A Tale to Be "Toed"
As I launched into the home stretch, I scanned the rapt faces before me. I always fine-tune my stories to my audience, and I always have a “victim”, someone on whom to focus. The person whose reaction I most want to see.
“In the distance, he could see the flags fluttering from the Big Top.” Ah, Shari’s eyes got wider. My victim, then.
I pitched the story like an infomercial host, mustering as much vivid detail as I could cram into the telling of what should have been a three-minute tale, but had now lasted seventeen minutes and counting. Shari’s expression invited comparison to an owl receiving an ice-cube enema: huge-eyed and slightly horrified. With the tension mounting, I offered the punch line. “The young man looked that old clown in the face and said…”
I dropped the last few words into silence and waited. One person laughed outright, one gave a shocked giggle, six stared blankly, and one stomped off muttering in disgust. “That’s it? I sat through twenty minutes for that?” This is the beauty of The Clown Story. The fun belongs solely to the teller of the tale: crafting the details, building the anticipation, and watching the rather crestfallen faces when the final zinger fails to zing.
As the last of the crowd moved away, I turned back to my ever-present knitting. Socks again. Why not? The sock provides endless possibility for detail and experimentation. Much like The Clown Story. This pair was gonna be a doozy. Bubble-gum pink and lime green. For a friend. As I pulled a double-pointed needle from behind my ear, a shadow fell across my work-in-progress. Shari, owner of the shocked giggle, had decided to stick around. “I’m probably risking my life, hanging around you after that story!”
I waggled my eyebrows at her. “I keep telling you, take up knitting. Pointy sticks keep sore listeners at bay.” A snicker, followed by silence. It was several minutes before she spoke again.
“So… Which do you like best? Knitting or storytelling? Every time I see you, you’re doing one or the other.”
I regarded the gaudy bit of ribbing in my hands. “Well, they’re both kind of the same thing, actually.”
“How do you figure?”
“Look here: a story needs a setup, that’s your cast-on round. Then comes the leg, that’s the buildup. As much or as little detail as you want, for as long as you want. Then comes the heel, that’s your unexpected twist. The gussets, that’s where plotlines get drawn together and focused, then comes the foot. The home stretch. Finally you get to the toe, the punch line. You can’t leave an audience hanging, or a sock, so you cut the… ahem, “yarn”, and weave in the ends. Socks, stories; they’re the same thing.”
Shari laughed again and shook her head. “I’ll never be that good at either one; you can own those hobbies!” She started to head on toward her camper, then turned back. “Hey, maybe you can make some clown socks!” Off she went.
Hm. Clown socks. A new opening line? “Once, there was a boy in hand-knitted socks who loved clowns…” Yeah, that might work!
By Penny Dreadful