The Bernard and Melody Story Index

Not Quite Bonnie and Clyde

Bernard and Melody Earls, collected and explained

Dale E. Lehman
Feb 4 · 4 min read
Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

The whole thing began as a joke. And it still is.

During the summer of 2016, I took up the art of flash fiction. My first effort netted me a minor award while my second introduced a pair of screwball characters destined for a novel.

The prompt for this fateful story was the interior of a fancy building somewhere in Cleveland, Ohio. To me, it suggested a pricey shopping mall. Since I was mostly writing crime fiction in those days, I dropped a couple of crooks into the mall, meeting up after a not-so-successful robbery attempt.

The weren’t just any crooks, though. They were a fine-looking married couple, Bernard and Melody, no last name assigned. Bernard devised a clever scheme to rob a jewelry store staffed by a color-blind sales clerk. Melody was to play the starring role. Unfortunately, she got a little mixed up. Everything Bernard told her turned into something else in the strange recesses of her mind, with the result that they were about to get caught. And as far as Melody was concerned, that was all Bernard’s fault.

That should have been the end of it. The duo was just a fun little joke. See for yourself:

But it wasn’t the end. Three months later, another prompt whispered, “I’m a Bernard and Melody story!” You’ll notice that the photographs have a similar aspect. So I wrote another tale with predictable consequences.

By the time New Year’s rolled around, I was pretty well into flash fiction, and I suppose I was just looking for an excuse to insert Bernard and Melody into yet another tale. This photo of a ship shooting fireworks provided their next caper.

This story probably needed more space, but it was written under a 250 word restriction, and I never returned to expand it. It was only another in a series of jokes, after all. But you know, I was growing rather fond of these two rascals.

Half a year passed before I wrote another Bernard and Melody story, but they were in the back of my mind the whole time. It would be incredible fun, I thought, to write them into a novel. Problem was, they were weren’t even two-dimensional characters. They were just there for the joke: Bernard’s careful planning undone by his ditzy wife’s confusion and antics. There had to be more to them than that! And indeed there was. Once again, Melody gets them in trouble, but this time she deftly extracts them. Plus, it turns out she’s a bit of an art aficionado.

Soon I had a Bernard and Melody novel in progress, and I understood them rather better. Their last name is Earls. They’re thieves with principles. They only steal from those who can afford the loss, primarily the rich. Although they sometimes drive each other up the wall, they’re head over heels in love. Melody is beautiful and confident, with the luck of an angel. She can get away with nearly anything. Bernard is handsome, smooth, smart, a crafty planner . . . but he regularly lands in the soup.

This background worked its way into another story, one written nine months after “The Photograph.”

After that, I spent most of my time on the novel, but one more Bernard and Melody story arose, this one again playing on Melody’s interest in art. In the course of this story, there’s a reference to a real painting by a real artist. I later worked Melody’s fascination with that painter into the novel.

My seventh Bernard and Melody flash fiction story was written after the completion of the novel, in late 2019. The characters as they appear here are pretty close to their incarnations in the novel, even though you only get a quick glimpse of them.

And wouldn’t you know it, an eighth story came along, with Melody up to her usual tricks in the middle of a job. Naturally, she gets away with it!

If I write any more such tales — always a possibility! — I’ll add them to this page for easy access.

Meanwhile, Weasel Words, the first Bernard and Melody novel, is destined to be released in late 2020, if all goes according to plan. I’ll keep you posted. You can also stop by my profile for a link to my author web site and newsletter signup (free gift included), so you’ll get the latest news on my work.

Dale E. Lehman

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Purveyor of mysteries, science fiction, humor, and more. Get “The Fibonacci Murders” free:

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