The other day I dropped off a copy of my most recent book with my Aunt J. Aunt J is my mom’s older sister. She lives in the countryside, in a large house, and sells flowers.
Although a great reader (she can finish a 400-page book in a couple of hours), Aunt J has never really read stuff in the genres that I write in: fantasy, science fiction, horror. Nevertheless, she has always expressed a great deal of interest in my writing. A while back I left my Kindle with her for a week so that she could read my first book, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing.
I was genuinely curious to see what she would make of it. To my surprise, she liked it.
When I finished my current book, I decided to print out a copy and leave it with her to read at her leisure. This book was quite different from my other, as it was a fantasy inspired by Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and similar stories.
This afternoon, I stopped by Aunt J’s for a visit. She told me she had sat and read the story all in one setting, that she had really enjoyed it.
Then my aunt said something that caught my completely off guard. She told me that she thought her father, my maternal grandfather, would have really liked the story.
"He would have read it," said Aunt J, "and I know we would have sat at the kitchen table and talked it to pieces."
Of all the feedback I could have gotten from my aunt, of all the possible things she could have told me, this just caught me completely by surprise. It was a fly ball coming out of the sun and wacking me right in the head. That single sentence just left me seeing stars.
Not a lot surprises me. To be honest, a lot of the time I think I’m less jaded and more callous toward what the world gives us. Fifteen years of having insane people swearing at you and threatening you can sort of calcify your soul. The news doesn’t help, as it’s always bad news except around Christmas, when the newscasters blow the cobwebs from their cold hearts and do fuzzy, saccharine-sweet human interest stories.
I’m inured to death and destruction. A hurricane slams into New Jersey and New York? Eh. It’s bad, I guess, but I don’t know anyone affected. Where’s the remote? What else is on?
A military convoy is ambushed in Afghanistan? Soldiers have died? Haven’t they been dying since we went there? The damned politicians aught to get us out of there. What’s the point? Hey, look! Lindsey Lohan got arrested! Again!
Buildings collapse on innocents. Wars flare in distant parts of the world. Disasters strike close to home and far away.
It’s all business as usual. I remain untouched.
But the simple comment that my Aunt J thinks my grandfather would have liked my story hits me like a bullet. Even now, hours later, thinking about that fills my stomach with warm, fluttering butterflies.
That hard shell that’s formed over the years has had a hole blown right through it. I am left exposed and wondering.
The world still has the capacity to shock, to strike us to our core with the unexpected. This is a good thing.
Perhaps I am not as callous or jaded as I have thought.
The thought is oddly comforting.