Some writers–and I’m one of them–see double meanings in almost every word. I’ll admit that in “real life,” this annoys people.
I’m real sorry about it, but when somebody innocently asks me what my plans are for hump day, I’m going to reply with a straight face: “Sex, how about you?”
And I’m doubly sorry that on more than one occasion when the conversation drifts to the kinds of security measures one sees on shows like “24” and in movies like “True Lies” and mentions the retinal scans at the entrances to protected areas, I can’t help but pretend I’m hearing “rectal scans.”
Innocent Friend: “The burglaries around the neighborhood are beginning to scare me.
Me: “Sometimes I think we need to post armed guards at our front doors while we’re away from the house.”
Innocent Friend: “Either that or put in a retinal scan device like Jack Bauer has to put up with at CTU.”
Me: “I just can’t see having to moon my front door to get in.”
Innocent Friend: “Oh, hell, that’s retinal scans, not rectal scans!”
People have been known to ask my wife, “Is he like this all the time?” She sighs, knowingly, rolls her eyes, and proclaims: “Worse than you could ever imagine.”
Double meanings give writers a chance to create some wonderfully symbolic images. I loved the broken dugout water fountain in the movie “The Natural.” Before the cantankerous team manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) allows the aging Roy Hobbs do anything other than sit on the bench, the water fountain is dry as a bone. After he lets Hobbs have an at bat in a game, he walks over and the water flows freely. There are so many meanings in this scene, it’s impossible to talk about them all in one post.
The double meanings in water, light, sunsets, dawns, spring, winter provide exceptional opportunities for symbolism. The writer can say one thing in a literal way, but the reader also notes the double meaning there and gets the message.
I’ve written my share of celestial phrases, but the trickster in me has a lot more fun with hump day and rectal scans. Yes, I know, in the world of words and their meanings, I’m often on the Dark Side. When I hear, for example, that somebody got banged up in a wreck, I really do want to offer all of the empathy and solace of which a human being is capable.
Yet–and I suppose I should be ashamed of this–my thoughts cannot avoid the kind of thinking that went into this short excerpt from my satirical thriller Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire:
“Billy baby, you’re being soooo formal this morning,” said Delaney.
“I have an official request.”
“Sure,” she said, laughing.
“Does the department have an ID on the individual who stole Marcus’s truck?”
“Yeah, Billy baby, it was one of Clinton’s boys.”
“The ugly one.”
“That figures. Where’s he now?”
“Still at the ER, probably. He was pretty banged up.”
“I heard the truck was a mess.”
“No, it wasn’t from the wreck; it was from Darla,” said Norma. “She’s pretty thorough when she has sex with a guy.”
Truth be told, I know I can’t get away with using some of the puns I think up, so my solution was to let my hard-boiled investigative reporter say them. Both my wife and I thought the novel would get all the puns out of my system and allow us to lead normal, pun-free lives.
P.S. You can find the e-book version of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire in multiple formats on Smashwords for only $5.99 and begin suffering immediately the kinds of slings and arrows my friends put up with on a daily basis.