“Tell me a story” I told him nudging his leg with my foot.
I was bored laying on the couch, looking out the window. I had been there all afternoon, sprawled across the cushions, one hand above my head idly twisting my hair into curls. I lay there watching him read. He loved to read, but I loved to hear him tell stories. For his birthday I gave him an ink pen and a notebook of organic paper. “To write your stories in” I wrote on the front page. The book and pen sat on his desk still.
He glanced at me sideways and went back to his book.
“Tell me a story”, I told him again. “Puh-lease”, I whined like a child. He grunted and put his book down, placing my feet back in his lap.
“What sort of story?”
“One of your stories.”
“I don’t tell good stories, you know that”.
I frowned at him and furrowed my brow and made whimpering sounds. I know that makes him nauseous to see me pretend and try to pursued him, but he always gives in.
“Ok” he said.
I smiled and settled into the cushions, one finger finding a new curl. Today he told me about a man who was on a journey to Milwaukee. On the way he meet many strange characters; a minister who was hitchhiking, a pregnant woman running away from her trucker husband, and a runaway eight year old boy. The man would ask each character their story when he agreed to give them a ride. He would listen to them and try to understand them. He would live their lives for that part of the trip as they told them about their adventures. The man listened to the people he picked up and showed compassion for them. They in return gave him a vicarious life, and the man was content.
Another time he told me a story about a princess in a kingdom far away. She refused to marry because she loved no one. Her father became angry and threatened to force her to marry, so the princess held a contest. “The man who can tell me a story that makes me both laugh and cry as well as think and dream, that is the man I will marry”. Men from all over the kingdom came to the princess and told her stories. She heard stories all day, but none could make her laugh or cry. None could challenge her mind or send her into a world where she did not need to think. A year went by and the king began to think his daughter would never marry. A peasant came to court to tell the princess his story. Everyone scoffed at him, telling him he was too low and too stupid to tell her a story that would make her laugh and cry, dream and think. The peasant told her a story. It was a story so rich and so gentle that it made the princess laugh and cry, dream and think. She married the peasant and they loved each other forever.
Once, he asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I laughed and told him “fill for me a brimming bowl full of stories”. I knew he wouldn’t. He shook his head and walked away. I could never make him laugh.
I woke up on my birthday and went downstairs. On the kitchen table sat a large blue bowl. A hundred sheets of paper ripped out of a book must have laid inside it. They were stapled into different groups, spilling over the sides. I choose a paper and read it. It was a story about a young girl who loved stories. I sat there and read them all, one at a time. They were all stories about people who loved stories, they were stories about storytellers trying to win over the man or woman they loved.
I picked up the final story. It was about a man who loved a woman, but he didn’t know how to win her love. He told her stories about herself. Sometimes he would cast her as a young girl or an old man. Sometimes she was a minister or a cafeteria lady, but the stories were always about her. One day, he asked the woman how he could win her love. She told him “fill for me a brimming bowl full of stories”. The man was sad because he could not write his stories down. When he put them onto paper, he over thought them, and they became jaded and he hated them. He knew he could never win her love. On the night before her marriage to another man, he had an idea. He spoke his stories into a tape recorder and then played them back to write them onto paper. He wrote her pages and pages of stories. Early in the morning, before dawn, on the day of her wedding, he went to her house. He let himself in the front door, and placed a bowl full of stories on her kitchen counter.
He filled for me a brimming bowl full of love.