Some girls need to break into buildings.

“We are going to get in there,” T. said. “Follow me.”

“We can’t break in,” I said. “We’ll be arrested.” T. shook his head. “We’re not breaking in. We’re walking in.”

I follow. Again. We meant to see the AIDS quilt. We were grad students at Kent State and the quilt was making a stop in Cleveland, but only for s few days. I had to trade hours with a girl at JC Penney, and hope the car would make the drive, but away we went, T. and I, to see the names of the dead.

We pulled up to the arena (or whatever you call those places where they have basketball games) and the parking lot was empty, the lights off, and the doors locked. We had the wrong day. But for T. it was never the wrong day.

Around the building we walked until he found the employee entrances, and how could it breaking and entering? The door was unlocked. Few lights were on, and we walked, just the two of us, down those wide concrete halls, unsure of where to go and whispering. We came to the freight elevator, and I joked about looking for a Coke machine. T. joked I went blind too much.

We came to…I don’t know what the words are for these spaces…concourse? Well, we walked, found the archway into the basketball court and walked through. The only lights now were those thin, white strips of lights in the concrete stairs to all the seats. Our steps echoed and we stopped talking. The quilt was there, sections spread out in the dark, other sections hanging from above.

T. went on way around and I went the other. We could stand right up to the panels, read the dimly lit names, see the images, and be just us.

T. and I met on the other side of the court, we thought of nothing to say. Then we heard footsteps and whistling. There was nowhere to go and we couldn’t make ourselves move anyway. We waited to get caught.

A man in a gray uniform appeared on the first level above the floor. “Hey,” he said.

T. did the talking. “We came to see the quilt,” he said. “We found an open door. but we’ll leave if want us to.”

The man looked down at us, thought a moment, and said, “You go ahead and look around. But they’ll seal the doors in 30 minutes–and then you won’t be able to get out until the morning.” He continued on his way.

If you break the rules in your story, there’s no telling what you might find. That doesn’t mean you don’t need someone to say you might be going too far. Then again, get locked in and that’s another adventure entirely. Who helps you feel like you can break a rule? Who encourages you to go further in your fiction? What writing rule have you broken and discovered something amazing?

6 thoughts on “Some girls need to break into buildings.

  1. For every character you have who does not wish to break a rule, introduce a character who is more than willing (for one reason or another) to break a rule, then set them on a collision course, get some coffee, then watch what happens. Then write it down. We bet on the rule breakers.

    I felt your heart going pit-a-pat in that cavernous room. Splendid evocation. You were fearful of breaking a rule and it came through the interstices of your pros.

  2. That’s a keeper of a story, wonderfully told. (Your kid(s) are going to LOVE these stories, you know that don’t you?) You kept me with you every step of the way.

    As you know, I’m something of a fan of goofy little writing exercises. These aren’t exactly ground-breaking rules violations, but a couple of my favorites were stories written entirely in dialogue (w/out even the “he said/she said” tags) and in a single sentence. They were sort of exhilarating to write — working above the crowd without benefit of a net, y’know?

    Unfortunately, I’m so anal about this stuff that I’m more guilty, more often, of NOT breaking rules. When I see an author doing something audacious with a story, my head spins like a coin with swooning envy on one side and, on the other, fear that I might some day have to do the same thing.

  3. I like that in this story, you were breaking the rules for all the right reasons, and you were honest about it, and the guard knew it and told you the real boundaries to help you out. No harm, no foul, as it were.

    Interesting, this thing about rule breaking. In my current book, I have three sisters, one is a rule follower, one is a rule breaker, and the youngest has not quite decided and sometimes is one and sometimes the other. Maybe that’s my own personality, the good girl rebel. I CAN break the rules if I want to, but I most often don’t want to.

    In writing, I enjoy making up my own words. I’m sure there are people that it annoys, but I don’t care. I create far too many compound words. I play with sounds and come up with nonsense exclamations. Maybe it helps me to not take it all so seriously, to remind me that breaking a rule or two will not bring the ceiling down on my head. Maybe it makes me feel less uncomfortable with making mistakes, which I hate doing.

  4. You got something there, all right. Brought back two moments I hadn’t thought of in a very long time.

    1. The time when a friend of mine, a boy I had a crush on, decided to steal lights from a theater so he could better put on his Beckett production, and of course I went along. Similar to your story…walking in as if we worked there (my heart crawling up into my throat all the while), both grabbing what I’m sure were a felony’s worth of lights and gels, and sauntering out. What I recall most? How heavy the lights were, and how I worried I’d drop them since my palms were damp with sweat.

    2. The time my friend Peter (of the answering machine story) and I overstayed a visit at a local museum, and his truck was locked in the parking lot. I was wearing the kind of loose shoes you wear when it’s hot and summery, but you’re not expecting a hike on loose gravel and road glass. We walked four miles to another friend’s house, who then kindly drove us — me, Peter, and our blisters — home.

    Oh, by the way — yes, you really oughta read Terry Pratchett. I want to be Granny Weatherwax when I grow up. Try his “Wee Free Men” series for a delightful surprise at pre-teen character.

  5. D.F. Rucci

    Wonderful story, very entertaining. A common room I break at times is the rule of sentences. Sometimes i’ll alter the way they go making them short and long all depending. This breaks a rule of paragraph limitation at times. When I do this, I believe at least, that I created a whole new area to write within, where even the way the story is written adds an element to it.

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