Sometimes people ask me where my ideas come from. That’s kind of like asking where my dreams come from. Usually when I’m writing, my dreams just spill out all over the page. But once in awhile I can pinpoint exactly where an idea comes from. The other day I came across something like that. It’s something I lifted right out of my childhood.
Part of my childhood was spent in a Colorado mining town that had seen better days. Abandoned buildings were everywhere, left over from the gold and silver rush days. In the summer time, I walked to the swimming pool every day with my friends. As we walked, we sang pop songs girl-group style. We were always in search of an adventure such as taking turns almost drowning in the river (accidentally, of course) or trespassing into abandoned buildings where the floor boards could give way any second and send us to our death. If we were feeling really brave we might see who could walk the farthest into an abandoned mine before running back outside to safety. I was definitely not the winner at this game. Dark, creepy mines full of hidden shafts and rotting timbers terrified me.
To get to the swimming pool, we took back alleys where there were even more abandoned buildings than on the main streets. One building in particular had been locked up tight. Whoever left the building didn’t want anyone to go in it ever again. But the boards, nails and locks that had been put on the building long before I was born were no match for the dry rot that summer. It caused the entire front of the building to fall right off and into the dusty yard.
From then on the building was open like a dolls house and my friends and I were fascinated. On the first floor was a stage with wine red velvet curtains and painted backdrops. There were tables with chairs stacked on top of them as if they had just cleaned the floors and were ready to open again the next day. Upstairs there were twenty tiny rooms, each one with a small iron bed frame and room for little else.
Of course we climbed inside and danced on the stage. We went up the dangerously rickety staircase too but each of the twenty rooms was locked up tight.
We loved the stage so we played there often. Then one day an elderly neighbor walked by. “This was The Cribs. It was called that because of all the tiny rooms,” she said. “Lots of young women worked here in the old days. They sang and danced every night for their customers. You could hear the music all over town.”
“What happened to them?” I asked.
She just shook her head. “I don’t know. A few of them stayed and married. I don’t know about the rest.”
I had forgotten about the Cribs until I started writing about it. Suddenly the Cribs came back to life and I created a whole town around it called Valentine, Nevada. The town lives and breathes on the page, and so does this almost forgotten event in my childhood, The Cribs, the abandoned whore house at the end of town.