Of course, it happened on a Tuesday. I hate Tuesdays. I was in that drowsy, half-state between dreaming and wakefulness, when the alert went off at 6:02 a.m. “Earthquake!” I automatically assumed as I fumbled for my phone, but instead, it was something I never imagined I would see.
“Missiles launched. Missiles launched.”
My Japanese is not great, but I could read that. “A missile from North Korea has been launched (something). Please evacuate to a something-strong/OK building or underground.”
It didn’t matter that my Japanese wasn’t perfect. Knowing that a missile (or missiles – Japanese is very vague on the whole singular/plural thing, and you know that I was imagining a whole murder of black missiles flying through the skies), anyway, knowing that a missile had been launched was enough. I called my daughter who lives near her high school, and started texting loved ones before coming to the conclusion that maybe the bathroom would be a safer place than in front of our bedroom window.
I’d managed to make myself decent enough for a quick period to my existence, and then it was all over. By 6:12 a.m., the all-clear alert showed up on my phone, and I re-texted loved ones to let them know we were okay. No fiery death on this particular Tuesday.
I could tell you all the feelings I had, and all the plans I spun in the next 48 hours. Some people shut down when they get scared. I go full-on Robinson Crusoe. I made a quick list of emergency supplies for my kid, came up with five different evacuation plans, and designed a lovely fall-out bonnet with denim cape before I ran out of steam.
What I will tell you, though, is that this is going to be story fodder. It’s easy enough to create a conflict-lock for the big story. Our antagonist (who could easily be the protagonist of his own story) wants a place at the table, making decisions about the fate of the world. He hasn’t got a lot of money, but he does have smarts (well, his scientists have smarts) and tenacity, and decides the best way to be heard is by carrying a big nuclear stick.
On the other side, our protagonist (who could easily be an antagonist) wants to benevolently run a peaceful world, taking in peaceful feedback from peaceful countries. And to keep those countries peaceful, he (and I’m not talking about just the current president, but rather all of them for quite some time) carries a big carrot called trade, and a big stick in the form of military exercises off the coast of the Korean peninsula. We are not quite to the dark night at the end of the second act, and no one can predict how this story is going to end.
I spent my morning trying to figure out how I could reduce these big-stage world conflicts down to a manageable romance. Perhaps my antagonist could be young June. Her grandfather was a classic “get off my lawn!” kind of guy who made himself a neighborhood nuisance, and her father continued the tradition until he died and left the house to June. On the other hand, we have her neighbors, Sam and the Allies, who were originally a garage band, but also have a long-standing tradition of shooting pellets at a target on the driveway every September in order to prepare for vole-hunting season.
June complains that they are going to hit her cat, but Sam and the boys blow her off. So, June decides she’s going to get rid of the town vole problem for once and all, and starts experimenting in HER garage. She hasn’t got much money, but she’s got an old chemistry set. Pretty soon, she’s setting off large booms.
Oh, the boys are mad. It’s loud and dangerous, and who knows when she’s going to blow up the neighborhood? Sam confronts June, which only serves to make her madder (even though she thinks he’s really cute and can’t help but notice he’s as rich as Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice). And then . . . ?
And then I don’t know. I’m just not sure if this is the kind of story I want to be in my head for a full year until I develop it and get it out on the page. On the other hand, it’d be great if I could pull a happy ending out of the whole thing. Honestly, I’d rather be writing about magic spells and ghosts and romantic rendezvous. I’m not sure what else I can do . . . .
Still, one shouldn’t refuse to even consider story fodder when it flies right over one’s home. I’ll keep working at it.