The Plot Story: Chapter 1

Flood StoryEvery civilization has a Flood story. At least, that’s what the historians tell us. None of them were around when the Flood happened (though many of them look like they were), but I’m sure at least some of them deserve their degrees. The version I know best is Noah’s. As a child I’d imagine all those animals being herded into the ark two by two, and my imagination unfailingly failed me when it came to the mules. A few months ago, my imagination got another shot at failing me with respect to Noah’s ark.

I was walking home from the library when I saw one of the two men I’d introduced you to in my first blog proper, “The Fire Thieves.” It was the guy with whom I’m on nodding terms. This time it was broad daylight, so he didn’t exclaim, “Look at the moon!” Instead, after the mutual nods, he popped a question: “Were there dinosaurs in the ark?”

Thanks to ten years at St. Mary’s, where lack of decorum never went unnoticed or unpunished, I was able to retain my composure as long as I was within sight. The moment I turned into my street, I collapsed on the sidewalk, gasping and rolling and holding my sides in a manner distinctly lacking in decorum. A passerby thought I was dying and called 911, but that’s another story. This story is about a flood.

*****

Since the publication of “The Definition of Plot” on June 21, my inbox has been flooded to such a degree that my WordPress app keeps shutting down. I had hoped to hear from writers thanking me for my definition of plot and saying how helpful they’d found it, but the only one who does is a writer from Guntur, India.

The writer in Guntur (who addresses me as “Dear Sharon Ma’am”) is working on a story that ends in sex, and he says my definition of plot inspired him not to use the shortcut “one thing led to another.” Compare this with the reader from Timbuktu, Mali, who said it was unethical of me to mention “a story that ends in sex” in paragraph 2 and then go on to narrate my breakup with Winkie.

The others weren’t so critical. Many were actually quite sympathetic. They said it was unethical of Winkie to behave as he did, and someone from Littleton, Colorado, said it was mean of him to call me “Little Susie.” The issue was not that he had forgotten my name – anyone can make a little slip like that – but he shouldn’t have mocked my midget stature.

I’m big enough to overlook the slight on my height (even though there’s a big difference between my stature and a midget’s), but I’m going to ignore this email because I doubt the writer exists. You see, there’s no such thing as a little ton.

*****

Thousands from across the United States say I should have sued Winkie for psychological damage. Last time I checked, I’d heard from every state except Alaska. Perhaps the Alaskans are busy making hay while the sun shines, since the sun only shines (so they can only make hay) in summer, but if it were any other season, I’m sure the Alaskans would have written and said I should have sued Winkie. I’ve also heard from Americans living abroad, and they all say the same thing. An American in Paris has even offered to prepare my paperwork.

For months after the breakup, all my American friends told me to sue Winkie for psychological damage. And not only my friends, but also concerned acquaintances. Juanita, a cashier at the grocery I patronize, related how she had sued Ex Numero Cinco for psychological damage. (She had six exes when I last saw her in 2011, and since Numeros Uno, Dos, Tres, and Cuatro were called Juan, she said it was easier to refer to them by number.) She got a huge settlement out of Cinco, but then made the mistake of marrying Seis in Vegas. No sooner had they exited the drive-thru wedding booth as man and wife than he gambled it all away. That’s why she had to work at the grocery store. Since she doesn’t work there anymore, I’m guessing she got another huge settlement out of Siete or Ocho. Who knows, maybe even Nueve.

*****

Women like to keep count. For Juanita it was her exes. For me, it’s how long I cried after the breakup with Winkie. My tears stopped exactly one year, eleven months, and twenty-one days later. Next day I made a list of projects that had been pending, one of which was an oil change. When I took my car in, my mechanic said my oil was leaking and if I didn’t have it fixed right away, I could kiss my engine goodbye.

The thought of kissing anything goodbye reminded me of the breakup and released a fresh flood of tears. As I went through my tissues and then his, Otto said I also needed new struts, shocks, spark plugs, and a few other things I now forget. I told him to fix it all because it would give me time to cry.

I’ve forgotten all that Otto did on my car that day, but I’ll never forget how he let me talk about Winkie and cry at the same time. He never said shut up or stop crying, and he never gave me the stupid advice others had dished out (get a dog, join a salsa class, etc.). The only thing he said, when I paused for breath, was “Get an attorney.” I had to pay $1,420 parts and labor plus tax, but it was a steal considering I’d got free therapy and some great advice to boot.

I was all set to get an attorney as I drove out of Otto’s Auto, but then it struck me that to sue Winkie I’d have to prove that I’m psychologically damaged, and that’s impossible. It’s insane how sane I am.

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