The stupid stain, and the stupid story idea, won't leave me alone. So the turmoil of thoughts is getting dumped out here.
Specifically in regards to the potential mystery of the story, as well as the big "reveal" that must come at the end of a mystery.
To me, there are probably four basic ways a story like this could turn out. First, there's the, "Oh my god, he murdered someone and doesn't remember it, or is blocking the memory, or some such thing, and who could have seen that coming, because he seemed like such a nice guy, when really he's a horrible killer."
Second, there's the, "Oh my god, he accidentally murdered someone through a series of complicated events, and in his terror at the accidental death, decided to ditch the body somewhere, and has since blocked the memory, or maybe the whole thing happened in a blackout, or something like that."
Third, there's the, "Someone was murdered there, but it wasn't him who was responsible, but instead a friend or coworker or random passerby who happened to somehow get into his home, and all the while that the narrator is feeling this sense of dread and guilt about what he might have done, he is, in fact, innocent of any crimes he might have suspected himself of having committed."
Lastly, there's the anticlimax of, "Oh, nobody died, it's just chocolate milk, and he's wigging out for no particular reason."
None of which really appeal to me. They're all too...well, overdone. Of coruse, that's probably because the whole "character forgets something important and gradually discovers that he is to blame for some horrible crime" story is sort of overdone.
Twist endings that exist simply for the sake of the twist don't do anything for me and, at least for the moment, any of those twist ending options seem like they'd be just that. Although that might simply be because I have no other solid ideas for the story, except for the "where did the stain come from" mystery. Which clearly isn't enough.
Though my mind *has* been drifting around, and tugging at other thoughts and ideas in the last few days. And one of them might be able to apply the necessary sort of depth that this mostly shallow story idea requires (and if this particular story should turn out to *not* be the home for this new idea, I have yet another place I think I might be able to find a spot for it).
There's a line in the film "Magnolia" -- a favourite of mine -- which never fails to stick in my head thanks, in a large degree, to just how simple it is. There are easily a half-dozen different stories that play out over the course of this movie, and each character has his own opporunity to dip into into both self-destruction and, ultimately, salvation. But it's this line, delivered by William H Macy's character when he's at his absolute lowest, that has always stood out to me:
"I really do have love to give. I just don't know where to put it."
The great thing about the line is that it sort of demands on instant empthy with the character. Who can't relate to an idea that simple? Who can't relate to someone that alone? Who has never found themselves with a capacity for love, with a need for love, and yet no recipient available.
And so I've been thinking...what happens to that love? What happens to love that just gets bottled up, and held inside, and eventually, perhaps, ignored and repressed and forgotten?
And because this is my mind asking the question, what I'm really wondering is this:
Does love go stale? Does love ferment? Does love, ignored for long enough, turn into something else entirely? Something not healthy? Something cancerous? Something dangerous?
It seems to me that this notion, combined with the stain, combined with a (perhaps) violent mystery, *could* gradually grow into something that would justify words on the page. It's all sort of a mush in my head right now, and I'm not entirely sure how well one idea will mesh with the other. But when two ideas ending up bubbling around in my brain at the same time, they do quite often end up blending together nicely, if left alone in the saucepan for long enough.
And, as I said, should it *not* find that this story is an appropriate home, the love-cancer idea could, I think, very easily find a home in "The Small Town Pornographer's Blues" should I ever attempt to revisit that particular novel. Which would probably need an injection of something new, anyway, if I was ever going to consider revisiting it.