Eavesdropping is among my favorite pastimes. You should know this in case you are sharing state secrets in the 101 Diner and think you’re going unobserved. I am not unique in this, BTW.
Virtually all writers are alert to gems they can pluck from your life and add to their own cast of characters.
The weirdest eavesdropping/observation event I ever experienced happened on a cruise (LA to Australia) several years ago. It was such a long boat ride, I had days to study my target. Here is the case note from my journal:
… the couple chooses a table for two. She carries a doll. Well, more a stuffed animal of indeterminate type. It wears a different outfit to dinner each night and joins them. It even has a tux for formal night.
Its name is Keith. Each evening, the charming woman who carries Keith stops by our table to recount an adventure it has had this day. “Keith loved Maui” she might say, or “Keith has his eye on you two. He always liked the girls.” Her tenses shift from past to present and back again. She holds Keith toward us so we can address it/him directly. We oblige.
The big man who is her companion puts an arm around her and says they must get to their own table. We can hear them there, telling the waiters about Keith’s day. This happens every night. It will happen again tonight. Again, Sis and I will wonder about Keith. And now, you will, too.
In time, I learn the story. Keith was the name of the woman’s beloved cousin. He was to join them on the cruise. Just before departure of the ship, Keith took a departure of his own via a fatal heart attack.
The woman mourned her cousin, apparently to the point of distraction. She resolved that he would, by all that’s holy, join them on the cruise. So she procured this stuffed creature, attached a wig that was dark like Keith’s own hair, and sewed little outfits for his little person. Then she equipped the Keith effigy with the real Keith’s eyeglasses. Throughout the cruise she talked with and about her doll to all who would listen, never leaving him behind.
You would have absolutely believed she was happy, and maybe she was. Whether Keith was real to her or not, this is the best actualized fantasy I have ever known. One her husband supported whether it was a simple memorial or complex delusion. He was an amazing story unto himself.
If a doll can help soak up grief, who am I to question?
I think about this couple now, many years later. When they returned to home port, were they at last able to put Keith to rest? Or did Keith become so ingrained in their day-to-day that there was no escape for them? I would like to know.
But that’s the thing about eavesdropping. You never know the real end of the story. You have to make up your own.
Linda B. Myers is a founding member of Olympic Peninsula Authors and author of the PI Bear Jacobs mystery series. Her novels are available at amazon.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.com/lindabmyers.author.