The Moral of the Stinkbug
by Deborah Owen
Tonight I saw something on the floor. Thinking it was a piece of a leaf, I picked it up and found myself holding a dead stinkbug with his feet pointed toward the ceiling. I’m not a stinkbug fan, but neither am I scared of them. Especially dead ones. I studied him as I walked to the trash can and unceremoniously plopped him in and suddenly wondered if any of his stinkmates would miss him.
Did he have a family? His body is about to disappear from the earth and there I was wondering if his mate would miss him. And then I thought, Really, Deb? Does a stinkbug even have a brain? I supposed so. And then I wondered… if that were me… deposited in a considerably larger trash can – make that a dumpster – how much would I be missed? More importantly, what would I leave behind to speak in my absence?
Will anyone see lasting value in the items I have kept, the stories I have written, the classes I have taught? Will anyone keep the lessons I wrote? Will anyone remember me? I’m not talking about my family, mind you. They’d better miss me, or I’ll haunt them for eternity. I’m talking about neighbors, church friends, online friends with whom I have shared my life and values. Students I took an interest in, business people I have known, the tutors I have worked with. Will I leave anything of value for these folks?
In writing creative nonfiction, I have shared family secrets and cried when I wrote them, but will the tears shine through? Will the stories dearest to my heart even survive?
Other than your immediate family, who will miss you? Will anyone find value in your work? Will anyone think, “This is really good. I wonder if it ever got published.” Will they be cleaning your house out someday and one person hollers to another, “I found another story!” Will they read those stories? Will they publish them? Or will they say, “Here’s another story, but it stops at Chapter 5. Why didn’t she finish them? All of them are incomplete.”
“Throw it away?” the other person says.
“Yeah, I guess so. I told her they were good, but she wouldn’t believe me.”
You can always find an excuse for not writing. Here’s a novel idea: why don’t you just sit down and write! So what if you never get it edited? So what if you never sell it? You will have fulfilled the part of you that yearns to shout, “Hold on, world. Just hold your britches for one cotton-pickin’ minute. I’m leaving something behind that you might find interesting.”
Well, the stinkbug corpus delicti rests in my trashcan, although I’m beginning to think he deserves a proper burial in a fruit jar. He could lay there and stare at the dandelions drooping at half mast, stirred by the dim knowledge that he did his best to boost lazy, dying-on-the-vine writers. Maybe… just maybe… that’s why he came.
Every time you think about giving up, remember the little stinkbug. Put a hand over your heart for three seconds and begin again!