Writers Can Change Identities
Today, while buying a bottle of shampoo, for which I paid cash, I was asked for my name. My name? I said to the woman taking my money. Reluctantly I told her. Susan, I said. Then she asked for my last name. No, I said. I will not give my last name. This is a bottle of shampoo. I’m paying in cash. Why do you need my name? I don’t, said the woman. It’s a store policy. It’s absurd, I said. It’s an invasion of privacy. Now the government or some agency will keep tabs on what kind of shampoo a person buys? The woman agreed. It’s horrible, she said. Tell you what, I said. I’ll give a fake name. Go for it, she said. How about Jesus Christ? Jesus is good, said the woman. She typed it into the computer.
My husband and I went to a newly opened restaurant for brunch. This place had been touted for its great food when it was at its old, smaller location. The new location was very trendy and nice. Red leather booths, black and white tiles, lots of 1950’s chrome. For brunch we ordered the French toast that they’re famous for and a side of crisp bacon. After waiting a long time, the food was placed in front of us. The French toast was made of the ends of a loaf of hard French bread. It looked and tasted bad. The bacon was not crisp, nor was it flat. It was curling, fatty strips. Disgusting. Don’t eat that, I told my husband. You could get trichinosis from undercooked bacon. We were pretty annoyed. Then I noticed some woman flouncing around the place moving knick-knacks and straightening pictures. She had attitude. I called her over. Are you the owner? I said. Yes, she said. The pride in her eyes couldn’t be disputed. Well this food is disgusting, I said. Who cooked it? Well our regular chef is off today, she said. I said, So you’re telling me the guy who cleans up cooked our food? More or less, she said smirking. OK, I said. Well I’m the food critic from the Star Ledger. I’m here to write a review. The woman turned pale. That’s not fair, she said. You’re supposed to let us know ahead of time. Oh, really, I said. Why is that? So you can clean up your act? My husband, who is used to my different incarnations from time to time, well he could hardly keep a straight face. People work hard and spend their good money for restaurant meals, I told the woman. Now they’ll know to steer clear of this place.
As writers we can make characters of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and creeds. What is a creed? At any rate, it’s our writer gift to carry these characters into reality, here and there, if we choose to. As long as we don’t overdo. We have to remember who we really are, even as we make ourselves over into someone else. Like Jesus, for instance.
Susan Tepper’s current book From the Umberplatzen (Wilderness House Press, 2012) is a quirky love story told in linked flash fiction and set in Germany. www.susantepper.com