Self-publishing my new book Forever Striking a Crucified Pose was a long time in the making. I began some of these stories over 15 years ago. Starting on notebook paper, then a typewriter, and eventually as technology changed upgraded to Windows where there are so many clouds, and drives enabling one to work where you want, and carry the stories around with you wherever you go.
Bypass, the first story in the book was also one of the first stories I remember writing. The original story was much longer, about 30 pages, so what led me to edit so much of the story down to about the size of a page and a half. I know many writers are stubborn about taking so much away from a story they‘ve painstakingly have written. And I have no issues with that. If you feel so strongly that what you have written is important to the plot or for whatever reason, keep it in and fight to keep it in.
In “Bypass”, it was having written it on a typewriter, and letting it sit for a few years, and then once I typed the story into the computer, something changed. When reading the first few paragraphs, the story reminded me of the iconic Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks” and as the writer, I was passing by the diner in the painting, or perhaps a patron inside and listening in on Mr. Jim’s and the waitress’s conversation.
The diner in the story could be any diner I assume, but it was about a particular diner on the outskirts of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I don’t know if it is still open today, but being a night owl, and also having had a friend who worked there, I would go there often and visit with her and well, eat.
The bypass mentioned in the story is also a true story, and if you read the book throughout there is another story “Passing Time” that mentions it. I had also written an Op/Ed a few years back about this bypass being built around the city.
I believe this is an important factor when writing—letting it sit and come back to it. Writing and then revising and this one story taught me an important lesson about how to be patient and not to be too hard on yourself for letting go of parts of a story.
“Bypass” takes on the role of the waitress. I‘ve had some speculate that the word bypass has another meaning and that Mr. Jim has passed away while sitting there at the counter. And truthfully I don‘t know. That’s the fun part, is like the reader I too, even though I‘m the writer, sometimes the story just ends, as do things in life. I’m just passing through, same as you, most especially in a short story. And I think of short stories as being like Hopper’s ‘“Nighthawks”, a picture, a painting, that you can imagine sitting at the counter or are walking the dimly lit city at night passing this diner and decide whether to go in or keep walking.
And as the writer, I invite you to come in and have a seat at the counter with Mr. Jim.