Friday, January 08, 2010


When my right boot was on, and the left one was poised at the tip of a toe I said to David, “Maybe I should warn you that you are in the story I’m telling tonight.”
Story Café was starting in an hour and we were within moments of leaving the house.
“Oh no,” he said. “Don’t tell me.”
I was kind of glad to hear him say that. Really, I didn’t want to tell him, but at the last minute it seemed like I ought to give him some warning. After all, he’s a really good guy who supports everything I do in storytelling. Any time I earn a dollar at it he has generally spent two to make it possible. He arranges his holidays around the festivals I want to go to. He comes home earlier than usual on Story Café nights. So I owe him a lot. Trouble is, I tell a few stories about myself, and it’s hard to tell stories about yourself without making mention of a guy who’s been the main person in your life for 37 years.
“Well tell me,” he said. I guess I shouldn’t have taken him literally when he said not to tell him.
The thing about stories, I mean true stories, is that the facts sometimes fall a little short of supporting the truth—I mean, short of supporting the truth in a manner that makes a really good story. And what is the point of telling any story to people who’ve paid to be at a story event if it isn’t going to be a really good story? So sometimes you have to work with the facts a bit, just bring in facts that really could have happened, knowing the big picture, maybe using a fact or two that didn’t happen on the day that is the day in the story. And sometimes you don’t remember exactly what people said, I mean maybe you know what they might have meant if they had tried to say something, so you use some interesting words they probably said some time.
“You might find some of the facts to be a little different than you remember them,” I warned. I felt it was fair to give him a little warning. I hadn’t wanted to warn him, but then I worried that he might feel the need to adjust the story while I was telling it. That could be disturbing to the other listeners at the café table. Actually, I might have left him out altogether if I hadn’t been thinking of the other listeners. I knew that if he was with me and wasn’t in the story, they’d surely be wondering why he wasn’t in the story. It’s so complicated, this storytelling business.
He really wasn’t much in the story. The theme of the evening was Snow and Other Flakes. The story was about Sir John Franklin who got lost looking for the Northwest Passage, Lady Jane Franklin the wife who made Sir John famous, and a really stupid thing I once did. My husband wasn’t mentioned in the first draft, but somehow the whole thing didn’t seem to balance out if the Franklins were a couple and I was a single.
“You’re not much in the story,” I said reassuringly.
He didn’t say anything. I thought perhaps I hadn’t convinced him. I tried again. “You really have a small part, a bit part I’d say.”
“Mmmmmmhmmmmmmm!” he said. He said it in that all-expressive way that tells you a lot. Loosely translated, it meant, “You’re going to pay for this.”
Too late I recognized the trap I’d set myself. If he had to be in a story, he’d better be important. What does it mean if you’re not important in a story told by somebody for whom you’ve been the main man over 37 years?
“The story’s about me,” I said, seeing the need for a remedy. “How can a story be about me without also being about you?” I smiled a smile that I hoped was a seductive, flattering smile. Actually, I’ve never been much good with facial expressions.
“We’re going to be late if you don’t put on your other boot,” he said. He’s always a practical man when it comes to getting to Story Café. And even though he later said that it had been a good story, I do believe that it must be very difficult to be married to a storyteller.

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