When I was a kid, I had a recurring vision of the meteorite that would, at any moment, come crashing through the window to annihilate me in my bed. I could feel it approaching. It exerted a force, which I imagined to be some kind of reverse gravity, pressing me into the mattress, preventing my escape. The meteorite also had a recurring vision of me, of course. I was sure of it. On nights it couldn’t sleep, drifting alone through empty space.
After a while the meteorite stopped chasing me. Maybe it missed and tumbled into the sun. Maybe it got bored and gave up. Maybe it fell in love with somebody else. But I never forgot it. Eventually, though, I realized that everybody has a meteorite and that living in dread reflects a certain lack of gratitude for all those nights a meteorite doesn’t crash through the window.
I tried writing a story about the meteorite several years ago, but it didn’t take. That story focused on the dread. The story I finally ended up writing, The Meteorite and Me, is about forgiveness. And gratitude. And reverence for the mundane. At least that’s what I think it’s about. It’s also very much about process, like most of my writing. I like to imagine more disciplined writers start by having something to say. Then they go about figuring out how best to say it. And only afterward do they get down to actually writing the story. I tend to work in the opposite direction. I usually start with an embarrassingly simple, more or less ridiculous, hint of an idea and I offer it the following deal: I’ll come up with the first sentence. After that, it’s up to the first sentence to come up with the second, and it’s up to the second to come up with the third. And so on. I try as best I can just to shut up and stay out of the way until the first draft is in. The meaning, to whatever degree there is one, is an emergent property that only shows up later, as the story talks itself out.
I realize, of course, that this approach encourages a story to meander, and some stories take unfair advantage of this arrangement. The meteorite story meandered more than most, but I had to allow it because somewhere in the middle it had the nerve to try and pass itself off as some kind of manifesto on the wonder of meandering. What could I do?
The purple hum part of The Meteorite and Me is likewise an echo from my adolescence. It was my favorite joke for a while. It took me many years to realize it wasn’t a joke. And many more years to really get the non-joke – that is, to see the anti-punch line as more than just another bit of nihilistic irony and to learn to deliver it with a smile rather than a smirk.
I also tried writing a version of the purple hum story years ago. This was before I had really figured out the joke, of course – back when I still only thought I got it.
Anyway, years later these two failures grew up and somehow found each other, right around the end of the first draft. I didn’t even see it coming, but I couldn’t be happier for them.
Don Hucks lives on the periphery of gorgeous (yet approachable) Nashville, Tennessee, with a terrific woman, a spectacular boy, and a perfectly acceptable cat. There’s also a couple of robins, a handful of rabbits, and the occasional mole. The plants are too numerous to mention, but they know who they are.