Back when Sandi and I were driving down to Medical City Dallas Hospital on Forest Lane from our apartment in Plano, we used to occasionally talk about what I was working on when she was up to it. It was an hour one way—on a good day—as we came down south hoping that the car would not break down or some other calamity would not happen. She was on a schedule and we always knew that even if everything went right, it would be a long day.
We would get down into Richardson, and about the Spring Valley Road area, we would normally start seeing the many cargo trucks and vans for various pest control services. Many of them used a version of a squirrel on the side of the vehicle, but there were also ones decorated with skunks and other rodents. One morning in the fall of 2016 it seemed like every possible truck was at one of the intersections in that area. There were lanes of traffic all stopped with the various trucks line up nose to tail. The way I remember it, they were lined up at all four sides of the intersection as we waited for the traffic signal to start working again. There had to be more than twenty trucks everywhere. Sandi made some comment about all the rodent trucks which became the title of this story.
At the time there was an anthology that I was aiming for and I had an idea. Some writers have tons of ideas. I am not one of those people. I never have been. But this day, I had an idea I had been mulling around and we had talked about it a little bit. I knew where I wanted the tale to take place so I had the setting. I now had a title.
We bandied it about some more the rest of the way into the hospital. About an hour later after she was all checked in and asleep as the chemo dripped into her, I got to work. That became the project I worked on that fall of 2016. Unfortunately, it did not make it into that anthology.
We rolled into January 2017 and soon my Mom passed from a massive stroke. Writing was the last thing on my mind as I dealt with what one does in such situations. I also had managed to have a car accident while going back and forth to see Mom at the hospital so I had that to contend with as well. Beyond all of that, it was also becoming clear that Sandi was not doing as well as we all had hoped. With our situation and everything else, it was clear the only real option was to move to the house I grew up. That was never the plan, but it was now.
As the weeks passed into months and Sandi had a succession of setbacks, she was hospitalized almost all the time as I worked on getting us moved here. That was finally done in August 2017. Sandi was here, once we got in this house, a couple of times for a day or two and then came home on hospice right before Thanksgiving 2017.
They thought she had six weeks to two months. She had two weeks.
Writing remained the last thing on my mind.
I know everyone says 2020 with the pandemic was the worst year ever. They have good reason to say that. It was no piece of cake around here with Scott’s seizure and my major colon scare and some other stuff. But, for me, there is no question that 2017 was absolutely the worst year ever. It is not even close. I still grieve on a daily basis. Sandi is always on my mind. I suspect this is how it will always be.
In the years since, about once a year, I have dusted off the piece, worked on it, and sent it off. It always came back. I was fully prepared and braced for it to be rejected again. I remain very shocked and massively grateful that my first publication in at least seven years, if not longer, has finally happened.
I have no idea if this means, as some folks have suggested, I am back writing again. I have looked at my old stuff, at different times the past couple of years, and they read to me like somebody else wrote them whether they won awards or not. I am radially different now than I was and whatever creative side I had seems to be gone. At this point, I am not sure that any of this means anything other than a piece that carries the weight of the world, in my mind, is out there in print.
If you are still here, and still reading, now you know a little more about the background of the tale. If you are still interested, you can read about my story and many others in the Mystery Weekly Magazine: May 2021 issue at their website.