by Deborah Elliott-Upton
Once I started reading mysteries regularly my mind began to think in a different vein. I started to find criminal elements everywhere. I’m not sure this is healthy, but it aids my writing, so I’m not complaining.
Pouring milk into my breakfast cereal reminds me of missing children—and those who may take them, whether it is a stranger or a parent not happy with the court’s arrangements for visitation or custody. The cereal box itself could bring to mind chemical-enhancing drugs used in sports—which often begets thoughts of gambling, bookmaking, and racketeering. If the cereal box displays a happy-go-lucky magical creature, I wonder, what if someone put something hazardous inside the magical bits?
Media outlets—including TV, radio, print publications, and the Internet—are filled with news-breaking headlines that may be ominous, but perhaps I am only a bit cynical and paranoid about politicians right now. It could trigger more horror stories than mysteries, so I’ll give that story idea a pass for now.
I can’t help but notice suspicious characters.
Who are the two elderly men who walk the same busy street every day together—except they keep six feet of space between them at all times? They both look tired and yet, independent. I see them only on this one street and at different times of the day. They walk only on the east side of the street and keep their distance as they trudge along. I want to know where they are going and if they have a place to sleep at night. but there is something about them that warns me not to get close enough to ask. Maybe they are two veterans who refuse to abide by the rules of the nursing home and have escaped and live on the outskirts of town in a dugout they have packed with bits of useful-to-them items they find and they are playing out their own Survivor game.
What’s with the couple that’s always in the same chairs at the library no matter what time or day of the week I go there? While the man seems to be always reading something incredibly interesting, the woman flips page after page as if she is being paid by the page to do so. What’s their story? Perhaps they are spies waiting for their connection to whisper a code word and they will leap into action and save the world.
What about the new neighbor? Is he really retired or does he have a secret laboratory in the basement. No one sees him come and go and yet, surely he does buy groceries, gasoline and someone is cutting his hair regularly.
Has thinking like a mystery writer distorted my view of the world? Oh yes. I think it’s quite wonderful.