I am supposed to take some words from Cheever’s journal and write the start of a short story based on something in the passage.
“The landscape, or what I see of it from the driver’s seat, is lovely, but I say this: that the role of a writer is not to seek out the most beautiful places in the world and describe them—at least not my role.”
My role is simply to describe what I see, to draw a picture with words as vivid as the one you might snap with a camera. And so, whizzing along at 60 miles per hour, somewhere between home and Norfolk, past Emporia but before Suffolk, I notice that there are swamps on my right, and that the water is high. Higher than I thought it would be, not that I expected watery swamps in the first place.
On my right there are stands of trees, mostly sorts of oak. I can tell because the bark is rough and the branches are bare. Occasionally, there is the green of a pine. These are old trees, tall. My eye is drawn ever upward.
Above the ribbon of asphalt is a ribbon of sky. There are no clouds. The bare branches against the blue make me think of paint brushes. The fan ones with tickly bristles, perfect for painting trees. I imagine that the trees paint the sky. I giggle at the idea of hard, stiff branches becoming feathery enough to spread titanium laced cobalt.
I bring my eyes back to the road, and notice that the reason that line of branches in the sky looks so neat and orderly is that the state has cut down any tree that dares to grow out of line with its groundmates. I think about how people also do that to each other. I chew on this all the way through Suffolk.