The night has a thousand eyes

The marine layer was back, and made for a moody start to our Sunday. I climbed the gravel road to the lake past the caterpillars and birdsong, a rustling in the grass and leaves. We all had to go back to the lice treatment center on Mercer Island but felt morally superior hurrying out past the others with plastic bags on their heads, knowing we had the all-clear. It’s like that feeling of buying porn or hard drugs in a public space, pressed in with others doing the same and not wanting to make eye contact, feeling debased. Lily saw a girl she knew from dance class and me, a woman I used to work with at Starbucks I had a crush on once, tried to date. She was with her kid, and older now: I quickly turned and went on my phone, but it was so small in there she had to notice.

We rode home with our hair slicked back, like Leonardo DiCaprio or a young Draco Malfoy. And then we went our separate ways: the kids to their bedrooms, Dawn and I to the back yard with our blanket, trying to relax. We just had time to kill before going out to the restaurant later, for dinner. I wanted to get there early enough we’d be sure to get a table and wouldn’t have to wait. In just an hour we went, ate, returned home—and then Dawn and I went outside again as the sun dipped down and it started to cool, and the mosquitoes came out. We undid the sofa pillows from the garbage bags (you have to bag everything for 24 hours so the lice will die), but Dawn tied the bags so tight we had to use scissors to get them open.

The film was thin plot-wise, but the special effects and acting carried it along. You could draw the story-line out in about 10 frames: it had 15 minutes of story at best with the rest, all fat. The first Avengers film (2012): Thor’s brother Loki uses a Tesseract to create a portal to Asgard and start a war, making Earth his new kingdom, starting with New York.

You could draw the story-line out horizontally, and then fill in each “pane” vertically. That was a technique I’d learned for speech-writing, storytelling, or messaging frameworks: establish a logic to help create structure.

And yet there was something so tempting about abandoning structure altogether because it felt more real, even though we needed structure to make sense of things, to understand. Life still has a beginning, middle and end, and stories are like waves that carry us up and down, giving us the sense we’ve been transported.

The ocean has no structure but the raft must, to get across.



Categories: musings, writing

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. I’d like to hear more about this horizontal/vertical business sometime. I watched a Woody Allen movie once and thought the two characters/story-lines had a u-shaped plot. Then I thought a little more and decided it was more of a v-shape, because it was inevitable that they would come together in the end. You might make a good Draco Malfoy.


    • Horizontal/vertical: write the story out horizontally in 10 PowerPoint slides with the title on each slide illustrating a point, or phrase, that you can string together as a brief description of the plot. Then, within each slide build the supporting ~10 points down (vertically) that all map back to, or nest within that over-arching title. Does that make sense? That’s the ideer of horizontal/vertical logic, to keep it all strung together. I’m learning it now, but think it will be useful for my other endeavors outside of work.


      • I think I get it. It’s like taking the As Bs & Cs, etc of an outline as your slide headings (horizontal) and your 1a, 1b, 2a, etc as your “points down” (vertical). Right? (Its okay if you say yes just so I don’t hold up the class.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s it. Sexy phrase for it but that’s basically it. Fun when building a deck or speech, if that’s your idea of fun. I need help with structure, will take anything I can get.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can never make sense of my own plots. I remember drawing one out on graph paper once and just staring at it, wondering why I’d bothered as I hadn’t clue if my zigzag of highs and lows made for a good story or not. It looked like a seismograph after a quake and some after shocks – good or bad?
    I like the idea of the bags on the heads – makes good image. Is that for head lice? We’re not told about bagging cushions here, just told to come and use the special shampoo.


    • yes, the bags are to keep them “confined” I guess, while they’re being gassed (or ‘treated’). I see that with the plots and the diagrams. There’s something to really thinking about all those ups and downs I think. But I have no idea what! You’re miles ahead of me already in that department!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I might have sounded more organised than I actually am – I plotted a seismograph for one book and abandoned the idea after that. Plot is a tricky area for me 🙂 I must remember the bags – not that I’m planning to get head lice again soon – irritating little things

        Liked by 1 person

  3. even chaos has a structure to it


  4. I’ve used an intuitive chaos structure sometimes, writing a word, spinning off on that word to another word/idea that comes to mind, connecting them by lines. It creates a bit of a criminal investigation look with threads and pins but sometimes it bears results.
    Love the ocean image.


  5. We assume a linear structure, don’t we? In stories, in life. Just like we assume we know where we are viz beginning middle and end. As long as the raft holds together.
    Enjoyed this Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

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