Better Than Fiction

Sometimes stories land in your lap.

One weekend morning, pre-pandemic, I showed up to teach a writing class that was to be held on the property of a county park. The class was scheduled for ten o’clock. I showed up about 15 minutes early and found a couple of students waiting outside a tall chain link fence held closed with a serious padlock, and a No Trespassing sign.

No problem; we were early. We chatted on; more students came. We hardly noticed that a half hour had passed. No one had showed up to let us in. A couple of delivery people came by in trucks and left when they realized there was no entry. We made a few calls with our cells—first to my contact at the school, who suggested I call the park police, who suggested I call the city police, and so on.

The boring part of the story is that eventually someone came to let us in.

The interesting part happened while we were waiting.

A young woman pulled up in a low red sports car. She got out and addressed us.

“I have to get in there,” she said. “I was at a wedding in the park last night and left my purse.”

We shrugged and explained that there was nothing we could do until someone came with a key to the padlock, and we hoped someone was on the way.

She grunted. The next thing we knew, she was scaling the fence. She plopped down on the other side and walked into the park. About ten minutes later, she approached the fence again, from the inside, and climbed out.

In her hands were a purse, a pair of shoes, and a bra.

She gave us a wink, got in her car and drove off.

My writing students and I got a lot of mileage of the incident, creating many colorful back stories.

One thing that impressed me was the young woman’s willingness to disregard the No Trespassing sign and its warning of a heavy fine.

I thought about how I am such a rule-keeper (well, most of the time). For me, the physical difficulty of scaling a fence pales in comparison to the mental and psychological difficulty of breaking the law.

Maybe that’s why I write fiction—to break laws vicariously!

Would you have climbed that fence?


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One Response to “Better Than Fiction”

  1. Maryellen says:

    That is a terrific story! In my younger days I would have scaled that fence! Especially in my teenage years. My mother was always worried about what the neighbors would think. Everything I wanted to do was judged on how it would look in the newspaper. Back in my day, they did not publish your name if you were under 21.

    I am thinking that if somehow I forgot my purse, shoes and bra in a park overnight . . . I probably would have been brave enough to scale the fence to retrieve them at any age, if I was able. That must have been quite some wedding!