Yesterday, DMP informed me that each of my stories sounds like it is just the set-up to an actual story. Every time I finish one, he is apparently left waiting for the action to begin. I don’t tell stories, I tell situations.
When pressed, he admitted it’s endearing. (“But don’t you like that about me?” “Not really.” “But, if I died, wouldn’t you miss it?” “Um…yes.”) I think it’s an interesting character trait. Something I will keep an eye (ear) on. Pay attention to what my “stories” want to be, and whether they seem complete.
In celebration! of endearing character traits, here are a few actual stories I have told him recently…and then the endings I am inventing now to fulfill him (and whoever else jumps on this train).
1. The Misplaced Priest
“The Hayward Daily Review had a story today about how, sometimes, when priests are accused of things like inappropriate behavior around children, and stuff, sometimes the Catholic Church just sends them away to faraway countries where they are already doing outreach and missions and stuff. And there was this picture of a priest who was accused a few a years ago, and in the picture he’s in like Venezuela or somewhere, and he’s holding this little boy, and there are two more standing next to him, and they’re all under 5 years old and they’re all just wearing shorts, and he’s got this look, like, this half smile on his face, and I’m like, This is a bad idea, right? Does this guy not look exactly like Ronnie McGorvey in Little Children?”
This is where my story originally ended. But maybe DMP would have been happier had it gone on:
“So then Craig says, You know what? My favorite cousin down in Santa Barbara is a Catholic priest. And about 8 years ago one of the families in his church got in trouble, and he helped them personally as well as through the church, with money and food, and he even let them stay with him for a week or so, a single mother and her two boys. Eventually she got back on her feet and she was very grateful and gracious. Now one of the sons is like 18 or 19, and is calling my cousin asking him for more money. My cousin keeps saying no, he’s helped them a lot, he’s not exactly well-off by anyone’s standards, and this kid doesn’t need money, he just wants money. So a couple weeks ago my cousin calls my parents and tells them that this 18-year-old kid said he is going to go to the police and say that my cousin abused the two kids all those years ago, which is absolutely not true. So he’s dealing with the possibility of this accusation – which would be devastating even if unfounded – and he’s thinking about just resigning before things get messy and saving himself the trouble.
“But then he finds out through one of his superiors that he’s been talking to about this, that the church is looking for a few priests to send to Afghanistan to do outreach there, and even before this mess with the 18-year-old he was praying about a way to reach out to more people. He had even been thinking about going over to the Middle East, or to Africa, and trying to do some work there. Building wells or whatever, helping people, like priests do. So he talked to whoever is in charge and now he’s working on all the paperwork and going through the process to fly over there and minister to people. And he’s not running away from guilt or from fear. He’s going because he felt called to go, and now he’s even wondering if this kid was just the one last sign from God that he needed to take the plunge.”
I figure in a good, full story you always learn a lesson, and my lesson in this story is not to judge people by a single picture in a newspaper, even when accompanied by a pretty thorough article and some pretty compelling evidence.
2. The Case of the Rude Driver (Installment 35 of 119 – I seem to often have “stories” about rude drivers)
“Dude, so all the roads in Mill Valley were flooded from the rain and high tides today, and so everyone is driving really slow. And there’s this part of the road where it splits into two lanes for like an eighth of a mile, so more people can fit behind the traffic light, and I was driving carefully through this sort of deep water, when a red jeep zooms by me on the right, and splashes a huge tidal wave of mud over my car. My windshield wipers had a hard time cleaning it off. And now my car is coated with this film of dirty skanky gutter water.”
“So, I freaked out, because on top of being rude, it was really dangerous, and I decided, the heck with my calltime, I can be a little late today. And I followed that jeep for about 6 miles out toward Stinson Beach. They finally pulled over, and I got a little scared, because I thought maybe they were ready for a confronation and would jump out of the car with a crowbar or something. But when no one got out of the car I turned my car off and got out (carefully, expecting an ambush). I walked up to the driver’s side and looked in the window, and there in the driver’s seat was a 9-months-pregnant woman! I knocked on her window and she rolled it down but I could hear her Lamaze breathing even before that. “Do you need help?” I asked her. She nodded, fearfully. But luckily I had my emergency first-aid kit in the car, along with plenty of distilled water and road flares. I set it all up, called the hospital and had them send out an ambulance, and decided to wait with her and talk quietly to keep her calm.
“That probably would have worked, but she had waited too long before leaving her work, because she wanted to stay long enough for her workday to count as a whole day, and not waste a half-sickday. So she was already pretty far along. I ended up delivering that baby on the side of Hwy 1, right before the ambulance arrived. Thank goodness! They took care of it from there, but I made sure they had my name and phone number, and she promised to call me. She also hinted that she was thinking about naming her baby after me, but it was a boy, bless him, and I told her it’s okay if she wants to go with something more traditionally male.”
This story has action, suspense, a hero, and new beginnings. How can you not love it?
3. Fergie Who?
“Today, in Safeway, Fergie was on the cover of a magazine, looking hot as usual, and the woman behind me in line was studying the cover pretty intently. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her glancing at me a couple times too, and finally she asked me, “Is that Fergie, who was married to Prince Andrew?” I said, “Oh, no, that’s Fergie the singer, from the Black Eyed Peas.” “Well, I didn’t think she was that nice redhead!” she said, sounding relieved.
Okay, even I know that’s not a story. But I would still totally tell it to someone like it was. What is wrong with me?
“Fergie the Duchess is a lovely person,” she went on, “just lovely.”
“You know The Duchess of York?” I asked her, being kind since I was still third in line and the person at the register was still trying to remember their phone number.
“Oh yes,” she said, now turning to face me full on. “Well, I used to date Prince Andrew before their marriage, so we met several times, and then we would get together and she would ask me how I dealt with certain habits of his…”
“What type of habits?” I asked.
“Well, he would clip his toenails in the bathtub but forget to rinse them down the drain,” she said, “and he would never finish a bottle or carton of anything – he always left just a half-inch in the bottom, not even enough for a full glass. So irritating.” She sighed. “Fergie – the duchess Fergie – would call me up sometimes and ask how I ever put up with it.”
“That is very interesting,” I said.
“You know Andrew told me once that he didn’t like redheads. Just thought it was unnatural. That’s why I always took care to keep my hair very dark. To blend in.”
“Wow,” I said. “So that’s why they got divorced.”
“Yes,” she said. “That’s why.”
And then it was my turn at the register and I scanned my way through quickly. Before leaving I turned back and did a little half-wave to the crazy brunette behind me in line. “It was nice talking to you,” I said.
“Don’t eat any underripe persimmons,” she said back to me, and I left.