The Story Behind the Story: Mea Culpa

I pulled from a few very real experiences when I wrote Mea Culpa. The first came from my ever-humorous dating life in my twenties. On a first “date” (we were introduced by a mutual friend at a bar, and we decided to take a walk while our compatriots kept the stools warm), I told a lie. I told a really weird lie.

The man, who was a chef-t0-be, asked, “Do you eat meat?”

I said, “Not really.”

Why that came out of my mouth is a complete mystery to me. Maybe because it was the nineties. Maybe I said that because we needed to reduce-reuse-recycle; because we were thinking globally and acting locally; because meat was murder. Or maybe I’m just awkward and inexplicable.

Cut to the chase. Several months of salivating over his culinary school creations while I nibbled on the side dishes provided a bulk of this story’s surface.

The other part of the veneer came from my time office-hopping in the legal world. There’s a typical dynamic, I think, present in most American office spaces. It’s rooted in desperation and absurdity, and I tried to bring some of that pageantry and hierarchical silliness into this story. It plays well with any theme of dishonesty.

Underneath all of that, though, is the core experience that I wanted to talk about without talking about it in a maudlin manner: trying to be someone you’re not in order to hold onto someone or something.

I think a lot of us can identify with a feeling of wanting very badly to be the right fit — whether it’s in a relationship or a job — and temporarily turning yourself into a lunatic through bizarre, Herculean efforts. And then failing at it anyhow. That’s where this story lives for me.

If I was trying to accomplish something when I wrote Mea Culpa, it’s what I’m always trying to accomplish when I write. I want to reach out through the muck and grey of living, and I want to hold every hand that needs grasping and whisper into all of the ears, “Hey, it’s okay. Me too.”

I want to make people smile.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Advice / Suggestions Essays/Articles (all) Featured Fiction New Fiction Interviews (all) Flash Talk Flash Audio Series Most Popular
Sort by

“Solstice Means Stillness”

Nearly a
2018-03-26 16:00:49


“Solstice Means Stillness”

A decade ago, I promised myself I’d spend summer solstice in the brightest part of the world. It wasn’t so much a buc
2017-06-20 23:36:56


“Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures”: An Interview with Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smith’s new novel, Desperation Road (Lee Boudreaux Books) comes on the heels of his
2017-02-06 23:10:26


“Mea Culpa”

One time, I lied about being a vegetarian. Jan, the office manager, had seen me with a grilled cheese
2016-08-29 06:04:15


“Blue Meat”

When Beth started the paleo diet, her
2015-06-11 17:09:07


“Lean & Mean-ing: Flash Fiction as Compromise Between Digital Impatience and Search for Meaning”

Studying creative writing, in particular fiction, is about more than just learning how to invent stories or passing
2015-05-23 06:18:54


Flash Audio Series: “Blue Meat”

2014-09-15 18:38:37


“Marital Counseling”

“We’re out of sync. I need more than talk to prove that you love me,” said the wife. The degree of brain activ
2019-04-17 09:07:18


“Alpha Bravo Charlie”

Alpha, he says, as we lie on the mattress one morning during the days I want to know everything about
2019-04-08 07:29:51


“When Gravity Lets Go”

For the better part of two hours, as you’ve sat at his bedside, your father has made perfect sense, each
2019-04-04 09:38:13


About Angela Denk

Angela Denk is a freelance writer who lives just outside of Chicago. She studied creative writing at Murray State University in Kentucky. Her fiction has appeared in Falling Star Magazine and The Sonder Review.