Course : Introduction to Storytelling
Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” To embrace the idea of rewriting and to immediately make it part of your practice, choose a short piece you’ve written and write it again in a new way. Tell it from the angle of what you’d like other people think had happened.
Initial Story – You’ve got the wrong person! I swear!
I got mistaken for a homeless person. Again. For once I would love for another person to describe the experience of having spare change thrown at them while walking down the street. That never happens. It’s only me.
My hair is dirty blonde. Emphasis on the dirty. It’s wild to the point of making Helena Bonham Carter look kempt. And I will concede that my clothes have seen better days between the twice mended and now ripped patches at the knees and the haggard, secondhand coat that I habitually wear, but isn’t that the uniform of a dedicated environmentalist?
Then there’s the bike. It confuses people. It costs as much as a used car but because it’s a Danish cargo trike and I live in Canada, people assume I cobbled it together in my garage.
And of course, we can’t forget the size or the voice. At five foot two, I’m the size of your average twelve year old on a good day. Maybe a thirteen year old with poor nutrition. Combine that with my tinny, small voice and I get asked whether my parents know where I am.
It was approaching Halloween and I was on a hunt for gourds. There was supposed to be a sale. There wasn’t. There wasn’t supposed to be freezing, cold rain. There was.
After arriving at the shopping mall soaked to the skin and disappointed by the lack of pumpkins, I took my son into the grocery store to warm up. There was a stack of newborn diapers on the sale rack, since I was six months pregnant at the time, this was a find.
I piled up the cart and headed to the checkout. Behind me, was the same kindly looking man who watched with curiosity as I had dismounted my bike in the parking lot. While I waited to check out, I talked to my son about the new baby. My hair was plastered to my face, giving me a sad bedraggled appearance, but my son who rode in the covered cargo area was cheerful and dry.
The cashier scanned my items. Horror washed over me as I realized that I had only brought twenty dollars cash – enough for two pumpkins from the missing farmer’s market. The gentleman behind me stepped in with the same benevolence you’d expect from a grandfather, “I’ll pay for those.”
“Please, no. Please, no. Please, no,” I repeated bathing in my own shame now rather than horror.
“I’ve had a lot of good fortune in my life,” the man reassured the underage pregnant girl he thought I was.
“I…” the deeply ashamed, well off married woman faltered.
“You have a good day dear,” the man said to me as I swam away on a wave of my own humiliation after thanking him.
What I Wished had Happened – Score one for the underdog treehuggers!
I got recognized today! Finally, after years of committing to my various causes – second hand clothing, biking over gasoline, mending what you have, someone rewarded me for my efforts!
There I was: cycling to the mall in the freezing rain, which never feels truly cold when one is living their dream of biking everywhere. The drivers gave me friendly waves as I rode past. I knew in my heart that I was an inspiration, surely next week I would see them on their bicycles next to me.
Sadly the local, organic farmer’s market failed to materialize in the inclement weather but that didn’t stop me and my son from having a nice morning. Off we headed to the grocery store.
Our trip was rewarded – packages of newborn size diapers were on mega sale. As I was six months pregnant with my second child, this was an exciting find. Normally, I would never use disposable diapers, but my stash of cloth diapers only includes a handful of newborn size.
Behind me in the lineup for the checkout was the same man who had eyed my bike as I locked up. “You are an impressive young woman,” he said, looking pointedly at my well mended pant legs.
I smiled demurely and said, “Thank you.”
“Let me pay for those diapers.”
“I couldn’t,” I replied, unsure of his motivations.
“It’s the least I can do for someone who is actively saving the earth.” I was taken aback, while many have said they were impressed by my commitment to cycling and lowering my carbon footprint this was the first time I had received anything beyond the sense of satisfaction from it.
“Why thank you!” I walked out of the store positively giddy, surely this is a sign of change and support for green energy to come!