Things that almost happened

My grandmother once saw a large moose while she was waiting outside of a gas station. She’d just done her necessary business, and was stretching her legs a bit. Soon, her family would join her and they would continue the road to wherever it was they were going.

But in that brief, beautiful moment, she spotted a moose. She was amazed. And, as luck would have it, she had her camera. In preparing the camera to capture the moment (this was back when you had to take off the lens cap), the moose trotted away.

Rather than waste the preparation – it took a while to properly focus the camera, after all – she took a picture of the scenery. When she was showing the pictures later, it came to be known as “the picture of where the moose used to be.”

I don’t have the actual photo, but it was something like this. A barren stretch, maybe with some trees, but definitely no moose.

This is legend within our family. Maybe I’m not telling all of the details exactly right, but ask anyone on my mom’s side about where the moose was, and they all know about the picture. It’s almost a picture of a moose, but you wouldn’t know it without the back story. It’s the story that makes the picture worthwhile.

It is possible that there are an infinite number of missed moments like this. We walk past a park bench where two people almost got engaged. We drive past a bridge that a truck almost crashed into (I actually saw this “almost” the other day, and was so glad it didn’t happen). We look into the woods and see a place where a deer was just standing a moment ago, before it ran away.

Stories are generally about things that actually happen. Yes, the people who were on the Titanic experienced a great tragedy, but what about the person who missed the boat? There’s a story there, too. Today, I’m taking my inspiration from all of the “might have beens,” “almost happeneds”, and “could still bes” to see where my imagination can take me. I’m looking for just the right missed moment that makes a compelling story.

What almost happened to you today? To your characters? And what might — or might not — happen next?

Happy writing!

Photo of moose by Steve on
Photo of gas station by Mahkeo on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Things that almost happened

  1. Interesting concept—- the “my grandfather missed the Titanic” was Latin teacher, Beth McCaffrey’s family story as published in the A Beacon Journ this last year.

    I had one where in a snow-ice situation I slid off the edge of the road by a railroad on Fairchild, and when I jerked the wheels back onto the road, I slid sideways and kept going on bald tires until my car stopped across both lanes with on-coming traffic. Sitting helplessly watching a car trying to stop so as not to cream me nor get rear-ended and not being able to do anything to stop my car— roller coasters are fun; impending crash doom is not!!

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