The Day Bob Greeley Died – The Story Behind the Story
As is the usual way this works, an idea came to me one night while I was trying to go to sleep. I found it to be a fabulous story, though I wasn’t clear on all the details. But I sure was excited about it. Here’s the original idea I had that night:
The setting was a small desert town, before air conditioning and cell phones, before TV and computers. The town would be comprised of people suffering during a horrible drought, people who were at their wit’s end because of the heat. People on edge, ready to snap. Then, to make matters worse, the power goes out, pushing them over the edge.
I knew that a man named Bob Greeley was going to die, though I didn’t know how or why. I knew there was a large red-haired woman who wore far too much makeup and a polka dot dress. I knew Bob Greeley’s wife, Grace, was a small and quiet woman.
That was it. That’s all I knew.
So I set about writing the story, picking the perfect moment in time, the perfect place, and creating a cast of characters that represented a wide variety of realistic people readers could easily relate to.
Then came the part I love, the moment I live for. When all the pieces fall into place and you realize where the whole thing was heading, the reason you had the idea in the first place. Of course, it would’ve been nice if that moment would’ve come when I wrote the first ending instead of the third, but hey. I’ll take it.
So I ended up with a nice little story with an ironic twist at the end, not unlike an episode of The Twilight Zone. (In fact, I explain in an Afterword how Rod Serling helped shape me as a writer.) Hope you like it.
It’s August, 1952 in the small town of Sweetwater, Missouri, where a deadly drought has the residents begging for rain, and with it, mercy. But on this particular day, just another in a long line of dry days with three-digit temperatures, mercy will not be given.
As the mercury rises and the power fails, tempers flare, causing a handful of the most prestigious members of the community to point their fingers at Bob Greeley, accusing him of atrocious acts. While Bob proclaims his innocence, the crowd takes matters into their own hands, deciding upon his guilt and preparing to deliver unto him a punishment they’ve deemed fit. Even if they’re wrong.
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