Every self help group in the world would have you list all of your accomplishments. I have limited myself to: being able to fold a fitted sheet.
When time and tides swept me in to the mire of madness and depression and a string (a small string) of hospitals and treatments; I left behind my young son. He didn’t and doesn’t understand doesn’t know me.
That was forty years ago. Forty years ago I penned a series of fairy tales. In those very simple, crude tales I told him about all the things that I, truly, believed in, what I valued and what I hoped to leave him. He never received them, but I’ve carried them in my head and my heart for forty years; and oh how they have grown. I hope that for you, they will have a life of their own. I do know that they were always intended to be shared.
The Major and Darcy Weaver
“Miss Weaver,” the Major spoke to the young woman’s back. Expecting a more immediate response to his address, he raised his voice to a more commanding tone, a more comfortable tone, for a Marine Corp officer, “Miss Weaver!”
“I answer to ‘Darcy’, Major, my mother was ‘Miss Weaver’ “, Darcy continued her walk to the VW bus.
“Miss…Darcy, what the hell are we doing here?”
With her head in the back seat of the bus her response seemed to echo, “You’re here to lose a Storytelling competition and I’m here to help you write about the experience. Ah…here they are.” Darcy threw several pieces of clothing at the Major, dug further through a collection of what appeared to be last week’s laundry. “Yes, the hat…needs feathers, big, dumb feathers. Feathers, where are the feathers…here? no…no…yes, yes…no, break one?…YES.”
The Major had no idea what was happening, or whatever was going through her mind.
The bus seemed to be swallowing Darcy up as less and less of her was visible and the pile of last week’s laundry seemed to be growing.
The bus, a poly-chrome green, well it was more like Jackson Pollack discovering every shade of green while designing a mobile Rorschach test, green. It blended nicely with the trees that framed the parking area and yet not camouflaged; the Major, Darcy and the bus were alone in the early morning hours. But those hours of solitude were swiftly passing as more vehicles arrived.
The cars, trucks and RVs filled the parking area. The Major couldn’t see an exit, his pulse quickened; all the voices around began to blend into a maddening cacophony. What were they saying? What language? He heard the scream again, who screamed?
No one else responded…The Major couldn’t breathe, in the cool of this mountain morning sweat was rolling down his brow, burning his eyes.
A small, gentle hand rested on his shoulder, “Major, in the bus, you’ve got to change.”
“Change?” The word didn’t register.
“Yeah, change, take off the khakis and put on someone else, like the costume, the one you’re holding, become a storyteller…and don’t forget the hat…the hat sells it…and oh those feathers, love the feathers.” Darcy almost swooned at the thought of the feathers. The Major wondered which of the two of them had problems.
The Major climbed in the bus and noticed for the first time the garments he held; a forest green velvet coat, Edwardian style, brown wool trousers that resembled tree bark, with purple paisley braces, an off-white ruffled front shirt with lace cuffs, a tattered brown ascot, olive green sneakers with, international distress orange laces and The hat…a scarlet colored felt beef eater style, oversized…with feathers. There were peacock tail feathers, one bent up, like a thin, colorful check mark and bright yellow-orange flight feathers pointing…down.
Just before emerging from the Rorschach test of a bus, he opened the door and asked, “What’s the bus’ name?” Why did I do that, she’s going to tell me…it’s going to have a name, I know it’s going to have a name.
“Donnenel.” Came the answer.
“What’s a ‘Donnenel’?” Why am I doing this to myself? The Major thought.
“A very lazy elf, he was a mess. Let me see what you look like, let me see.”
The Major began to make his way through the pile of last week’s laundry that was the back seat of the, ever so green, VW bus when a scream stopped him. “What are those, WHAT ARE THOSE, THOSE THINGS?”
As only his left foot had managed to make itself visible at that time, “You mean my socks? These ARE your shoes.” He didn’t remember Darcy having size 11 feet so they really might not be ‘her’ shoes.
