“He dropped his pants,” I said. A few days before I had been walking home from school. Some kids had slashed my bike tires, snapped the bike flag, and cracked the mirror on the handle bars. This guy, alone in a yellow VW Beetle, honked. When I looked, he did his best to expose himself–while driving. The car weaved and he sat down and continued on his way.
I was in the 8th grade, and using the best of adolescent logic, I decided that if I didn’t tell my mom what happened, I would get into trouble. I also thought that if I told my mom what happened, I would get into trouble. My mom and I were sitting on my bed and I said I had to talk to her about something. She looked at me seriously and prepared herself to hear whatever she thought a 13 might have to confess.
With much blushing I told her about the man in the VW Beetle. There was a beat of silence. And then my mom laughed. She tossed her head back and laughed. She clutched her side and laughed. She struggled to keep from falling off the bed.
I sat there startled. Then confused. Then relieved. I couldn’t laugh, but suddenly that man seemed so ridiculous that I wondered why I hadn’t told her sooner. Yet I had no clue as to why she was laughing.
She wiped a tear away. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t've laughed. It’s not funny. Really.” She choked a bit. “It’s just that…” She glanced away. “Men just look so silly without their pants on.” She laughed again. “Sorry. I know it’s not funny. Thanks for telling me about it. I really should take this seriously.”
I wrote this story about my mom and posted her poem here because she passed away 19 years ago today.
In fiction, you ought to surprise yourself. Whatever it is you start, feel free to go where you didn’t plan. This is what I love about National Novel Writing Month–I write without time to think. The first night has this idea and by the 15th night I’m in a new place that I couldn’t have gotten to if I’d taken time to read the signs. Yes, the writing is a mess, but the journey is fun no matter what dark alley the characters take me down.
How well-planned are your writing journeys? Have you ever set out without a map? Which way works best for you?