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As a writer, I understand the importance of clear communications—choosing the right words to paint the expected image.
Sometimes, those descriptions become problematic. Tom Clancy, for example, described Jack Ryan as “physically unremarkable,” not quite the action hero the character has evolved to in movies. Lee Child’s famous Jack Reacher character is a physically imposing 6’5″, 250 lb, barrel-chested giant, a contrast with Tom Cruise.
On the other hand, an author will often leave details vague allowing the reader to form their own mental image. For example, I always thought Michael Clarke Duncan, nominated for an Academy Award for The Green Mile, would have been the perfect Jack Reacher. His skin color was irrelevant.
So why am I thinking about this? As we settle into our new house, we’re making numerous adjustments. The previous family had lived here for nearly two decades, raising their five kids and various pets. After that amount of time and that quantity of youth, a few things need fixing. For example, we know one son’s name is Jack. We know that because he scribbled it in various places around the house. Some painting was required.
Likewise, the yard was a place to play for them, not an altar to landscaping. Since I have no more interest than they did in spending hours sweating outdoors, we decided to hire a guy to rehabilitate the appearance. His first task was to dig out the years of accumulation of detritus in the planting beds. Along with dead leaves and piles of branches, he’s excavated a football, a soccer ball, two baseballs, a half dozen tennis balls, and enough golf balls to field our own driving range. We also have a collection of well-used and long-forgotten toys.
He moved his attention to shaping shrubbery and pruning low-hanging tree branches. In a matter of a few days, he’s opened up the yard so we can begin to have a vision of its potential. We were chatting one morning last week as he asked about things I might like. Among other things, I mentioned stacked-stone features in the yard to highlight the planting beds. In my mind, I pictured this:
I returned to my study and labored for hours on that next novel (really—it’s inching toward reality) while he and his team worked far more strenuously than my flexing fingers on a keyboard.
Late that afternoon, the dogs grumbled walking time had arrived. We hooked them up and headed toward our greenway, admiring the transformation in the yard as we went. As I reached the end of the driveway, I glanced over at the planting bed closest to the street and saw this:
All I could think of was one of my favorite films, Cool Hand Luke, and the famous scene when the Captain addresses Luke’s latest transgression—”What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
Books I’m Reading
Beauregard “Bug” Montage has built a new life far from his old criminal world as a getaway driver, known from the North Carolina mountains to the Florida coast. When his world begins to crumble, threatening his life as a husband and father, he can’t help but be drawn back for a can’t miss heist. Haunted as much by the father who abandoned him as his own past, Bug has to figure out how to navigate the blacktop wasteland of poverty and race, or die trying.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
Stop telling lies, Hu-Dad. I, His Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey, did not, with my brothers, walk within feet of a big, fat bunny rabbit without noticing. You can snicker all you want, but there is no way a rabbit sat in the grass while we went by without getting our attention. Couldn’t happen. Didn’t happen. Stop laughing like it did. (P.S.—Hu-Dad swears it really did happen.)