don’t even know it yet.

Assignment continued:

Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction. Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.

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