I was writing the other day when a character went and did something I didn't expect. I have heard of this happening, this characters-behaving-as-if-they-had-free-will phenomenon, and I always assumed it was bullshit. I thought it was like when writers spoke of the Muse descending upon them and the Lord spaking through their fingertips in many tongues. How could something I write be unexpected when I wrote it? I called mystic bullshit on the whole idea.
And yet, there it was: one of my characters did a thing, and someone else responded, and before I knew it events were occurring that I never planned or thought about, and then also, lo, things didst become clear that before were driving me crazy. Frustratingly, the Thing that Happened (I know I'm being vague, forgive me) was awfully dark, and I'm trying to write a funny book, character, so thanks for making my job harder. Still, it was cool.
Also it was weird. It was Memorial Day, and it was beautiful out, and I was inside and I felt weird. My characters were running amok without my permission. I don't know about this book, I don't know if it works; all I know is on that day, it showed signs of life, and it was unnerving and great. But weird. I needed to get out. Henry and Scott were out, and Charlie the Dog was standing there staring at me, wondering why the hell I was staring at a metal object for hours at a time when there were so many smells out there, so much to pee on.
These days Charlie usually makes it about half a block before he does his thing and we're heading back home. He is old as fuck. He's healthy, but he's fifteen. (Or sixteen? Unclear.) His back legs are giving him some troubles, he's totally deaf and mostly blind, and other dogs confound him. So we make it a few feet from our house, then we head back and he limps up the stairs. But on this day, I thought, what the hell, let's try to make it to Prospect Park. It's a few blocks from our house, and we haven't been there in a while. I didn't think he could do it.
I had to more or less drag him the first two blocks, mostly because he is driven to pee on anything he encounters, but also because it takes him forever and he was limping and I felt like I was possibly overdoing it. But when we got within a block of the park, he figured out what was up. He stopped lollygagging. His slightly jerky walk turned into a trot, and as we entered the park, he broke into a run. I did not expect this. He would stop to sniff other dogs and canter in circles around them, then tear ass away as I struggled to keep up. People laughed at us. I laughed at us. The farther into the park we got, the faster he ran.
That's when he caught me off-guard and took off, the leash trailing behind him. Of course he's deaf, so he couldn't have heard me shouting for him even if I managed it, which I did not, as I was laughing too hard. There were tons of people around; I knew I'd get him back one way or another, like maybe if a young girl grabbed him as he sprinted right into her path, which he did, and she did.
The girl and her dad were highly amused by the two of us: Charlie was prancing and sneezing (he sneezes when he gets excited) and I was trying to catch my breath from both exertion and the inability to stop laughing. I told them how old he was, and they were appropriately impressed. Charlie submitted to their attentions, then puked in that off-hand way only a dog can pull off: whoa, something spilled out of my face, I feel fantastic now, do you have snacks for me? The two nice strangers who saved my dog took that as their opportunity to wave goodbye, so we made our way back, Charlie straining to run again, me holding tightly to his leash, wondering what else could possibly surprise me.