Not willing to face that yell again, he removed the olive green sneakers and then the regulation military issue khaki socks and replaced the shoes, sans socks.
“Better, they ruin the look.” She tugged at the tail of his coat, pulled a sleeve down just a hair and stepped back to admire her handy work, “Much much better.” The Major just raised one eye brow, the left, just enough to be discernable as he gave her a look.
“How has your prep been going, what have you done?” She asked as she stepped back a pace to view him again.
“I’ve been reading all of Anderson’s, spent a weekend in B&N in their children’s section looking at contemporary things, I think I was being taken for a pedophile, and I don’t know…I don’t really get it. Storytelling.”
Darcy slowly lifted her violet eyes from a speck of lint on his lapel, her back straightened, her hands in fists, rested squarely on her hips as she spoke and from the tone of her voice, he had no doubt who was in command. “Most people will tell you that there are five elements of storytelling. The setting: where the story’s taking place. The character: This is whom the story is about. Plot: what’s happening. Backstory: what happened before and how did it contribute to the current situation. Detail: which specific things should your audience notice.
“That’s all well and good, but when you are telling a story, not reading it aloud, not reciting a thing you’ve rehearsed over and over ’til it’s perfect. Storytelling is about taking your audience someplace else. Your biggest problem is figuring how you’re going to get them there, Major.
“We’re here to write an article about you losing a competition, a competition that no one has won in 37 years, because no member of the judging panel has ever been taken left this field, no one has gone ‘somewhere else’ . You’re going to tell a story…you may lose, BUT, know this; you’ll walk back to Mountain View if you just quit.
“There are your judges, four very ill tweens, six vets; who like you are wounded, their scars are on the outside and that smiling little girl, blind since birth. So…show me what you got soldier and it better be your best.”
What have I got? You want a story that has hope, courage and paints pictures in the mind, he thought to himself.
“That’s what storytellers do. And you forgot heart, gotta have heart.” The Major never noticed Darcy was responding to just his thoughts.
“Darcy”, speaking softly, almost a whisper, “Darcy I don’t know that I have any of that…not any.”
“You forget, Major you’re someone else, you’re the storyteller. You’ve got every story that you’ve ever heard, every dream you’ve ever dreamed to draw on. Wasn’t there a time that you wanted to, had to, tell someone something, something important, and a story was the best of all possible ways, the only way, to say it. A story for a child, an elder, someone you loved, for someone who was loved?”
The Major knew that in his life there were only the five letters, letters to the families of the men that were with him, with him then, and their responses. Those responses he had never opened. Afraid to accept that his letters failed to tell the story well, tell who their sons and daughter were; to him, to each other, to so much more than their country. Not knowing that without those replies, the story would never be complete.
“No, no never.” His head turned to the side, looking off in the distance at…nothing.
“Well, you’re going to today.”
The lighthearted lilt returning to her voice, “You might think that Major Quickstep doesn’t have enough of that, but today, today you are Shaman, and that is your stock and trade. I mean would the Major ever dress like that? What’s your first name, and if you say ‘Major’ I will slap you.”
“Stephen, its Stephen P. Quickstep.” Sounding like a boy in grade school responding to an inquiry from a teacher, head hung down and scuffling his feet.
“What’s the ‘P’ stand for?” she was back to adjusting his costume.
“Oh, nothing, just my grandfather’s idea of a joke.”
“Stephen, I am in journalism, or at least a journalism class, and neither ‘Nothing’ nor ‘Joke’ starts with a ‘P’. Never mind. Let me fix that hat.”
“It doesn’t fit, it keeps falling down over one ear, and the feathers tickle.”
“Yeah…and it is sooo cute. Just work it into the story.”
The Major was called to the stage and walking up those two steps to the small platform, he was thinking; Hope… Courage… light and dark… how do I get them there? Heart…He glanced up…thirty seconds…crap.