The Story I Was Asked Not to Write
"You're right," I agreed.
We stared at each other helplessly.
The fervor, in part, was fueled by an article in the weekly paper which had run just a few days before I came to town. Its author, a well-intentioned local woman who knew my family in a general way, discussed the book the way one might discuss a nonfiction expose. Even my title, she asserted, was "real," and she took it upon herself to engage in a bit of investigative journalism in order to determine its origin. "Vinegar Hill" was quite possibly "Sweet Cake Hill," a small street in Port Washington.
The truth was that I'd struggled to find a title. I'd known early on that it would be the name of the street my characters lived on; I'd known, too, that its connotations should reflect the book's bitter sensibility. And yet, two months after the manuscript was finished, the title page was still blank. I was living in upstate New York at the time, and one day, driving out of town to see a friend, I glanced up to see a street sign I'd never noticed before. Vinegar Hill.
I leaned on my horn. I zigged and zagged through the autumn leaves. Never since has a title hit me with such absolutely clarity.