As a fiction writer, I’ve always got my radar out for unusual characters — people who respond to life in unexpected ways. I’m not so interested in eccentric or misunderstood individuals — they’re already established types in modern fiction. But the unusually brave, intelligent, compassionate — yes, even happy! — people we see around us or connect with in cyberspace? They are most interesting. I watch and listen to them, wanting to learn: Why do you feel that? Why would you do that? Who are you really? And I write, because I want others to know them too.
I could see Will in my mind’s eye, sitting on the post office steps. I felt the happiness that stole over him in a moment, when I read what he wrote in his blog. What he’d discovered should have unsettled him: as a college sophomore, he was an unmarried father. But he seemed deliriously happy. Was I misreading him? I only know what he wrote. –Jeanne Hammond
I watch the glassy headlights of turning cars, the streetlights as they bloom a teary yellow. Somehow in this dim dazzle my mind presents a thought, one clear as a signal change. Maria’s child is my child. That fact and its startling rightness push out of my lungs like a war whoop: Arrgaahh! I’m up and running to the circle at Union Station, my old ground zero. Arms in the air, I exhale and think, Oh, my God. I want to call Maria immediately, but she doesn’t have a cell phone. I stand and look up at the ink-blue sky. The tree giant flagpoles clink. Only one flag still undulates above, its stripes spot-lit. I watch those patriot waves in silent animation, until a maintenance man in a jumpsuit yanks the pulley hard, and the flag flies clean off the line. It floats up, then down, down, to soft-land on my head –- for I do a quick break-dance to keep it off the ground. Quixote’s back! Yes, and the idiot wearing his country’s stripes is going to be a father! And I feel joy. That’s the only word for it. I brood on two facts — that I exist in particular, and that another particular person will exist because of me. He or she will be related to who I am, somehow. A new someone is undeniably coming, someone I will know and help care for. I think about this, as I walk back to campus along Massachusetts Avenue. All that’s left of January’s white-gray drifts are the salt lines from where the ice and snow have receded. Scrappy urban trees are budding day-glow green, and I feel I’ve got life by its newly minted fingertips.