I always look forward to our trips to Tennessee to visit my in-laws. Not only is it because I truly love my extended family, but the week we spend in West Tennessee twice a year is one of the few times when I can completely power down. In the summer we visit a nearby lake that has no Internet or cell signal. It’s a rare opportunity to really drop off the grid and enjoy some quite time. Christmas, on the other hand, allows me some peaceful mornings to recharge the writing juices with a cup of coffee by a fireplace.
Sadly, that didn’t happen the way I’d planned this year thanks to the Saturday of Horrors.
Let’s start with the trip to the emergency room. My father-in-law is an avid wood-worker who specializes in duck calls*. We’d spent the day cutting up wood for call barrels, then moved some of the gear back inside so we could begin the next step. Without getting into the gory details, let’s just say an enormous drill bit and an exposed hand were involved. Thankfully the bit also cut the power cord, which likely prevented any nerve damage to my father-in-law’s pinky**. Give the man his due, he barely showed any emotion. Just unplugged the ruined drill, walked into the house, told my wife and Mother-in-Law we were headed to the ER, then handed me the keys. Heck, even when he was soaking his hand in disinfectant, he turned to me and said, “The shock is starting to wear off, so you may want to crank this seat back in case I pass out.” He didn’t.
Some folks are just hard-core.
But the bloody hand was only the beginning. Stitched up and ready to go, my father-in-law and I returned home in time to hear the tornado sirens activate***. The family gathered up our take-out Chinese, scampered to the storm shelter below the house, and set up a make-shift table to enjoy dinner. Listening to the dire weather reports, sucking down egg-drop soup, and waiting for the apocalypse to pass made for a rather enjoyable dinner. At least, until my father-in-law began snickering. Apparently the wood plank we were using for our table was the same piece he’d use to dress a deer some weeks earlier.
Suddenly the distant threat of a tornado paled in comparison to the very real threat of germs sashaying across our food.
To round out the Day of Sheer Awesome, I threw out my back. Maybe it happened when I was helping my father-in-law move a 50 year-old, 300 lbs drill press. Maybe it happened when we were setting up the Table of Death upon which we enjoyed our Orange Chicken. Either way, by the time we relocated to the living room, my lower back was locked up. I couldn’t do much more than lay on a couch for the next four days.
Which, in retrospect, was exactly what I wanted anyway. Go figure.
So there I was, stretched out on the couch and gobbling Advil when I realized that life has a sick sense of humor. Here I’d been dreaming of some down time and I got it. Maybe not the way I thought, but it forced me to relax and recharge. And trust me, by the time I was mobile again, my batteries were overflowing.
The funny thing is, sometimes a little break is exactly what you need with writing. We try desperately to think of plots that are as amazing as they are believable, but if we step away from the keyboard for a few moments, we might find the real world is far more fantastical than anything we could dream up. We spend weeks, maybe years, trying to flesh out memorable characters, then we take one to the ER. Life gives us examples that far outpace anything we could have come up with on our own and does so at the strangest of times. And those glimpses into the reality can help stoke the fires of inspiration. All we have to do is slow down every once in a while and pay attention.
Even it means a few days “relaxing” on the couch thanks to a Saturday of Horrors.
Joshua Roots is a former Marine, car collector, and beekeeper. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, playing video games, and reading comic books. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.
*Yes, it’s a thing. A six-figure thing, apparently.
**That’s 9 season of Scrubs knowledge right there, folks. And who said TV rots the brain?
***Which sound a LOT like air-raid and incoming artillery sirens, I might add.