There was a girl in my childhood with whom I formed a pact of undying hatred. She loathed me and I loathed her, and for the better part of the first seventeen years of my life, we were constant blights upon each other’s landscapes. She possessed, among other attributes, an ability to make stupid and ill-natured imaginings sound like actual truths, and it was a talent she made best use of to hurt me, whenever she could.
She was everything I was not: tall, leggy, incredibly blonde and unbelievably preppy in an era when preppy was not precisely the coolest thing to be – but she was undeniably pretty in a way that even the hippiest of longhaired, pot-smoking, raggedy-ass-jeans-wearing boys of my acquaintance could not, would not, and did not even try to ignore.
Our world was small enough that even though we had completely different sets of friends and attended completely different kinds of parties, pipelines of rumour ran between the circles, and I was never left in the dark for long about what bits of nastiness she was spouting about me. I wasn’t, back then, capable of retaliation, other than spluttering with outrage, making faces and saying I hated her.
I have no idea what happened to her. She is now, like me, in her sixties, probably a grandmother, and I am unconvinced that karma did any work on my behalf, so she probably had a perfectly reasonable life and lives in decaying splendor somewhere in the wilds of Toronto, still.
But she formed a model of evil for me. I’m not going any further into the why (a bit of it is in my memoir, if you are really that curious) but when I thought, at any point after, what “wickedness” looked like, it wore her face.
In 1999, when I wrote what would eventually become “A Spell in the Country”, I needed an embodiment of that kind of wickedness, and there she was, swimming up out of memory, with her acid tongue and her head-snapping beauty and I had what is possibly the most satisfying moment of truly godlike bliss.
I could take her down – in a book.
I could make the half-dozen or so people I figured were likely to read it hate her as I had. I could make them hope and pray for her undoing – I could make them cheer when her comeuppance came.
That, my friends, is a writer’s power.
So don’t piss me off.