Because nights on the third shift seem to stretch longer than they should, and because sleeping through the day has been giving him nightmares, Jimmy Barnes buys coffee at the truck stop on Sugar Hill Road. He circles the place once before parking. In the big lot out back, the tractor-trailers are lined in rows, their sleeping cabs dark. Between two of the trucks, a figure steps aside, out of the wash of his headlights. Barnes doesn’t stop. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, not sure he’d know trouble if he found it.
Here, Greg gives three explanations for the origins of the story (and its point of view):
The first several drafts of “Joyriders” were written in the first-person, with Doc as the narrator; the events themselves were similar to those in Doc’s half of the story now. I was pleased with Doc’s voice and with the feel I had for him as a character, but those early drafts still contained mysteries. First among these was Doc’s interaction with the young deputy: their conversation seemed animated by a tension that could not be explained by Doc’s motivations alone. The deputy, I realized, was carrying some baggage of his own. What was it, though? I tried various methods of teasing out this information, rewriting the scene between Doc and Deputy Barnes a number of times, before finally giving up and moving the story into the third-person, with Doc, Barnes, and a third character–whose scene I hadn’t anticipated until maybe three or four seconds before I actually began writing it–sharing the point of view.
Once I did this, the story arrived at its final form quite naturally.
Working with multiple points of view clarified things for me, but for the characters in the story, of course, the actions of the people around them remained as opaque as ever. (Who knows, Barnes wonders at one point, why people do the things they do?) Eventually, this opacity–how uncertain we often are of our own motives, let alone the motives of others, and how much of the good and the bad that comes as a result of our actions comes unbeknownst to us, and by accident–became, to my mind, the central concern of “Joyriders.” I’m perhaps irrationally pleased by this, the way the story’s theme germinated from its flaws.
Another way of explaining the genesis of “Joyriders” is to say that my father is a livestock veterinarian and my mother is a police officer. (Though my father, for the record, is not Doc, and my mother is certainly not Barnes.) So I know a little about both professions; enough, at least, to imagine them.
A third explanation: some years back, I rode with my father on a farm-call in which he treated a horse that had been shot by a .22 handgun. It was one of a spate of such shootings; local teens were suspected, though as far as I know no charges were ever filed. In any case, when the time came to write this story, I remembered the sight of my father treating the horse, and I remembered the hole that the bullet had made, and I began where I suppose I had to–with Doc.