While I’m holding life or death in my own hands.

The world was trying to awaken beyond the dark morning clouds. Photogaph: J Gerald Crawford
The world was trying to awaken beyond the dark morning clouds. Photogaph: J Gerald Crawford

THE MUSE WAS WAITING for me when I awoke this morning.

The rain was gone.

Green leaves were beginning to climb their way onto the limbs of my crooked old oak out back.

The birds were fluttering among the silverberry shrubs.

That’s where they go when it rains.

The Muse had taken a scoop of bird seed from the feeder and sprinkled it on the ground.

He was whistling.

It wasn’t Dixie.

“You’re late,” he said.

“It’s still dark.”

“Like your novels,” he said.

I shrugged.

I couldn’t deny it.

“You working on your latest novel?”

“I am.”

“How’s it coming?”

“I’m about a hundred pages from ending it all.”

“You know what the ending will be?”

“No.”

The Muse jerked his head around.

“I’m surprised,” he said.

“So am I.”

“I thought you wrote the ending first.”

“I do.”

“What happened?

I shrugged.

A cardinal had come to the feeder.

“I wrote the ending first this time, too,” I said.

“So you do know what’s gonna happen.”

I sat down on the patio and watched the first crease of daylight separate itself from the earth.

“I may change my mind.”

“Why?” the Muse asked.

“I have two choices,” I said. “The main character can live.”

“Or he can die.”

I nodded.

“Which do you prefer?” he asked.

“He dies.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Readers like happy endings,” I said.

“No,” the Muse answered. “Readers like honest endings.”

I watched the day break.

It didn’t make a sound.

“I guess Sidney Sheldon was right,” the Muse said.

“What did Sidney say?”

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard is to be God.”

He walked away.

I sat in the dim light of dawn and waited to see if I could hear the sound of a gunshot in my mind.

I didn’t.

The Muse was whistling.

The birds were singing.

Maybe down deep inside I wanted a happy ending, too.

Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his books.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    In writing, we are the judge, and we have to sometimes make a decision. Will the character live or die? And do we ever make the right choice?

  • Don Newbury

    Choices. The farm hand great at digging post holes was promoted to the potato barn, separating the large from the medium from the small. End of day, he had a couple of potatoes in each bucket, and asked for his old job back: “I’m a good hand at digging holes, but these decisions is killing me!”

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Don, in writing, you make decisions, then try hard to make them work. Too often, a hundred pages later, you find you’ve made the wrong decision. Your next decision is to go back and start over.

  • Christina Carson

    Beautifully put, Caleb. I like honest endings too. They work regardless. I’ll be curious to see where your’s goes. No gunshot gives you more options.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You’re right, Christina. Most times, a gunshot is the easy way out.

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