One of the hardest things for me, in terms of writing, especially at the outset, is deciding whether or not something’s an actual kernel for a story or if it’s just a fleetingly interesting little thing. For example: the other day I remembered these two brothers who, for a period of about a month back in the fourth grade, beat the shit out of me. So I’m writing something about that, and we’ll see if it’s any good or not. No idea yet.
But then, today, I remembered this history class I took as an undergrad, and how, every week, this old guy sitting up front would, right in the middle of this quiet lecture about American foreign policy, begin clipping his fingernails. This went on for weeks, and though I was always sleepy for that class, I was awake enough to sort of look around, to see if anyone else was catching this, and some people were. There’s no sound quite like the sharp clipping of human fingernails in an otherwise quiet (and crowded, with breath and scribbling) college classroom.
I doubt really there’s much to the fingernail anecdote beyond just that, and of course there’s more naturally built into the bullying story, for a lot of reasons, but the question remains: does the fingernail thing stay that way forever? Just a little thing, a small tangent? Or is it something larger? I don’t know. But they both swim around up there and, maybe, out there, too.