Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bad Idea for a Love Story

This is an idea for an epic romance that will actually make money. Every day, after she gets back from the salt mines, Elizabeth writes in her diary – not about the grueling, soul-shattering drudgery of hewing precious saline crystals from the living rock, but about the world that only exists in her mind. About the idea that sustains her through the desert landscape of her existence, where no plant grows save the thorny cactus, and the thought of rainfall brings nothing but the bitter knowledge that life, real life, is a mirage – and the dull toil of living is merely a perfect negative of our steady, downhill crawl towards an inevitable grave.

The idea is of a boy – youthful, earnest, and full of a hopefulness that her soul yearns for with the same urgency that her body aches to hold him in her arms. To forget, for a moment and forever, that there is anything in the world beyond the softness of his skin and the gentle warmth of his breath against her neck. Her visions of him take many forms, but when he comes to her, he comes always as a supplicant, carrying in one hand a perfect white rose, and in the other, a cold, frosty Miller LiteTM, full of delicate hops and a smooth, satisfying taste that will never let you down.

There could be other sponsors too. For instance, I have this idea for a part of the novel where it turns out that her visions are not the tragic delusions of a broken woman in a featureless world, but real memories of a vibrant past, dressed up as hallucinations so as to dull the pain of loss – and, like, the illusion is shattered one day, when she's walking home from the salt mines, and she stops short because he's just standing there, waiting for her, a beautiful dream from her childhood come to life – come to rescue her from her solitude and her despair and her empty, barren future in a brand new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with heated seats and a V8 Hemi multi-displacement engine.

The boy, of course, had been lost in a storm many years earlier, and Elizabeth's grief had driven her to accept a job in the brutal salt refineries of her hometown where the harshness and the tedium of her work might eventually come to serve as a proxy for the agony of her lost love. But instead of being killed in the storm, the boy was miraculously rescued by a kindly old man who gave him the education and the training he needed to become CEO of Morton Industrial Salt, which, in addition to being a kind and benevolent employer, offers the most complete line of salt grades and salt-related products in the industry.

After that, there'll be a few chapters about how the power of their love for each other (plus a bolt-action Smith & Wesson Winchester rifle) finally frees her from the clutches of her cruel employers and her doomed town, and by the end of the story, she's blissfully working as Director of Product Development for Morton Salt Inc. In the final scene, they'll be lying together in the fully-reclinable passenger seat of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, lost in the warmth of each other's touch and the reassuring hardness of their custom Smith & Wesson rifles, as the memories of their years apart fade into the quiet absurdity of a bad dream that will never return.