There’s something to be said about art imitating life and then life picking up on art and bending in weird and twisted ways…. Sometimes, when I’m writing, it’s hard to figure out where fiction ends and reality begins–this is especially true when coincidences (if you believe in coincidence) hammer your reality in such a way that makes you wonder if the universe truly is trying to tell you something….
In The Fishing Widow, Ethan, one of the main characters, has a girlfriend. Her name is Nan Ashton, she arrives in Port Saint Anne from Indiana, and she is the town’s librarian. Now… I started piecing the story together in March/April 2010 when I was unemployed in Craig, Alaska–a stay-at-home mom for my kids and a volunteer for just about anything that was going on in town after we arrived here in December 2009. I wasn’t a librarian, nor did I have any aspirations of being one. In early August of last year, the librarian position in town came open. I applied. On August 24, 2010, I became my town’s librarian. The irony of this was lost on no one who knew Nan and the story. While that was tongue-in-cheek odd, nothing prepared me for an encounter that September….
I was up late writing because I do most of my writing when everyone’s asleep. Nan was alone on an island where she had to retrieve something. There were terrifying creatures on the island, and I needed a weapon–a specific weapon that they were going to be holding, so I started searching. Southeast Alaskan island …. terrifying creatures …. cross-cultural significance …. there. A slave-killer. It’s exactly what you think it’s used for–that is the sole use of this weapon among the Tlingit in times past. The weapon used to be fashioned from stone, but Post-Contact, they were made of copper. Even better. I was sure I could use that to an even more terrifying advantage.
But, I put it away. I went to bed. The next morning, my husband remarked that I was up late again, and I told him about the slave killer. My husband’s comment was, yeah, that’ll work. I went to the library, and he went to his job….
Then, it got surreal….
That evening, my husband and I walked our dog down to the docks because it was a beautiful evening and the sunset was going to be stunning. The view from the docks is nice at that time of year–when the sunset lights the sky a million different colors. We walked down the main dock and passed a man on a pleasure boat.
“Beautiful evening,” he said.
“Gorgeous,” I replied with a smile.
We started to talk. He was from Washington State. He was up here looking into a business venture. He liked to dive, he liked to explore around the outer islands. And, he liked to pick things up….
“My husband’s an archaeologist,” I said.
“Oh!” he brightened as he said it, “I need an archaeologist! Wait here–” And he disappeared into the boat for a moment. When he returned, he was holding something in his hand and beaming.
“She’s an archaeologist, too,” my husband said as he nudged me.
“Great!” he exclaimed, and he gestured for me to come closer. “Here,” he said, and placed something in my hand. “What do you think about that?” he asked proudly.
I stared at the stone thing in my hand.
“That’s…,” my voice was weak. I cleared my throat and looked at my husband. “That’s part of a slave killer…”
“Exactly right!” he laughed as he clapped his hands together.
“Tim…,” I breathed, “it’s a –”
“I know,” my husband muttered, still staring at the cracked piece of stone in my hand.
“This is fantastic!” the man exclaimed. “We have to have you two over for lunch! Oh, and you have to meet my wife!” We watched as he walked back toward the bulkhead door of the boat. “Honey!” he called.
A woman came up from the fo’c’sle. She was smiling, beaming. She walked out onto the stern deck and put out her hand. “Hi,” she said, still smiling, “my name is Nan.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband take a shaking step back.
I smiled and shook her hand enthusiastically. “Of course it is!” I laughed.