It was summer and we were bored and the moon was full. We sat on the public dock, the boat launch parking lot behind us deserted except for Sid’s Pacer, which squatted in the security light near the bathrooms. He loved that car, a rusted mess covered with bumper stickers that said things like “My Rottweiler ate your honors student” and “If Darwin was right, why aren’t you extinct?”
The beer was almost gone, summer was almost gone, and I was leaving in three days for college. I was leaving, and the moon was shining its silver light on our sorry excuse for a final Saturday night.
“We need more beer,” Sid said, crumpling the empty can in his fist and shoving it into the box the twelve-pack had come in. With six of us drinking, the beer hadn’t lasted long. We should have gotten more. Earlier, one of the hangers-on, a kid in an orange trucker hat, had chucked an empty into the lake. Sid, in his t-shirt and cut-offs, dove in after it, emerging wet and indignant. “We’re not animals,” he said to the can-thrower, shaking the dripping PBR logo in the kid’s face. “Recycle, you puke-muncher!”
The kid giggled. They always did the first time they heard Sid fake-swear. At home, shouted curse words dominated the bulk of Sid’s family interactions, so he’d come up with a huge repertoire of insults that didn’t technically qualify as swears. It was a small act of rebellion that went largely unnoticed by his parents.
Kris Dinnison learned to read when she was five years old. She grew up reading books nobody else had read and listening to music nobody else had heard of and thinking she was weird, which she kind of was. She spent nearly two decades as a teacher and librarian while dreaming of becoming a writer. Now she lives and writes in Spokane, Washington. Her first novel, You and Me and Him, came out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July, 2015.
Patrick Ryan on Momentum
Sid and Leo are best friends who are standing on a precipice: one of them is about to move away; the other is going to stay behind. They’ve spent many a night in Sid’s Pacer—driving around, sipping beer, playing “Truth or Dare” to help pass the time. They always choose “dare” because it’s the riskier, more interesting choice.
Choosing “truth” can be risky too, can’t it? Sid and Leo are about to find out.
When I asked Kris Dinnison, author of our new issue, to describe “Momentum” in one word, I thought she might say that the story is about “friendship” or even “secrets.” But what she said was “authenticity.” One Teen Story is proud to introduce you to Sid and Leo. Climb into Sid’s Pacer, and get ready for an authentic ride into the most honest night of their friendship.
Q&A by Patrick Ryan
PR: Where did the idea for this story come from?
KD: I originally wrote the story for a benefit I did for Humanities Washington, an event called Bedtime Stories. The theme was “A Hard Day’s Night.” So I started thinking about what kind of evening would qualify. I started thinking about the nights I remembered as being both wonderful and also memorable. Most of them revolved around endings and beginnings: the night before I moved to California in high school, graduation night, the night before my wedding, events like that. And they almost all involved fun, kind of crazy stuff but also some big, deep discussions about life and the universe and the meaning of it all.
PR: When is this story? The first time I read it, I found myself wondering if we were in the 80s, or the 90s, or the oughts, or now. The more I wondered, the more I grew to like the fact that the story feels somewhat timeless. But when were you envisioning its taking place?
KD: I’m glad you feel that way! I was definitely inspired by my teenage self in the 1980s, but the conversation Sid and Leo have would have been really rare then. When I was in high school there were kids we thought might be gay, but I only knew one kid who was actually out. AIDS was new and people were scared in all kinds of unreasonable ways and I think people tended to come out when they were older, which is what a lot of my friends did. So when I wrote the story I thought of it being a more modern take on their friendship.
PR: Did you ever consider having Sid react differently to Leo’s big “reveal”?
KD: I did. I tried a few different reactions, and certainly there are some that would have ramped up the tension in the story. But ultimately I was writing a short story, not a novel, and I didn’t want it to be a tragedy. I wanted to write a story about a friendship on the cusp of all kinds of changes, and about how those guys were going to respond to and survive those changes, hopefully with the friendship intact. I think I also had in my mind that Leo leaving for college was actually a bigger threat to their friendship than his coming out.
PR: And did you ever consider telling the story from Sid’s point of view, instead of from Leo’s? It struck me that it would be an excellent writing challenge: write another version of this same story, but from Sid’s point of view.
KD: I did try it with Sid’s POV, and I liked that angle. But I think I identified more with Leo. In most of my friendships, I feel like I’m the sidekick to my more charismatic, dynamic friends. Like Leo, I’m not wild or wacky or larger than life. At the same time, those friends spend time with me because of what I am, not because of what I’m not. I know I’m important to them; friendships like those are always symbiotic.
PR: Finish this sentence in just one word—the word you think best captures it: “This story is about __________.”
KD: Oh wow! Okay. This story is about authenticity. That was hard.
PR: What are you working on now?
KD: I’m fast-drafting a new novel and revising one I’ve been working on for a little over a year. Revising is hard for me. It reminds me of all the things I don’t know about writing. I’m always working on short stories as well.
PR: What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?
KD: There are so many, and what feels like the most important advice changes depending on what I’m working on or struggling with. But probably the two best pieces of advice for me are from Neil Gaiman: “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” And from Anne Lamott: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” These two quotes have pushed me to finish things I would have abandoned in despair (including my debut novel!) and freed me to write terribly, since writing terribly is better than not writing at all.