Spartanburg, South Carolina—morning. A hotel lobby. I am drinking complimentary coffee, eating a complimentary breakfast.
I have spent the past days on two-lane highways. I like small highways. I can’t do interstates because they are filled with amateur NASCAR drivers with deathwishes.
Interstate folks travel at lightning speeds. People like me weren’t built to do anything fast. We move slow.
For example: those last two paragraphs took me approximately nine days to write.
A woman walks into the hotel lobby. She’s wearing a T-shirt that reads: “Clemson University.” Her teenage son is with her. He wears cargo shorts, an orange hat, he has a prosthetic leg.
Soon, he and his mother are eating breakfast beside me. I’m typing on my laptop about interstates.
He initiates contact.
“What’re you writing?” he asks.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answer. “I’m kinda hoping something will just come to me.”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“So you must be a writer and stuff?”
I shrug. The truth is, I’ve never been sure about what I am. I’ve worn different hats, and called myself different things.
I hung drywall with a Mexican man named Jesús, I ran a deep-fryer in a kitchen, I mopped floors in a food court, I played piano in pathetic barrooms. And once when I was twenty-two, after a wild night in Southaven, I got ordained in Mississippi.
It was never meant to last.
“Well,” the boy says. “I’m a writer, too.”
I ask what he writes.
“Oh, stories about superheroes and stuff. Sometimes I write about hot girls.”
Here is a man who knows what he likes.
“Yeah,” he goes on. “I pretty much write about everything. I also write music. But mostly about superheroes and stuff.”
He started writing months after a horrific car accident. He doesn’t fill me in on details, but I learn that he was lucky to survive.
I wish I knew more, but that’s all he tells me. And besides, it’s his story, not mine.
“I was stuck in bed forever,” he says. “Couldn’t move. I got sick of watching movies, so I just, like, wrote and stuff.”
He wrote about a lot of “stuff.” His superheroes were little pieces of himself. They were happy stories. Action-packed stories. With girls.
When he speaks, I notice a scar on his cheek, running down his neck. It’s a thick scar.
“Yeah,” he goes on. “I’m gonna study writing one day, at Clemson, maybe.”
And what he doesn’t tell me, I already know:
He writes for the same reason I do. Because writing changes a person. When you write, you can paint life the way you need it to be. You use a brush to paint happiness over sadness. And if you’re lucky, you heal.
You can make sunshine appear from nowhere, and rain, and romance, and airplanes. And you can make invisible people into superheroes.
After my father died, I started writing a lot. I would sit at a desk and write cursive on a legal pad until my fingers were sore.
I wrote about a boy my age, who looked just like me, talked just like me, but wasn’t me. A kid who missed his father—just like me.
My main-character boy had magic abilities. He could fly, see through walls, shoot bows and arrows with remarkable precision, and solve crimes with immutable wits. And he always got the girl.
Once, I even dreamed of studying writing at a big university. But things don’t always work out.
The boy’s mother finishes breakfast. She tells him to hurry. The boy leaps to his feet.
We shake hands. His hand is small, and clammy. But firm.
He walks out of the room with a labored gait. He turns one more time to wave at me. He’s all smiles.
I put my laptop away. I’m about to head for North Carolina. I’ll be in the car most of the day.
It’s funny. I woke up this morning wondering what on earth I would write about. I hoped it would just come to me.
That’s when I met a superhero.
Jeanne Butler - July 20, 2018 6:43 am
Just have to say it again and again. I love you Sean. You make my life better and I need that. Thank you and love
Debbie Britt - July 20, 2018 9:34 am
Another winner! And stuff!
Dianne Rathje - July 20, 2018 11:26 am
. . . and this one brought a few tears. Well done Sean.
john deeds - July 20, 2018 11:39 am
I have only recently become a fan but look forward every day to your writings
Rhonda Howell - July 20, 2018 11:53 am
I wonder if those who can will ever know how much they mean to those of us who can’t.
Molly Pinkston - July 20, 2018 12:50 pm
You always leave me with a smile on my face, sometimes tears on my cheeks and stuff in my heart!! ?
Joy - July 20, 2018 12:57 pm
Sean…you are a superhero … love your writings…be safe on your journey…can’t wait till you write about Thelma Lou!
Alice cooper - July 20, 2018 1:03 pm
I’m so glad that YOU write and I read!!!
Bo - July 20, 2018 1:23 pm
The power of the pen because sometimes reality is too harsh without retrospect, reflection or perspective. You provide all three as you reach inside yourself to bare your soul and then share. Thank you once again kind man.
Terri Boykin - July 20, 2018 1:54 pm
Love you much Sean!
Edna B. - July 20, 2018 3:10 pm
This is awesome “stuff.” I hope that little boy does as well as you have. We need the storytellers to help us keep life in check. Safe travels, and you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Shelton Armour - July 20, 2018 4:54 pm
Everybody needs to have a superhero intervene in their life at least once.
Jack Darnell - July 20, 2018 8:37 pm
Well I hope you waved as you passed Belmont, NC. At least Charlotte.
Yeah, we write, even on blog comments. And this one is easy because I like the writing, but most of all because you once drove nails, hung drywall and carried shingles up a ladder and carried a lunch (at times). But as I told the city council, writing is easier than dealing with them, and a heck of a lot more fun! 😉
George Thomas Jones - July 20, 2018 8:45 pm
Your story about Spartanburg brought back a fond memory of the time back in 1943 when I spent several hot summer months undergoing infantry basic training at Camp Croft which was located about ten miles out in the boondocks from the city.
On several Sundays four or five of us (all buck privates on the bottom of the Army’s totem pole) would ride the Camp bus into Spartanburg and eat lunch at a the same fine restaurant. After eating and approaching the cashier to pay for our meal, we were amazed to learn that some unknown patron had already paid our bill.
Janet Mary Lee - July 20, 2018 8:49 pm
I love you let us delve into the minds of writers! Yours is the good stuff for sure!! And you got the girl! (smile!).
Judith Pierce Croxton - July 21, 2018 11:10 am
From one of my favorite songs…”You raise me up. . .” I truly enjoy your beautiful stories. Thank you for sharing your gift.
Edy F Holmes - July 22, 2018 1:39 am
I appreciate your stories. They are encouraging and often make me reflect and think.Thank you
Kelly Ray - July 24, 2018 12:13 am
Hey…you touched my heart and stuff…
Cay Weaver - July 26, 2018 2:38 am
I think I just became inspired to pick up my novel again. I love the phrase, “For example: those last two paragraphs took me approximately nine days to write.” I can relate. Great story.
Max Smith - July 27, 2018 9:35 pm
I loved this article. Thanks! And I’m a two-lane driver as well, unless my wife is with me. She gets in too big of a hurry!
Sue Riddle Cronkite - August 8, 2018 1:45 pm
Inspiration comes in strange shapes. But, it comes.
Angela Locklar - September 15, 2018 3:25 am
I work at a Children’s Hospital and I meet heroes every day! Nothing better than listening to children’s stories and being a part of their lives. Everybody wins. Thanks for sharing.
Nell Thomas - May 22, 2019 9:32 am
And stuff to fill those pages with along with our hearts and minds. Keep on stuffing!