I explained here how Phoenix started out as another story, one with Gabriel as the focus. In it, he meets up with a girl, Neely, also living on the streets. It’s a very different story, serving a specific purpose. It explains how Gabriel connects with the characters of my novels, and while I think there’s value to the original story, it clearly doesn’t work as a standalone piece.

I looked it over today. I have a file labeled debris and I keep all my stories that don’t go anywhere there. It’s kind of like having a junkyard. Every now and then I go and pick through the pieces and see what I can use elsewhere. Or I look at the evolution of an idea that eventually made it out of debris and into something functional.

Anyway, this is what I found today: We just kind of hung out the next day. Not really doing much. We went out in the morning and he bought us some muffins. Muffins? We weren’t really the Sunday paper and coffee folks, but it sure felt like it that morning. We sat out on a park bench for a while and tossed crumbs at the pigeons, not really talking much, just being there. Some of the other kids were out and around, mostly looking groggy and strung out in the daylight. I was pretty aware of being with Gabriel, of having spent the night with him. It made me feel like I was something more than I had been yesterday, even if it was just that I wasn’t alone.

If you’ve read Phoenix, you’ll note my fascination with park benches and muffins. I rarely sit on park benches, and I rarely eat muffins, and I’m almost never in cities, and yet, of all the images to make the leap from junkyard to Phoenix, it was these.