My author, L, is off to New York City in a few days, and the big question in my mind is, Will she take me along? I know L as well as anyone does, and I don’t think she’s made any sort of plan about whether to take a character along and, if she does, which of us will be the lucky one. Her idea is to simply get to LaGuardia and wait to see who gets off the plane with her. She doesn’t seem concerned about the outcome, but for her characters it’s every woman for herself.
What if it’s Mavis who makes the trip? Imagine small-town Mavis, from the short story collection L’s working on, stunned in the city, getting in the way, gawking up at the buildings, nonplussed with how she ended up in a life that would take her from Ripley, Saskatchewan to New York City. Mavis is often nonplussed, and I don’t think she’s ready for New York, but that’s plot for you, that’s drama.
Or will it be Miranda, from the novel for young adults that is, so far, little more than a flicker of light in L’s mind? Miranda, who hardly knows the meaning of steel and cement, living as she does in an unspecified time and a parallel universe somewhere on the Great Plains with a batty old man who listens to birds and who she believes, or at least hopes, is her father. What use would the Guggenheim or the Museum of Natural History be to Miranda? Uh-oh, wait a minute, she might be a threat after all.
Or will it be Del from The Art of Salvage? I think it would be a wonderful sign if Del were to scratch her way out from her protective four walls and her predictable work-and-back ambit and get on an airplane to anywhere, but she’s already had her three hundred pages; she doesn’t need a sequel, no matter how redeeming; she can break out on her own time.
Here’s my plan: Inside L’s carry-on, right next to a copy of Dorothy Gallagher’s Strangers in the House — the book L chose to feed her “read where you are” habit while she’s in New York — is a coil-bound notebook. I will press myself as flat as I can and slip inside the notebook, kick out any other character who might have had the same idea, and hold my breath as L slides the notebook into her carry-on.