Saturday, February 07, 2009
"That stupid husband of mine"
It is strange that the most complex writing problems can often be solved by humour.
My uncle by marriage, David Allenby Smith, a Canadin film director for Audubon, had asked me long ago to go a little arty and produce a drama, a script about four fishermen camped out In a plastic teepee in Northern Ontario. Characters. Have them interrelate.
Well, I began to write the script.
Happy is one fishing addict, casting his flies this way and that, way early in the morning while the lake still steamed, beavers swimming along the banks,causing lovely, ripply Vees on the glassy surface behind a backdrop of pines in the Canadian Shield.
But back home, his neighbour is in bed with his wife.
Hearing the plot, I felt a shiver and I was immediately gripped by an Appalachian song.
In the pines
In the pines
Where he sun never shines
Makes you shiver when he wind blows cold.
Little girl, little girl
What have I done
to make you treat me so.
Well, that might do for Music in BG, But I had to write the script, and I had no idea how to do this, not being a media writer. I had planned to produce a serius song of love and loss. Break your heart.
I laboured mightily. And all I could come up with was film techique learned at Ryerson U.... The shooting script, All film directions and all camera instruction... But no good dialogue, no good character development. I had to come to my uncle emptyhanded.
Years later, I finally got the snap, but it was too late.
But what an object lesson when it came to humour laughing its way out of your problems.
French Canadian tells me two jokes about Elliott Lake:
1) "My brudder went to go for driving test. Used my other brudder's car. Other brudder was asleep in the back, bored with it all.
"The driving inspector orders my first brudder to make a left turn, then asks my first brudder what he would do if if this big truck was barreling down the road as he was making his turn, threatenting to T-bone him.
"Said my brudder to de inspector: 'I would wake up my brudder in the back seat. He never seen de big accident before."
2) The fisherman had been like a bull in a china shop for days. He simply had to go fishing or he would go mad.
Tells his wife, "I've loaded on the camper and I'm going fishing."
Wife, seemingly resigned, says OK.
But as the fishreman is about to get into the truck, it rains cats and dogs. He sits in the cab for a while, watching the windshield wipers slap, but it rains and rains. Finally he decides he has to go back into the house, and maybe even get more shut-eye.
It was five'oclock in the morning. He was tired. Maybe he could still get some sleep. He goes through the front door, though the hall and into the bedroom, where there is the familiar snuggly form lying there.
"Hello", he whispers.
"Hello," he hears her answer."You know something?
"That fucking asshole husband of mine is out there fishing in the stupid rain."
Well now. Don't we have a plot.
And doesn't that clear the old mental block.