~ The owner of the book ~
At the park, a couple find a bench that has the best combination of shade and dryness available, and sit down to read. The husband feels a pang of apprehension as he reaches for his book, what is he about to uncover? He half hopes it is rubbish, and that that will help him stop thinking about its owner.
Unfortunately it is very good: an anthology of short stories that he can easily relate to. He tears through one story, written in reportage style; direct, concise, and on the surface, quite dull. In four and a half pages of plain language however, the story illuminates the internal life of a paranoid bigot in a way that is understanding, yet not sympathetic.
He flicks through the volume, letting the shape of its pages guide him to the next story. A dog-eared page catches under his thumb so he reads what sits under it: the story is titled ‘The actors’.
~ The secret message ~
Two actors are mediocre, but with their own special talents. They are both competent entertainers, though the narrator prefers one above the other. Neither of them compare to the third actor who is breathtaking. When he enters town to perform, the other actors are forgotten. The narrator of the story is almost relieved when the third actor leaves town, as she is able to enjoy the other actors again, who remind her more of herself.
~ The wrong target audience ~
The husband’s heart is beating rapidly, he is taken with the desire to write. He slams the book shut. The wife places her thumb against his jaw and turns his head to face her.
“You have something on your lip.” she says with genuine sweetness, brushing a piece of grit from the corner of his mouth.
He wonders what is wrong with him: he is thinking of the story he wants to write. His target audience consists of one person: the owner of the book. He wonders whether the page was specifically dog-eared by the owner as a message to him.
The wife laughs; he has already finished reading, and after only a few minutes.
“I’m gonna go get some spring onions, see you at home.” she tells him before a quick peck on the cheek.
~ The raindrop ~
When he gets home, the husband realises that many pages have been dog-eared: the only pattern he can discern is that all stories marked in this way are very good. He starts to write.
A song by Chopin is playing, called the “Raindrop” prelude. It is so familiar to him that he feels he wrote it in a dream once. He looks the song up on Wikipedia to read that Chopin wrote it after waking from a dream in which he had drowned in a lake. He entertains the idea that they had both shared the same dream.
One day, maybe he will write a story that will make readers forget about other writers while they read it, then feel relief when they have finished, being able to return to stories by authors that remind them more of themselves. Maybe one day he will make something from a dream and readers will feel they had shared it with him.
~ The spring onions ~
Dinner that night is delicious: a traditional Korean stew. The spring onions add a delicate note to the heaviness of the sweet potato and chilli.
The husband decides to finish reading the book. He will write many more stories, and he will try to write for people other than the book’s owner.
As he massages his wife’s shoulders, he thinks about George Sand; Chopin’s companion the night of his drowning dream. He thinks of the many people she fell in love with. He wonders if all writers have such tangled hearts.