I’ve heard Van Gogh’s first painting was of peasants’ faces. I assume that’s true, as Gil on “The Office” said so while looking at Pam’s motel art. I think of that each weekday morning at 5:52 (sometimes 5:53) as I board the MARC train into DC. I study the faces of other bureaucrats, some sleeping, some glaring, some chatting, some laughing, some crying. I write my little stories as a way to say fuck off, to say I won’t be defined by my wrinkled shirt, great vacation leave, and sketchy work ethic.
There are two regular train riders, both older guys, who just look bitter. Sometimes, if I’m staring at a blank page (yeah, I’m an old schmo who writes in a notepad rather than a laptop or crackberry or iPhone), I look at them to find my inner crank. Other times, I board the train, already vaguely aware of what I’m going to write about. An example would be the day I got on the train, almost trembly, knowing I was "finally" going to write a story about a kid sitting in a school nurse’s office, with a big STUTT marked on his forehead, an ER marked on one cheek, and an ER on the other one. I’d been seeing that image for a few weeks, at random times, and had been sort of working through it in my head. The morning I finally wrote about it, the story sort of spilled out. It’s here: "Still" at Tulip.
A few months ago, I hopped on the train, not needing to look at those bitter guys. I was bitter myself, thinking about how the afternoon/evening before my next-door neighbors had been hanging out in their pool, chilling with neighbors and their kids, without inviting us. My bitterness was laughable. I don’t really know my next door neighbors and have made little, if any, effort to. I’m way too paranoid to let my son in their pool without me standing around the whole time. I'm a lawyer. Why would they want me over in their pool, probably planning a lawsuit! I didn't care about any of that. By the time I arrived at Union Station, I had a story written about a father who glances next door and sees a boy floating in the pool. It’s here: "No More Carl" at Everyday Genius.
Bio: David Erlewine lives and lawyers near Annapolis. His beautiful blog is Whizbyfiction. He plans to keep writing flash fiction until he can retire in June 2032. Then he will tackle a novel.