Tag Archives: storytelling

The Man On The Train

26 Jan

By the time I got onto the train I was exhausted. I’d been up until almost midnight finishing my packing, and when I’d woken up I’d forgotten where I’d packed my passport. The cab had been late and there had been an accident on the highway. I had made it to the train station with seconds to spare.

I  was so tired it hurt. As the train started pulling out of the station I relaxed gratefully into my seat and closed my eyes. I was almost asleep when I became aware of movement near me. I opened my eyes to see an old man sitting down opposite me. He was tall and skinny with long white hair and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. As I said good morning to him, he stared at me in a disconcerting way. I closed my eyes again.

A couple of minutes later I opened my eyes to see the old man still staring at me.

“Can I help you?” I asked, feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

He kept staring at me in silence – the kind of silence that gets louder and louder with each passing second.

All of a sudden, he spoke in a deep Southern accent that I really had concentrate on to understand him. What he said took me completely by surprise.

“My maw was making gravy for the chicken when my paw died.”

“Oh,” I said hesitantly. Then, because I felt that I had to, I asked, “What happened?”

“Well,” he said, in his peculiar gravelly voice. “I was just a boy then. I just come in from the fields with Paw. The chicken and the potatoes and all was already done, and Maw had the gravy in this jug, beatin’ it with a wooden spoon like she was trying to punish it.

“All’s a sudden, the dog barks outside, right outside the window. Maw gets a fright and drops the jug. The jug bounces on the counter, and gravy goes everywhere. Some of it splatters on the cat that’s sittin’ on top of the ’fridgerator. The cat gets a fright and jumps right onto Paw’s back. And Paw is spinning round and around, tryin’ to get the cat off his back. He loses his footin’, topples over and hits his head on the corner of the stove – one of them old cast-iron stoves. By the time he hit the floor he was a goner.”

As he finished the story, the old man buried his face in his hands. I felt a stab of compassion for him. What a terrible thing for a young boy to witness. But then the old man looked up again and I realized he was laughing.

“It was the most ridic’lous sight,” he said, slapping his knee with mirth. “My old man, drunk as a lord, spinning around with a cat on his back. Butt-ugly cat it was too!”

The old man was laughing so hard that he was choking and wheezing, and tears were streaming from his bright blue eyes.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely taken with the story. And then, because I’d been watching Murder Mysteries while packing the previous night, I asked, “What did the police say when they came? Did they believe you and your Mom when you told them what happened?”

“Well now,” the old man whispered conspiratorially as he leaned forward. “We never actually called the ’thorities. We couldn’t, you see. Far as everyone in town was concerned, Paw had already been dead for years.

“You see, he had one of them fancy life insurance things. So when we was down on our luck one year, he burned out his tractor and Maw reported him missing. Last seen drivin’ off in the tractor, that’s what she told the sheriff. They didn’t have no fancy ways to prove nothin’ back then, so they just assumed he was dead. Maw got a pile of cash and Paw just stayed hidden. No-one ever came to see us, so as long as Paw was in the house or on his fields, we was OK.”

“So when he died, what did you do with – um – you know, him?” I asked. This story was unreal.

“Down past the apple trees, there was a big clump of dogwood trees, belonging to the neighbours. There was all kinds of bushes and plants growing under the trees. The bush was so thick under there, it was like a jungle. When I needed someplace to hide as a boy, I’d go there. No grown person could get in through all of those bushes and trees and stuff.

“We waited until nightfall, then Maw helped me put Paw on the wheelbarrow. He kept fallin’ off, but finally we got him to that clump of bushes and trees. We got Paw off that wheelbarrow, and I climbed in under them bushes.  Maw pushed, I pulled, and we got him in there. No-one would ever find him there.”

The old man paused. He seemed to be immensely proud of his story. Clearly, his conscience was not bothered by things like insurance fraud and the concealment of human remains.

“But what if your neighbours decided to cut down the trees?” I blurted out, suddenly worried on behalf of the small boy from long ago.

“Why would they do that?” asked the old man, incredulously. “If they cut down all the dogwood trees, where will the raptors live?”

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, pamela challenged me with "If they cut down all the dogwood trees, where will the raptors live?" and I challenged Seeking Elevation with "In the Canadian city of Toronto, it is illegal to drag a dead horse down the street before midnight. Tell a story – real or fictional – about how this law came to be."

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The Princess And The Dragon

8 Jun

A few days ago, I was play-wrestling with my kids in the living room. They were beating me hands-downs. I mean, it’s hardly a fair contest, is it? There are two of them and one of me, so I was at a mathematical disadvantage right from the outset.

So anyway, there we were, rolling around on the floor. I was lying face-down trying not to choke on bits of carpet. James was sitting on my legs poking his very pointy elbows into my back. And George was trying to pull my head off my neck. All of a sudden, James lost his balance, rolled off me, and bumped his head lightly on the table.

Instantly, the wrestling came to an end (much to my relief, it must be said) and James started screaming in outrage, underscoring the theory that he was born with the drama queen gene that runs in my husband’s family. When I had managed to calm him down and convince him that not only was he not bleeding to death, he hadn’t even broken the skin, he said to me, “Do you know how much that hurt?”

“How much did that hurt?” I obligingly asked him.

He replied, “That hurt more than a pickle falling on my eyeball.”

James’ use of words is just incredible. His extensive vocabulary coupled with a colourful imagination results in word pictures unlike anything I’d be able to come up with. I mean, a pickle falling on your eyeball? How do you even think of that?

It beats the time we asked him to tell us a story, and he said, “Once upon a time there was a poo. The end.”

His imagination clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day, although for a week after that, I couldn’t get the South Park song “ Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo” out of my head.

More often than not, though, James does come up with really creative stories. It used to be that he would provide the plot and I would turn it into a coherent story, but now he doesn’t even need me to do that.

Yesterday evening, while I was cooking dinner, James was sitting at my desk busily working away with a piece of paper and a pencil. When he was done drawing, he joined me in the kitchen, showed me his picture, which depicted a girl standing at the window of a castle and a dragon flying by, and solemnly said, “I am going to tell you a story about this picture.”

I sat down with my boy and listened as he spun a wonderful tale…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. She had long black hair and the prettiest dresses in the whole wide world. One day, Dragon came to visit the princess. She wasn’t scared, because this was a friendly dragon and she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She took him to the back yard, and gave him tea and cookies.

The dragon told the princess that he wanted her to give him one of her pretty dresses. The princess asked why he wanted a dress, and he told her it was a surprise.

The princess had lots and lots of dresses, so she gave one to the dragon. He finished his tea, played in the sandpit, and then left with the dress in a plastic bag.

The next day, the dragon came back, and he had the handsomest prince in the world with him. The dragon said, “You were lonely so I made you a prince to marry. And my granny turned your pretty dress into a wedding dress.”

The prince and the princess loved each other, and the princess put on the pretty wedding dress, and they got married.

The end.

Personally, I think the princess was kind of slutty to get married to someone she didn’t know, but I still think it’s a lovely story.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pathfinderlinden/3118654532/)