Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: A Car of One's Own

In late winter when they heard a car horn go off, everybody thought of Mrs. Mophet. It was too small and kind a town for angered horn-blowing at their one intersection. Instead, nine times out of ten it was their Sally Mophet. You see in late Winter she always picked up her husband from the train on his way home from work, and stayed in the car to keep warm. Because she was sitting and warm, she gave into the writer's reflex and wrote, right there in the driver's seat, pad propped on the steering wheel. She'd get into the characters, usually some dry dialogue that seemed wittier in the moment, get too carried away, and press down too hard. And you could tell it was Sally Mophet because that same horn went off two or three times before her husband's train got in. She was a creature of habit, and even though she felt embarrassed, a sentence was unfinished. An idea was unfinished. Some careful detail could not wait in the back of her head to be typed up properly after supper.

Mrs. Mophet loved her characters and couldn't let them be alone. She loved them like her neighbors, because they were her neighbors. Unannounced to the town, except at one drunken 4th of July party, the mid-list sensation Mrs. Sally Mophet was the reason the homey, small town was still homey and small. She was the reason there weren't any Wal-Marts or McDonald's. She was the reason leukemia and cancer hadn't hit yet. In 2006, she was the reason no one turned down seconds on bacon and cream in their coffee. She didn't know how other small towns remained small, yet she imagined they all had their own hidden authors. She wondered if those other hidden authors were better at budgeting their time, or if they too got every family's supper ready, not on stoves, but on a pad precariously balanced on a steering wheel. If they made sure their own Jim Beckett got up at 3:00 AM to plow the roads against on every snowfall. If they made their trains run on time, without becoming too Fascistic a writer. It was tempting, you know, to edit Meredith Brown right out of the town, and make her move to Montana or Thailand or something, after she insulted Mrs. Mophet's brownies at the bake sale and tipped over that potted plant onto her carpet at the July 4th party, spilling soil all over her Persian rug, the only Persian rug in the town. An accident, yeah right. Well, maybe she'd suffer from an accident keystroke, an accidental patch of black ice.

Not that Sally Mophet ever allowed black ice into town. She wouldn't even reduce her dry cleaning bill with her pen or PC. It wouldn't be right, to write that. Mrs. Mophet knew what it took to be a good writer; measuring the things she really wanted, measuring the things her characters and neighbors needed, in a room of her own, and occasionally on the steering wheel of her car.


  1. This is fantastic. It's so understated, while being quite clear at the same time - it's not a big deal that Mrs. Mophet writes her town's continued existance, just the way it is. She's only tempted sometimes to edit out the annoying people there...

    Sweet and funny.
    Do you like Virginia Wolff? I read "A room of one's own" a long time back, so I don't know what I'd think of it today - I was a bit young, so it bored me then.

  2. I'm not fan of Virginia Woolf, except of "Lapin and Lapinova." However, as you can tell by the title, she had some sublimated influence on this creation. I agreed with her that writers need their own space. It struck me as particularly true one day when I was waiting to pick up Vanessa from the train station and wanted to write a scene on the steering wheel - you can tell how the rest went.


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