file dropped onto the desk with a heavy thud.
By Louella’s calculation, it was at least three inches thick. Her hand slid across the desk to pull it
toward her, but Melvin kept it covered with his hand.
Harper, I hope you don’t mind my asking this, but have you, by chance, decided
how you’re going to write this story.”
usual way, I suppose,” Louella said. “With
my trusty Olivetti.”
meant,” said Melvin, “have you decided on a hero?”
hand slid back toward her lap. Her eyes
traveled around the wood-paneled walls where pictures of various democratic
leaders hung alongside those of Melvin’s family. Sitting beside his desk on a wooden pedestal
was a bronze bust of John F. Kennedy.
I’m only just beginning the research phase,” she said.
fingers drummed on the file. “But every
story has to have a hero, isn’t that right?” he asked the famous author.
do. Traditionally, novels have a single
protagonist, but not always.”
yes,” Melvin said, churning up some excitement.
“You’ll need a protagonist.”
smiled sweetly. “Do you have one in
mind?” she asked.
I suggest a genial southern lawyer, one that heroically battles racial
prejudice on his quest for…? “
interrupted. “I was thinking I might use
a washed-up old woman writer.”
Little,” Louella continued. “I am aware
of your importance to this story. You
are a major link that binds all the other characters.”
right,” Melvin said, sitting up straight and grabbing his lapels. “I’m a major link. I’m like the character in that book you wrote,
or Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’”
studied the pudgy little moon face beaming at her from across the table. “Well, there is a certain aggressive charm
face beamed harder.
it’s very generous of you to share your files.” Louella’s eyes pointed like
arrows to the stack of papers pinned beneath the lawyer’s hand.
yes, of course, the files,” Melvin said.
His hand released the imprisoned folder.
He pushed it across the desk to Louella.
was just thinking,” he said, “about this idea I had. Don’t feel pressured to use it or anything. I’m willing to defer to your authorial
instincts on the matter, but I thought of a good way to begin the story.”
wasn’t already thumbing through the contents of the file. “Do tell,” she said.
this. We open on the bedroom of a
mild-mannered attorney and his wife…”
a telephone rings…”
is exciting,” Louella said. Her eyes
continued to scan documents.
the other end of the phone is the Reverend.
He’s been accused of killing his first wife. I’m half-asleep. I mean, the lawyer is half asleep, but he
swiftly negotiates an agreement that is fair to both parties. After that, I thought you might delve into my
Scottish heritage. You know, show the
reader some insight into what made me—my character, I mean—into the person I am
closed the file. “That would certainly
be an interesting way to begin the story.”
confess I got the idea from reading the opening section of your book. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I was
struck by how you started with a compelling action—a childhood injury—and then somehow
drifted into the history of the town.”
thought I recognized your opening gambit.
Now, I realize it was my own. Well, Mr. Little…” Louella stood. She tucked the file under her arm and
stretched out her hand. “I thank for
your ideas and for your generosity in sharing your files, but if you’ll excuse
me, I have to get back to my hotel and start reading through all this material
you’ve given me.”
took her hand as he would a princess. He
offered a slight bow. “The honor is all
mine,” he said.
Louella's face tightened. "Let's not go crazy," she said.