I was Beaten by Stephen King
Well, beaten to the punch, that is. A few months ago, I started working on a short story that I'd been turning over in my mind for a long time. The story was about an unfortunate fellow who pulls into a decrepit rest stop on a seldom-used highway to use the bathroom—a Port-a-Potty. Unfortunately for him, some punk-assed kids decide to have some fun with the man with the out-of-state license plate, and they tip the Port-a-Potty over, trapping him. I was thinking along the lines of Poe's “Premature Burial,” just a lot nastier.
I told my wife about the idea and she said, “That's the stupidest idea you've ever had. Really. Just plain stupid. Horrible, in fact.”
She's often right, but I could't shake the idea. I knew it could be good, so I kept working on it in-between other projects.
Then I nearly shat myself (figuratively) today when I read this on Hellnotes:
McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 27, expected out early this summer, will feature a new Stephen King short story, “A Very Tight Place.” Here’s what King had to say about his inspiration for the story, “Let me give you an example. There’s a story that’s written, it’s been accepted for publication by a magazine. It’s called ‘A Very Tight Place.’ And we live part of the year down in Florida, and I have a walk that I go on every day, that’s fairly isolated. Which is good, because people don’t bother me or anything. I get a chance to read a little bit, to think a little bit. And one day while I was on that walk, I saw one of these Porta-Potties. You know what I mean? They stand up, and I thought you know what? There’s nobody around … the house that it belonged to was under construction, and the workers had all gone home for the day, and I still had a mile to go to get home, and I thought, you know what? I’m going to go in there and I’m going to take a leak. That’ll be good. Why not? It’s there. I’ll get comfortable.
“And I did. I went in, and the thing had been undercut, not a lot, just the tiniest little bit. So that when I stepped into the Porta-Pottie, I could feel this thing rock a little bit on its base. And I thought to myself, you know, if … if one of those things fell over on its door, and a person was inside, that person would be in trouble. And immediately I’m thinking Poe, ‘The Premature Burial,’ I’m thinking about all the buried alive stories that I’ve ever read, and I’m thinking, but I’ve never read a story about anyone trapped in a Porta-Pottie. And there are so many interesting things that you can do with people who are in tight places, people’s feelings of claustrophobia are easy to bring out. I’m not a particularly claustrophobic person myself, but I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is wonderful!’”
Lessons learned? Write fast, and on rare occasions it pays to not listen to my wife.