I recently attended the Writers League of Texas Summer Writers Retreat in Alpine, Texas. This was my second retreat at Sul Ross, and they just keep getting better. Last year Karlene Koen taught me I DID have a book in me and that fiction is not a four-letter word. She is a dear mentor and friend. This year I took Joe Nick Patoski’s class, “Writing with a Sense of Place.” He gifted me with a boost in self-confidence as a writer and the knowledge I really do have a writer’s eye. He is a treasured new friend.
During the week of the retreat, he gave us several writing assignments, and one of my favorites was to write about a character we had met in Alpine. Here is mine.
Every time I come to Alpine I meet what I consider typical characters of the area. I usually meet older people, middle-aged to elderly, just your general grown-up. What makes this trip different is the young man I met on my way to class yesterday.
I work sometimes at an Austin high school, so I’m no stranger to the young’uns of our breed in their adolescent Blunder Years. As I approached the building, I caught sight of a strapping giant of a kid, obviously an undergraduate-type but with the face of a little boy. He looked like a balloon figure of an eight-year-old boy, blown up out of all proportion like the balloons in Macy’s parade. This man-child could have floated easily between Bullwinkle and Popeye on Thanksgiving Day.
He was neatly dressed in the ubiquitous, painfully blue West Texas jeans, definitely not stonewashed Levi’s, and a polo shirt, tucked in, of course. Instead of a backpack, he toted one of those shiny, aluminum briefcases. At first I thought it might hold his lunch, being the appropriate size for a lunch this boy would consume, but I soon realized it was on more serious business.
He got on the elevator with me, although he looked like he could build a staircase, much less use one. I smiled at him, to let him know I wasn’t one of those crabby old ladies, and he immediately grinned back and said, “Good mornin’, m’am.”
I smiled again and returned his greeting. He looked very pleased with the way the conversation was going.
“Are you taking classes here, too?” he asked, a touch of disbelief in his voice.
I explained I was here for a writers retreat and that I had come over from Austin. His face lit up, and he looked like he was going to wag his tail any minute.
“Oh, I’m from San Antonio!” The nascent connection solidified as I told him I grew up there.
The ride up one floor didn’t last nearly long enough, and soon we were wishing each other a good day. As he went down the hall, he looked as if I had made his day, meeting someone from “home” and all. He certainly made mine.