Here’s an article about the closing arguments in a murder trial in Columbus GA, one of the second-tier cities in Georgia. More than half the population of the state lives in the greater metro Atlanta area (though only about six percent in the city itself), and much of the rest is concentrated in the second-tier cities: Columbus, Macon, Augusta and Savannah. Columbus, like its three sisters, has more than its fair share of violent crime. In this one, a young man phoned for a cab, then shot driver Byron Brown at point-blank range. Cab driver is right up there with night attendant at convenience store, as far as dangerous professions are concerned.
There’s nothing especially noteworthy about the story: it’s just banal, crappy crime. But I wanted to know what else the cops had on him, so I followed the link back to this story from three years before, from when they identified the suspect now on trial. The cab company wouldn’t comment on the story, so the reporter found a former co-worker to comment on Brown:
“He started picking me up when I was 16 in his cab, taking me back and forth to work” said the former co-worker. “The days my kids got sick and I didn’t have any money, he would pick us up and take us to the hospital. Byron was a good man.”
Again, nothing here is striking enough to pique a reader’s interest. It’s the sort of lowbrow crime that would take a lot more massaging to turn into a compelling story. Not impossible, but there are much easier fish to fry. I read on, though, and then comes this beauty:
“I worked for the company, but I’m glad I did get fired yesterday because that could’ve been me on the call.”
NOW it’s literature. What I need now is a triangle: side one is the co-worker’s character and how and why she got fired; side two is Brown’s character and how and why he ended up taking what would have been her shift; and side three is the murderer’s character and how and why s/he ended up killing Brown. All three need to be related, or parallel, or structurally similar, or have the same word or object or person in them; enough of a pattern so that the last part of the story slides right into an established structure.
Plus there’s the beautiful grammar. Not just “I’m glad I got fired”, but the did get making it just perfect Southern US English, where there is simply no good reason not to add an extra verb tense.