Saturday, February 26, 2011

Walking Stories I

Ok, ya'll. Let's get organized. I am a firm believer in the old adage "There's is safety in a list." Trust me, it's old - I've been saying it for years.

So, here's the plan: I will blog a story on Saturdays, something on writing from real life with clips and all on Tuesdays and when I have a guest post, it'll be on Thursday (or we'll do something wild).

Here starts a new mini-series Walking Stories. Since here in Bordeaux, France my stroller is my car and my lunch is my fuel, I have picked up quite a few little stories just walkin' around. 

When Life Hits You in the Face

Two years ago, my little sister was visiting. As usual, her preferred serious conversation buddy, was her brother-in-law. I didn't mind - just so she was opening up to someone. I was happy to take a stroll a step behind them. The late February afternoon was mild, and though it lacked the country scents, we were assured that spring was in a hurry to reach us.
We were passing Quinconces, a large tram and bus intersection. It is called that because the sycamore trees are planted in in off-set rows or planté en quinconce in French. Just ahead of us, was the beautiful two-sided fountain tribute to the people of the Gironde region.

Three young guys with shaved heads, gold chains and running pants walked towards us. They passed my husband and sister but in passing me, one of them reached over and shoved me. Naturally ungraceful, I barely managed to keep my balance. I opened my mouth to excuse myself for bumping into him, then stopped, realizing with a shock, that he had done it on purpose. 
My husband had seen what happened out of the corner of his eye. He whirled around,  "Hey! Are you going to excuse yourself to the lady?"

"Man, who do you think you are? You want some of this!" The guy did a high-kick that my husband easily ducked,  his years of martial arts coming to the surface. My reflexes not being so good, I caught his heel as it came down on my elbow. The other two guys laughed

"You can't act that way to my wife; excuse yourself." My husband's voice was calm, but I didn't want to see what would happen if he really got mad.

I tugged his elbow, "Let it go." 

The guy landed a punch on his right eye, splashing blood on my husband's leather coat. "Dude, I'm in the army. I don't have to do anything! *&à# you!"

I pulled my little sister away, her mouth gaping. "Jenna, what happened? What's going on?"

I felt frozen; I didn't know what to do. I looked around for help, but it didn't occur to me to call the police. I was embarrassed that we were involved in causing a scene. My biggest thought was to keep my little sister out of it and to yell for my husband to let it go. The passersby did nothing. A woman with a stroller said she had seen what had happened but that she couldn't go for the police with her baby. No one else did anything, least of all me.

My husband kept telling the guy to excuse himself. He dodged some blows, caught a few, but never returned them. Finally the guy and his friends left him, shouting insults and obscenities.

"Sweetie, why did you do that?" I choked on tears the whole walk home.

"He was drunk at four in the afternoon. He couldn't get away with treating you like that, but returning his blows would have been giving him the fight he was asking for. I'm fine."

His eye and lip were bruised and bleeding. His aussrance was rather shaken; he wasn't sure if he had reacted well or not. He was actually considering a position in the army dealing with forest fires and hazardous materials etc. That guy didn't represent the army he wanted to serve.

I understood all of that, but I was shocked at myself. My reaction to the situation was not that of the heroine in my head. Where did she go? 

This is the only problem we have ever had in our beautiful city, at any time of day or place. I think those emotions can be used in some story somewhere, when my heroine's marvelous courage will fail her. When she will see her beloved fight for her, and instead of being the heroic maiden we know she is, she hides in a corner. Maybe that just means the next time, she is ready to toss him the sword or kill the dragon herself ("I am no man," right, Eowyn?).

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't react? Have you suprised yourself with a heroic reaction, or a scaredy-cat one? Have you put those emotions into a story?


  1. BTW, he said I could use the picture!!

  2. It's funny how we're so much "less" than we want to be, whether it's a serious situation or not. Just recently I was at a mall when a young man approached me. He was the editor of the local college newsletter and asked if he could interview me on what I "wanted the government to do for me". Instead of taking the opportunity to answer a few questions and have my voice heard, so to speak, I declined.

    We can't live with regret. But will we learn and take initiative the next time?