Tag Archives: Back story

Tea with the Gabriels

February Snow 1Suddenly, it’s all about the back story:

A) Advise writing students to trim the back story out of the opening of their stories to avoid slowing the action.

B) Write a story that opens with back story and then read it to them.

C) Remind self to preface everything said in class with, “Much of the time.”

February Snow 2And child narrators:

A) Have a bit of luck with a story whose narrator is a child.

B) Write another story whose narrator is a child.

C) That second one isn’t going so well. Maybe there’s too much back story in the opening.

February Snow 3And snow:

It’s been snowing most of the today and was snowing earlier when two teenage boys showed up with matching yellow shovels and offered to shovel my driveway.

The back story:

  • My driveway has a ridiculous hump I’ll never be able to drive up in this weather in the car I now have if the driveway isn’t properly shoveled.
  • Today instead of shoveling said driveway, I was hustling to finish work I should have done on Friday.
  • I didn’t really feel like shoveling my driveway.

These marvelous boys show up and tell me they’ll do the work first and then I can pay them whatever I think is fair. Which of course means I pay them more than I would have negotiated to start. They are smart boys. It takes them a while to finish and I worry they might be getting cold. I have nothing hot for them to drink but tea, which they politely say is just fine. When I invite them in, they stand awkwardly in their snow boots on the entry rug. I tell them to take off their boots and I go upstairs to make tea. I come back down to find them standing in the same spot in their socks, because they are too polite to sit down without being asked.

When I offer, they sit side by side on the couch in my downstairs, look at each other, blow on their tea, look at each other.

“It’s hard to know what to say when you’re in some old lady’s house drinking tea,” I say.

They laugh and then we’re chatting and I hear about school and where they grew up and how they met and became friends. And that they have the same first name. It’s a name longer than Gabriel, and neither of them seems to use a nickname. They’re fifteen or so, and I flash to twenty or thirty years down the road and wonder if they’ll be that friend for each other who’s been a friend for a very long time. I hope so, because it’s good to have that friend. Continue reading

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