Sheetrock Angel grew out of a confluence of events in my life that sparked a parallel mystery story. I was in the middle of a divorce when I moved into a tiny little hovel of a one-bedroom condominium. Because I had spent everything I had to gain a foothold in Santa Monica, CA which was really beyond my means, I had to make any improvements myself. A darkness that was the stuff of my mother’s months in bed when I was a teenager began to descend. Would my own depression spiral into the ongoing cycle that periodically gripped my mother?
The condo itself was small, dark, depressing and the ersatz rock fireplace was tacky beyond endurance. My brother and I demolished the thing… but now I had bare studs and a gas fireplace unit. I went to the local home improvement store, grabbed a piece of sheetrock, and was carrying it across the street when a scruffy young man exited the unit at the front of the building. He laughed when I told him that I would be hanging the sheetrock myself. He said that he was a professional taper and that if I could get it on the studs, he’d tape it for me. I averred that I didn’t have any money to pay him but he countered that he was in a twelve step program and that this would be one of his good deeds. As good as his word, he wouldn’t take anything save some home made cookies for his efforts. During the few hours he was there, we spoke a little of his recovery and of his desire to get his sister away from his druggy friends. He felt responsible for her nascent drug problem. The last time I saw him, he finished sanding the top coat of drywall mud, accepted a bag of cookies, and said that he would be going up north to help a friend build his house. I thanked him profusely and told him that he had been my guardian angel.
In the novel, I upped the stakes by giving my mother schizophrenia rather than depression as it was a more dramatic device against which to set my mystery story. Because of the stress my main character, Audrey, was under, I have her fearing that she is succumbing to her mother’s illness.
In reality, a couple of months after my sheetrock angel left for the north, I saw the woman he had visited in the front unit of our building. I asked her if she had heard how he was doing. She said he had been killed on his motorcycle. In my story, his death helps my protagonist understand and make peace with her own demons.
Jeanne C. Davis grew up in southern California then traveled the world as a Pan Am purser until she landed a job writing for the television series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She wrote, produced and directed the independent feature, The Uniform Motion of Folly. She is currently at work on her second novel which explores her life with Pan Am, and another feature film, Lip Service, along with a documentary about her family’s four generations in the carousel business. Visit www.sheetrockangel.homestead.com or SheetrockAngel on Facebook. You also can visit Jeanne’s website at www.bricolage-arts.com.