Friday, January 18, 2008

The Boy Who Grinned

// I did some searching in my memory, because not only were your reactions incongruous with the Boy Who Grinned, formerly known as the Boy With the List, but how I would feel about such a boy with such a list was incongruous with the Boy Who Grinned.

See, way back then, I was all of nineteen or twenty, and (gasp!) still an innocent (hah!), sweet young virgin. (Who knew I’d admit such a thing ever?!) In my defense, I was pretty focused on piano at the time and I had this huge crush on this Irish Catholic boy from Boston. (The thought of him still makes me smile, for sure. God, that accent! He was sexier than Matt Damon because this boy could actually play the piano. ;-)

Anyway, to my nineteen or twenty year old prudish sensibilities, I would have probably found it equally as shocking that he kept a list of girls he’d kissed, as a list of girls he’d, well, you know.

Mind you, this was a long time ago.

Last night, I dreamt of DH. Boy, I miss him. I dreamt we were driving home from the airport together and laughing and talking and stuff. So when I woke up, I went back to sleep so I could see him again, LOL.

See, DH is one of the veterans of the Vietnam War. The only reason I share this is because, if you know those who have been in the Vietnam or Korean war (I don’t know any other military men, so I can’t generalize about them), then you know if there’s any unifying ethic between all of them, it’s you do what you have to do.

In the best of them, there’s a stronger sense of principles, principles that have stood the test of the kind of perspective that only death can bring. Their principles may vary, but they are who they are and they’re pretty rigid about that.

DH, at first glance, is not the friendliest looking fellow. He’s got a grumpy, sort of bulldog looking face that’s very adorable and cute, but probably not adorable and cute to a stranger. Anyway, he’s the type of guy that children, even children he doesn’t know, instinctively gravitate to.

The only reason I can put to that is that he would die in an instant, without any consideration or thinking, for any child.

And that if he’s got to do what he’s got to do, he may as well do it cheerfully.

The most valuable thing to learn, for a writer, is how what you write makes people react in what way, and why. That’s why I’ve always felt that you can get as good feedback from a reader who knows nothing about writing as you can from a writer. (Mind you, you can’t get good suggestions from a reader, not normally, but that’s a different thing.)

Yesterday, I learned that setting and the order in which you list the qualities of a character DRASTICALLY change a reader’s perception. And, well, leaving out his character will do that, too. I was more thinking of the point about writing people’s endings, rather than telling you much about him.

But then I realized I did the Boy Who Grinned a disservice. May I revise?

See, I know nothing about the father of the Boy Who Grinned, except that I know his father was of the same sort of cloth as DH, and his father rubbed all that off on the Boy Who Grinned. In fact, the Boy Who Grinned said only two sentences ever about his father, "My father was in the military, and the only thing he did not want me to do when I grew up was to go into the military."

Of course, the Boy Who Grinned was in ROTC and desperately wanted to be a Marine, but he’d just been devastated to learn that his bum knee was the end of that dream. On the surface, you’d think he went into ROTC to defy his father, but it was the opposite; I always felt he did it in the hopes to please his father, while at the same time trying to be his own man.

Anyway, I met the Boy Who Grinned in a little Italian pizza shop, where we both worked. He had that do what you have to do work ethic, and he always did it with a grin. He looked like that boy in the Norman Rockwell painting, except he grinned real good and his blue eyes would twinkle like nothing you’d ever seen. He could’ve been a rock star, LOL, he was that charismatic.

We were just friends, but he was fun to work with. He would beam that grin at every girl who walked in the shop, no matter how skinny, short, fat, pretty, or ugly they were. If they walked into the shop depressed, they would walk out of the shop with a smile on their face and maybe even a little giggly deep inside their heart.

I hooked him up with one of my best friends, I liked him that much. They both had the same sort of hole or yearning in them. I had told her of the list, so she asked about it (being comfortable with that sort of thing), and gave me the details. I relentlessly teased him about the list, of course.

They were friendly for a couple months, but since they had the same sort of hole, I think they were both seeking someone who would fill the hole. Same isn’t always good. :-)

About a year into working together, he started working one Friday a month as a waiter in one of those places where bachelorette parties go to goggle at male strippers. Being the curious sort, I asked him tons of questions about this, LOL. He was recruited (that grin, you know), and he stuck for the money, but I like to imagine he enjoyed making girls feel good.

In all the time I knew him, I never heard him say one negative thing about any girl. Not ever. And in spite of the Kissing List, he did not kiss and tell, not ever.

He had those rock-solid principles born of a military father.

And so, while I was shoveling litter and thinking of the Boy Who Grinned even while doing what you have to do, (no matter how shitty, LOL), I wondered what happened to him. He seemed the type to find a sweet, pretty girl who was the type that he’d feel like protecting and treasuring. And with his principles, I bet he wouldn’t cheat on her and would put caring for and providing for his family at the top of his list. He was that sort of person.

Wouldn’t that be poetic? The perfect full circle for a novel.

I don’t really remember if the Kissing List was a Kissing List or a You Know List, but I like to think he just wanted to remember all the girls he’d shared a special moment with.

I hope I did the Boy Who Grinned a better service today. Because even at his young age, he was his own man, but he had that fresh enthusiasm that made him an eternal boy in my memory. And I may have forgotten a ton of details about him, and I may have forgotten the details of the list, but I will never forget that infectious grin that could make a girl feel happier and lighter.

Any better?

6 bonus scribbles:

StarvingWriteNow 1/18/2008 01:39:00 PM  

Yes, it's lovely. But in the same vein, a leopard can't change his spots. He might have gotten married and has the perfect family, but I'd bet you a box of Krispy Kremes his "list" is still climbing.

Hope you have a lovely time at Borders; I'll try to come next Friday afternoon!

Anonymous,  1/18/2008 01:50:00 PM  

A great read, I really enjoyed this! Oh, Borders....I wish I could be there! I'd even bring the Krispy Kremes!!

Therese 1/18/2008 02:05:00 PM  

He sounds swell to me. I would be fascinated by his list and want to know all about how, at that young age, he'd won over so many girls. The smile and personality explain some of it, but it still would take deliberate action.

Anyway, I'm all for his getting a happy ending too.

All for a hot Krispy Kreme donut now too. :)

Josephine Damian 1/18/2008 08:44:00 PM  

Spy, did you see that "Who is Conrad Hirst" got a nomination for an Edgar? Did you read that book? What did you think of it?

I agree, readers who don't write give a really different perspective on a MS, than the reader/writers. I plan on giving my MS to just as many non-writing beta readers, since ultimately they are the destination audience.

A lot of writer feedback is how they would have written it - they don't always evaluate a book from a entertainment POV.

Edie 1/18/2008 10:33:00 PM  

There's still that list ... LOL If thinking about him makes you smile, he must be okay. :)

Blogger 3/12/2017 11:27:00 PM  

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