The screams of a woman were being muffled by the morning fog blanketing Atlantic Christian College. The morning birds resting in the foggy trees scattered and added new noises of alarm. The woman’s screaming got louder.
Lights came on in the windows across the street. A Dr Pepper delivery truck was parked, its red taillights brightening the fog. The campus was quiet. It was June 15, 1967, just a week after graduation.
Bobby heard the screaming. It seemed nearby. The screams were from the other side of the chapel.
Lane was stunned, standing there listening to the screams as if they were not real. This was not happening. Campus is normally still and quiet in the early morning, as if waiting for the sun to rise. It’s always quiet, always still.
Lane started running toward the sound, toward the front of the campus chapel. He had been positioning his cameras in the early morning sunlight to photograph a family of cardinals when those blood-curdling screams caused him to loosen his grip on his camera. His tripod with his new Nikon was knocked to the ground.
He tripped over his tripod and a pine tree branch that had fallen earlier during last night’s thunderstorm. He rolled, hitting his head on the cold, wet grass.
Now, he thought, I’ve got to crawl around and find my glasses.
He slowly got up and brushed the grass from his pants and unscrewed the camera from the tripod. That’s when he heard the scream again.
Lane now ran a bit more carefully close to the left side of the church. The camera was in his right hand. When he reached the front steps, a woman was standing there, hands on her face, looking toward the steps.
He recognized her. It was Edith, a groundskeeper for ACC.
Lane could not believe he was seeing so much blood at the base of a regular household broom like the one his mom uses. It was sticking out from the center of a woman’s chest, going through to her back. The would-be news photographer thought, she’s really dead; she’s not moving. Who is she?
Lane walked quickly around the body taking pictures.
Edith was still screaming at the woman sprawled on the front steps of the chapel and now toward Lane. The dead woman’s hands were wrapped around the business end of a broom that had been pushed into her as if it were a spear. She was holding onto that broom like she was trying to push it in or pull it out.
The bloodied and sharpened end of that stick was protruding 2 feet out of her back. The handle had been sharpened about a foot long.
This is the opening of a new novel, specifically a murder mystery.
The title: “What Are You Waiting For?” That’s a challenge to you as you read this.
Write that novel that you have in you, the story you have not shown to anyone. It’s been hidden inside your computer for years under the heading “Recipes to Try.”
There are three secret steps to writing a novel — or a column.
The first secret is there is no secret. Ask any writer. Your job as a writer is to write.
Write about you, with a different name for some character. Let us read your voice and your character — the character you have when you speak and even when you make a facial expression without any words spoken.
Just pick up your pen and paper or open your laptop and start telling your story of what you see out the window right now, what you hear right now. Do you feel the hot or cool air on your face? Write that down. Then let the next sentence flow from that one. Is the sun bright, or is the blue sky cloudy? Write it down.
So, what are you waiting for? The right moment? Well, it is here, right now. Go for it. You can thank me later.
What are you waiting for?
Oliver Hedgepeth, a native Wilsonian, is a professor of logistics teaching online at American Military University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.