I thought I would do another write-what-you-know today.
Basically the idea behind this is that my definition of the moniker ‘write what you know’ is less about only writing about things you have an educated knowledge of and more about embedding real people, experiences, and details from your life into a story in order to give it authenticity.
I think some of the best details of a story can come from the smaller moments in your life, moments that tell you a lot about a person and their development. The big moments, the dramatic ones, definitely do this as well but those are memories you’re likely never to forget, it’s the small everyday moments that are unique in their normality that you need to write down and hopefully cleverly utilise in a story one day.
That’s what I’m going to do today, share a short story with you that is neither theatrical or dramatic, but for some reason I remember every once in awhile. A small detail of my life that might crop up in my writing one day, who knows.
Strap yourself in, it’s story time.
I was in my younger years, somewhere after people asking you how school is going but before they start asking you what you want to do when you finish school (let’s say ten for the sake of simplicity and round numbers). My Mum and I had pulled up into our local petrol station to refill our big, old, nine seater, beautiful beast of a mazda van. Mum always referred to this petrol station as Kavatis, although that wasn’t actually it’s name, probably due to a past iteration of the petrol station or more likely the people who owned it. My Mum, being a creature of habit and efficiency, always put twenty dollars of petrol into the tank, and, unsurprisingly, always paid with a twenty dollar note.
I was a shy child, a natural introvert, and had been been enjoying the warmth emanating from the bowels of the van and the smell of the petrol fumes when Mum climbed back into the front seat, handed me the twenty dollar note, and asked me to go inside and pay for the petrol. I was confronted by this very adult task she put before me but I was also an obedient child and so I took the note and went into the store.
As I approached the counter the middle aged clerk saw me and wandered over.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
“Number two” I said, and handed him the note.
He took it with a brief smile, worked the register, and replaced the note with a receipt.
“No worries” he replied “Have a good one”.
This response astounded me. I had probably heard that basic Aussie pleasantry before but this was the first time someone had said it to me. Spoken it to me as if I were an equal, an adult. My world was rocketed. Not only had I completed the very grown up task of paying for petrol but suddenly I had been welcomed into the halls of adulthood! What was more amazing was that the whole transaction had gone so smoothly! I felt sure the man didn’t even know how nervous I had been. Maybe he actually thought I was an adult! There are times today when I don’t do so well.
“You too” I replied, softly.
I was grinning as I got back into the car.
“Mum, the man told me to have a good one!”
“Really? Well did you tell him to have a good one too?”
Mum smiled at me, no doubt impressed by how grown up I was. As she started up the car and pulled out onto the road a thought hit me.
“Mum? A good what?”
That’s my story. I don’t know why it’s stuck in my memory except that with that interaction I truly thought I had fooled the man into believing I was a grown up, and then like many grown ups, I was quickly confused by the ways of the grown up world.
Turns out that’s what I know.