Scheherazade: A Halloween Story

This one’s for Halloween.

A dark room, small, white, no windows, only a door. A woman in her mid-thirties in the far corner, in a fetal position, crying. Footsteps, the clicking of new shoes outside. She manages to stifle her crying and cringes more into the corner.

The clicking comes closer and closer. It reaches the door. Stops.

A key slips into the lock and turns. The door opens. The light from the hallway floods the room, blinding the woman.

A man steps into the room. Lights a candle on the table. Closes the door behind him. He reaches over and pulls a chair from the table. He turns the chair with its back facing the woman and straddles it.

He doesn’t tell her not to be afraid. He doesn’t tell her to take off her clothes. Instead he leans forward, smiles and says, “Tell me a story.” There is ice in his voice. So much so his words turn the room chilly and put shivers on her skin.

She responds, her teeth chattering. “Leave me alone.”

He leans closer and raises his voice slightly. “Tell me a story, or—well, the choice is yours.” She can feel the frost on her face.

She swallows hard. “I don’t have any stories.”

An avalanche of words rolls out of his mouth. “Of course, you do. We all have stories. Stories of ancestors and parents and brothers and sisters. And the first time we had sex. Now tell me one. Just one.” The blizzard is coming for her.

She turns away from him and tries to protect her face from the freezing wind.

He rises from the chair and kneels before her, pushes back her hair, then says, “I told you I wouldn’t hurt you. Have I hurt you?” He smells of Old Spice and his breath smells like rotten meat.

“Why have you kept me here for so long?”

He reaches under her chin and turns her face to meet his. “I was waiting on the full moon. Now it’s the full moon. It’s time for a story.”

She takes a deep breath, taking in the cold air, then, “This is a story about a farm.”

He lets go of her face and smiles. “I like farms. My uncle owned a farm once. He lost it when he went bankrupt.” Then he is up and in his chair.

Trying to fight the ice, she breaths warmth on to her hands. “It was my grandparents’ farm,” she says, her voice as calm as she can make it.

“See, I told you that you had a story. And I’m liking it already.”

“It wasn’t a large farm. My grandparents had five chickens and a rooster.”

“Plenty of fresh eggs.”

“And they sold what they didn’t eat.” She sat up and leaned forward. “And they had a cow and a horse and two pigs. On top of that, Grandfather had a red tractor. Used to grow corn and fresh tomatoes and lots of potatoes.” The ice begins to melt from the warmth of her words.

“You must’ve loved visiting there.”

“I did. Every summer when I was a girl, my sister and I would go and stay. It was a lovely farm. I have such good memories,” she says, then she whispers, “Especially of my grandmother’s pies.”

He leans forward. “What did you say?”

“I have good memories of my grandmother’s pies. They were the best.”

“I love pies.”

“And so did my grandfather’s goat. He kept eating her pies. She would sit them on the windowsill to cool. And up popped that little goat head.”

“Why didn’t she get rid of the goat?”

“She wanted to, but it was my grandfather’s. He loved that goat.”

“Guess all your grandmother could do was close the windows.”

“That’s what my grandfather said. But my grandmother was having none of that. ‘Why should I have to accommodate a goat?’ she kept asking.”

“Any story with a goat in it is my kind of story.”

“One Saturday my grandmother made three pies. Two for the neighbors and one for Grandfather. She sat the pies on the windowsill and kept an eye out for the goat. Unfortunately she left the kitchen for less than five minutes. When she came back, one of the pies was gone. She knew exactly who the culprit was.

“She went to the hall closet and got out the rifle. She checked to make sure the rifle was loaded.”

“Guess it’s by-by goat,” he says, bringing his chair closer to the woman so that he can hear her soft voice.

“She ran outside and up aways, took one look at that goat, raised her rifle and fired.”

“Eating a pie was no reason to kill that poor goat. What would your grandfather do?”

“She missed but the goat didn’t. He lowered his horns, rushed passed her, accidentally knocking her off her feet. And went straight for the two pies. By the time she got to her feet, the pies were gone. And so was the goat. Grandfather rushed over. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked.

“‘Of course, I’m alright. But that fool of a goat ate my pies. Now I’m out of my secret ingredient and we won’t have pies till next month.'”

The man leans closer toward the woman, the two almost touching. His hands grab her wrists and they squeeze. “What was the secret ingredient?”

She moves so close to him that her chest is touching his chest. Then her mouth is against his ear. She whispers, “The secret ingredient is fresh human brains.”

Her teeth sink into his ear. They rip it off. She knees his groan. Then her teeth plunge into his skull, their poison freezing his body.

The room has turned hot as a summer day.

Near 500 words: Something Wonderful

Everywhere I see stories. I see a woman waiting on a bus and I have a story. I see a cat chasing her tail and I have a story. I read a gravestone and I have a story. There isn’t anywhere that I can’t find a story. But it wasn’t always so.

I have come by this ability to see stories only by spending a lifetime of trying. It has taken years and years of putting my imagination to work. And often coming up empty handed. I’ve banged my head against the wall and sweated tears enough to tell you it wasn’t talent that made a storyteller out of me. It was persistence.

I can remember exactly the moment when I realized that I wanted to be a storyteller. I was nine years old. I was sitting on my mother’s couch. I was reading a story called “Jack the Giant Killer”. I finished the story, then I had a revelation. I could do that. I could tell stories just like the one I read. Even more than that. I had to tell stories. That was my purpose in life. If I didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t get told, darn it.

Now you would think I would run out and start creating stories with that kind of discovery hanging over my head. But no. I didn’t. I was too damned scared to try. I was afraid of what other people would think. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid of success.

I walked around with an umbrella over my head, preventing the light from getting to me. I did that for years. But I didn’t forget that moment when I was nine years old. While I was out trying to make a living doing this, that and the other, I was reading. I was studying. And what was I reading and studying? The art of storymaking.

Beginning in the 1980s, six things happened to me that changed my life into a life of creativity. I performed in a church drama group and wrote a musical, which we produced. I had an article published in a national magazine. I came upon an essay by the poet, Richard Hugo called “The Triggering Town”. And I chanced upon Robert Ray’s “The Weekend Novelist”.

Then I joined a creative writing group. We met weekly for over twenty-five years. And the sixth thing that happened to me? In the early 2000s, I attended a series of workshops facilitated by a wonderful local teacher, Jamie Morris. Those workshops taught me the importance of prompts. How a series of prompts could take me through a novel.

So how did I get so good at writing stories? And how did I come up with the ability to create story after story after story? Persistence. In good times and bad, I have been at it. I’ve got out of bed when I had a 102 degree temperature to put in a half hour to write my 200 words for the day. I have sat myself down and wrote my 200 words during Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma. I have written at least 200 words a day for the last several years. And day by day I get better.

The one thing I know is that my writing and my pursuit of storytelling has not made me rich. But it has enriched my life in ways I can never express. It’s been Some Kind of Wonderful this life of creativity that was chosen for me and I plan to keep on doing it. Even after I have passed on to the Other Side.

So here’s my hand and my wish for you. Join me and let your creativity out. Let your voice sing. Let your feet dance. Let your fingers type the words. Let your plants grow. No matter how your creativity directs you, water it, nurture it, and let it grow. You won’t regret it.