In The White Album, Joan Didion writes,
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children to the sea...We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."
And -- it's also just kind of fun. Here's a writing exercise (sort of like warming up for a long run) that makes me glad to have this as my actual job.
At the stroke of sunset, when the rain had cleared and the dancing stopped, she left behind only a shoe.
After an extensive search of a seventeen-block section of Gulf Boulevard, the crime scene techs found only a single shoe to mark the brief, violent struggle. Although the abduction had taken place during broad daylight, at a public beach, in front of a dozen witnesses, no two people agreed about the description of the van. No one had thought to jot down a license number.
In the long minutes while the group decided that they had, after all, seen a crime, the big, light-colored van disappeared north on Gulf Boulevard.
Much later, each of the witnesses would remember the delay while someone sorted a cellular phone from a purse -- it had been switched off because, of course, they were on holiday -- and then the efforts to punch in the unfamiliar emergency number, and finally, that interminable struggle as they tried to convey -- offering the wrong details and pointless explanations while everyones' accents worked at cross-purposes -- the terrible thing that might have just happened as they watched.
"Shoes!" her voice was heavy with contempt. "Who needs shoes? We are at the beach, girls!"
Addie didn't bother to argue. In this mood, her mother couldn't be reasoned with. Instead, Addie set the beach-bag down and said, "I'll be right back, I saw a shell."
Her mother gave her a thumb's up, as if to say, "THAT's the spirit!" before dropping the hotel towels in the sand next to the beach-bag. The woman danced ahead of Addie's younger sisters toward the water's edge, and then paused to address all three of her daughters. Using the throbbing, theatrical note that set Addie's teeth on edge, she pronounced, "Isn't the ocean simply magical, girls?"
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