Q. I’ve just started writing a really cool story, but I’ve hit a speed bump. In my excitement, I forgot to come up with an idea. Where do you get story ideas?
A. By “you” do you mean me? Or is this more a metaphysical question, where “you” is a substitute for “The universe,” or “The Man Upstairs,” or “The Big Bopper.”
Q. Um, never heard of The Big Bopper. What does he bop that ordinary boppers can’t?
A. You’ll never find out. It’s like standing on a cliff and shouting “Why?” down into the valley. Nobody ever answers, but you keep shouting “Why?” And sometimes “What? Did you say something? Can you repeat? Hello?”
Q. Sort of like going out on a cliff and asking “Why did the bear walk into a bar?”
A. Not quite, kid. More like “Why does a bear walk into a bar?”
Q. What’s the difference?
A. If the bear did walk into a bar, that’s what we call an empirical fact. You know it because you saw it. Maybe you went inside to be sure and nearly got trampled to death by all the people running out. In empirical-speak that’s called “The Empire Strikes back.”
Q. But why did he walk in there?
A. That’s the problem with the did question. Maybe he had to use the restroom. Maybe he heard they had Milk Duds in their vending machines. Maybe he was looking for Gluten-free beer. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who knows? All you know for sure is that the bear is inside the bar. Everything else is rock and roll.
Q. But maybe…
A. Look, the real question is why does a bear walk into a bar. Very smart people have been trying to answer the does question ever since they invented bars. My own theory: no bear knows why he walks into a bar. Why not? Because they have bear brains. It’s like a nun once told me: “You’re not as smart as you look and you don’t look very smart.”
Q. What if the bear didn’t walk into the bar? What if he saw a donut shop just down the street and went there?
A. You mean hypothetically, of course?
Q. Maybe he has a thing for sprinkles.
A. I can see a bear walking into a bar and not being noticed right away because it’s dark and he, the bear, is dark. And since people are drinking it may take some time for them to convince themselves that yes, that’s a bear sitting on the next stool.
A. In a donut store you have bright lights. Very bright. You can count individual nose hairs in the ear of the guy next to you. Then, there’s the lines. It’s well known that bears don’t like lines. But here you have people lined up for coffee. People lined up for donuts…
Q. Or people lined up for sauerkraut because they cut class the day it was explained that sauerkraut and donuts live on different planets.
A. The point is, everyone sees that a bear just walked in. They’d be screaming and scrambling to get out of there.
Q. But why not screams of delight? Everyone crowding around the bear asking him “Can you talk? What’s it like being a bear? Have you escaped from a zoo? Can we talk? Do you understand the roughing the passer rule? Can I get a selfie with you? Can you give me a lift to Perth Amboy?”
A. So. You want a story? There’s your story.
Q. Wow, you’re right. Like a sci-fi story by Philip K. Dick.
A. Careful. Never call a bear a dick. Remember how Moby Dick turned out.
Q. That was a whale.
A. And what is a bear? The Moby Dick of the forest.
Q. So what should I call my bear?
A. That’s a no-brainer.
Q. I don’t underst…
A. Sprinkles. You’re welcome. Next!
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2018, all rights reserved.