Monday, June 14, 2010

Behind the Words

The "Bigfoot" trailer holds time in a bottle

Every so often, I hope to post short anecdotes about the impetus behind some of the characters, backdrops or ideas expressed in my writing.  Today, it's a look at one of the lasting and nearly silent "characters" from the novel "On The Gathering Storm".  Without being too 'spoilery' for those of you who haven't finished the story yet, I'd like to say a little about the Bigfoot trailer and what it means for Hannah.  If you'd rather not have ANY spoilers of the story, then you might want to skip this post entirely. 

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If an island is a literary metaphor for being isolated, then the Bigfoot trailer in "On The Gathering Storm" must be the ultimate symbol of solitary confinement.  Imagine it.  The tiny, cramped quarters of a dirty old camper, a steel and plastic case, capable of being wheeled all over the continent, but made immovable by time, named for a mythic beast that lives in the woods and is only ever seen when his food source is scarce.  

When I think of the Bigfoot trailer, I can't help but be reminded of the lyrics to "Time in A Bottle".  It's the words I'm looking at here, and not the lovely melody or Jim Croce's voice which is loaded with heartfelt meaning.  Apart from the music, the words are ripe for interpretation and game play.

Years ago, a good friend told me one day that his middle-aged parents had bought themselves a used trailer to tow out of the city on weekends and go for camping trips.  Having yet to see it, I imagined it as one of those large thirty-footers you see with their four-ways on, tilted at the shoulder of the highway while the hefty truck that was towing it has its hood lifted and steam pouring out.  Big and comfortable, all the amenities, enough room for my friend's brother, mother and father and maybe even the family dog.

But no, theirs was a little Boler, not too different than the Bigfoot revealed in "On The Gathering Storm".  I asked how the whole family would ever be able to take that on a vacation and he replied that his parents didn't intend to even take their two sons with them out in the trailer.  It was a purchase made in nostalgia, reminding them very much of the trailer they had before their kids were even born, before they were married and had responsibilities, long before the trappings of their current lives and all that comes with them.  No, they bought the trailer to remind them of the timeless nights spent with each other alone with no one to bother them, no cares in the world.  No doubt, they had parked their trailer under a moonlit sky in the woods, perhaps even next to a lake.

With that image in mind, read a few of Jim Croce's lyrics to "Time in A Bottle"
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with
Kind of a touching moment there.  But before I get a tear in my eye, let's juxtapose that mental picture with the one in the novel.

Try reading the lyrics now but don't ascribe them to two young lovers who are enjoying each other in the time warp of their little wheeled oasis in the woods, full of bottled-up time, rich with emotion. And don't lay the intent of these words on the older, grown-up versions of those two, now with their mortgage and their car payments and their retirement funds, all nostalgic as they sit together once more in the old trailer remembering their youth as though it was yesterday, as though the trailer was a magical bottle that had stored all the time up and kept it safe for them.

Instead, give the lyrical meaning to the mind of a confused and violent man like the one in "On the Gathering Storm". Mr. Mean Man is, in a very literal way, having his own brand of timeless romance.  He's under a moonlit sky, out in the woods by a clean, cool lake--trying to do just exactly the same thing with the woman at the centre of his attention: our young Hannah.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day 'til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you
The trailer is a little glass bottle in the midst of a dark world, corked and full of his kind of endless days and nights, and our Mr. Mean Man is--though in a very unbalanced way--trying to live and relive the same moments inside that bottle over and over again.

Have a read, and see if you agree.

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