There is one moment in every writer's life when they make that fateful choice and decide that they are writers. It means showing something you've written to someone besides those close to you. The second it's handed over, there's no turning back. No way to ever make those words unread again.
I was sixteen and pretty damn sure of myself. So my debut came in the form of final assignment in Driver's Ed. sophomore year of High School. The project was to plan and budget a cross-country trip. Simple task.
My best friend was my partner. (That friend later would make appearances as characters in both Pure Sunshine and Dirty Liar). For the last two weeks of school, the entire class time was given for us to work on this. We tried to do the assignment, we really did. But it was hot and we were bored. So we started to joke around and make up this crazy story. I started to write it down. Over the next two weeks, I would work on it at home. My friend and I would spend the class time reading it and cracking up. When it came time to turn in the project, we turned in this story.
It was kind of bold, since it would count for a 1/3 of both of our grades. Plus, to that point, only my two best friends had ever read anything that I'd written. So I really had no real gauge to judge whether or not I was a actually a good writer. But as I said, I was pretty damn sure of myself.
Here's the first opening bit of what I turned in....(the whole thing was something like 32 pages long):
Cross Country Manual
Shootn' the shit! Shootn' the shit everyday of summer vacation can really get to a person. It got to me and my pal, Pericles DeMoonshine one day. But we decided that we were going to do something about it. We weren't just going to sit back for another two months and then start the whole vicious school cycle again. "Nope. Now Way," we said. But what could we do? Then like a speedin' bullet the thought came to us . . . let's run away and travel Cross Country.
We began planning and planning at a speed so fast it became dangerous. I could hardly comprehend the ideas me and Pericles were throwing at each other. First we'd need a car. We both had recently got our licenses, but neither of us had a car. To get money, we pooled our resources. Between the two of us, we had $72.57. Not even enough to buy a go-cart. Well, we were determined to make this happen. We would simply have to sell some of our possessions to get capital.
What to sell; what to save; what was needed; what was unnecessary? These were the questions that plagued me and Pericles for the next few days. It took that long before we were willing to make the sacrifices needed. Such sacrifices included selling my brother's VCR, my mother's television and personal computer, my little siblings Nintendo, all their games, all their books, half of my CD collection, half my wardrobe, and all the furniture I could get out of my room unsuspectingly. Pericles sold his stereo, his TV, his Sega Genesis and CDs, his furniture, and a brass eagle his mother possessed. Now our resources totaled $2564.03.
We gathered our belongins' and set out to purchase the perfect cross-country vehickle. We found it in a brand-new RangeRover. Seeing as how we couldn't afford it, we purchased a '76 Mr. Frosty Mobile. It was a little run-down but never-the-less it was a Class A buy. We loaded the gear and hooked up Pericles's BOOMIN' BAZOOKA speaker system. I think we ripped off that sleazy '70's throwback used car salesman, Teddy. All that was left to do was to throw on the new Radials and pick a destination.
The trip took us to a Mexican prison, to Cleveland to see Don Mattingly go 3 for 4 with 5 RBIs against the Indians, a fictional town named Redneck Leck just outside of Chatanooga, and a meeting with former WWF Wrestler: Ace Cowboy Bob Orton. In brief, it was epic and it thoroughly documented our dwindling finances and detailed the milage and road routes we followed.
A few days later, our insane Gym Teacher/ Driver's Ed teacher came up to us and asked, "Are you two the ones who wrote that crazy story?" We nodded sheepishly. "I liked that," he said. "It was crazy."
We got an A on the project and from then on, I decided I was a writer.
P.S. I showed this story to my older brother a few days after and the one comment I remember him making was: "You do know it's vehicle, not vehickle, right?"