Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Master Storyteller

Preface- This was the original introduction I was going to give to my short story "The Canal" at my last reading but it got too long with this included, so I just dropped it and decided I'll use it later. Maybe as part of a preface to a collection of short stories.

I did talk about my dad a little before I read "The Canal" and I told about how he was a storyteller. The old fashioned kind, like the Indians, where his dad told him stories and his grandfather told his dad and so on. There aren't very many storytellers left. One guy, a great spoken word artist, came up to me afterwards and was in awe. He said he'd never met an actual storyteller like that. He'd only heard of them. - Shoegirl

My father is the best storyteller hands down. He'd hold me enraptured listening to the words fall from his lips. And I ate them up, like delicious chocolates I couldn't get enough of. I was only two, and at a very active age, yet I sat glued to my seat next to him on the porch of our house, listening to him tell his tales.

I have a picture to prove it. It's in one of those square box frames that were very popular in the sixties and seventies. It's basically a square cardboard box with plastic sides that interlock. It used to swivel at some point it time but now it balances on a broken stand and doesn't turn. It has five sides and on each one fit five perfectly squared snapshots of me as a baby. In one of the pictures I'm peeking out, my tiny face a little circle. I'm sitting in a chair next to him, but I'm so small you can hardly see me. My father's hair is black, he wears black thick rimmed glasses, and his starched white barber shirt. His hand holds a coffee cup from the ear and it's dangling precariously on his index finger as if it will crash to the floor at any moment.

My sisters took this picture to record this familiar scene of me sitting next to him on the porch. This is where you could often find me when my father didn't have customers next door at his barbershop.

The small white building stood lonely sometimes with the big red letters, "Nick's Barbershop" facing Jensen Drive during an era of long hair and little business. My mother meanwhile struggled trying to make ends meet selling Avon and Tupperware. That's how I would end up with my father watching me occasionally.

If he did have customers I could be found hanging around inside the barbershop either playing with his typewriter, riding my tricycle, or waiting impatiently with a piece of paper and a pen in hand for him to finish cutting some poor man's hair, so he could draw a picture for me. He would then translate the picture into a story as he drew each character.

"Here's Bobby and Sandra eating at a table and here's a dog under the table waiting for them to drop some crumbs for him to eat."

That was my daddy. That is how I heard all his stories, both bible stories and stories about himself when he was a little boy in the early thirties in the Rio Grande Valley.

"Tell me that story again."
"Which one?"
"You now, the one when you were a little boy."
"Which one? The one about the cat?"
"No! The one about you and Tio Rudy and the canal. When everyone thought you drowned!"
"Oh that one! Okay, I'll tell you again."

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