Fictionalizing Real Life

The “free short story” for signing up to my email list has been “Missing Scene.” It’s about running into a teenage crush in the bar when you’re old enough to do something about it. Inspired by my sister running into one of our childhood friends buying condoms in the 7-Eleven sometime in the 90s, Missing Scene thinks about regret in a particular way.

The protagonist is a mom, former teacher, and PTO volunteer. She’s embarrassed of this version of herself when she runs into that still-ridiculously-hot crush on the first day of kindergarten for their kids. In the story we get a full flashback chopped in with the first-day chaos and middle-age insecurity.

Did anyone else think we’d be done with this insecurity thing by the time we turned 40? Ha!

Anyway, there’s a steamy part of the story where she and Brian (because all my younger-aged crushes are Brian these days) finally get down to business. The story happens in a townhouse basement under Christmas lights and a high shelf lined with empty liquor bottles. Because that’s how we decorated in our 20s. Melted candles stuffed in liquor bottles. ::facepalm::

Anyway, the story’s being pulled from that promotion so I can start sending people excerpts from Before Pittsburgh instead. Planning to revise “Missing Scene” and start submitting it again. So, get it while you can.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on

Real things from the story:

  • The bar at Clyde’s was lovingly tended for a time by my friend Dan who let me come and loiter and poured me drinks as if we were on a date, even though he was working.
  • Brian’s brother, Brendan, really did swim for my winter team, the Commanders, for a short time while I was in high school.
  • Brian really went the The Hill School in PA, he was even held back a year so that he graduated the same year I did. His dad had gone to West Point and mine when to the Naval Academy. I’m not sure why we were never rivals over that. But we weren’t.
  • If you’ve read After December, you’re familiar with Clyde’s and its position in Reston Towncenter relative to the skate rink. 

Someday I’ll write a story that’s not in the wintertime and we can hang out on the patio, under the awnings that are usually tied up when I write about Clyde’s.

Real life makes boring stories. But fictionalizing the things we know makes fiction deeper, richer, more realistic. If you recognize yourself in my work (looking at you, Brian), forgive me. It’s all with wonder and gratitude that I recall any of it.

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