Don’t think “liar” when I state the obvious here: I am a storyteller. Lying is not the storytelling definition I’m referring to. Instead, I speak of that quality many have: we enjoy the art of the story. Is there embellishment? Yes. Is there exaggeration? Yes. Storytelling couldn’t exist without either. However, what I’m underlining here is the source of this compulsion to tell. Storytellers must tell.
But not tattletales. Or braggarts. Nor gossip. Although juicy, those stories don’t satisfy because of one very “telling” flaw: they don’t appreciate the audience. Real storytellers turn to look at you with glinty eyes, and say “See that path? The twisty one through your imagination. Go ahead. Wait until you see what’s down there. I’ll show you the way. (But you go by yourself.)” Storytellers take us nowhere and everywhere simultaneously; the campfire fades away while the audience leans in closer, closer…. It’s the safest magic. Pure alchemy. And that sort of nonsense just makes me giddy, both the giving and receiving.
So where does that quality come from? That urge to entertain? To preserve life’s moments? To caution? To teach? To inspire thought? I suppose, like everything, it’s a combination of nature and nurture. My nature theories lead me to an unlikely source: my Dad.
My Dad wasn’t the type to tuck us into bed with a story but he was my prototype, my original storyteller. Now, years later, he’s also the subject of some of my favourite stories. So what was the very first story he told me?
I warn you. It wasn’t long. But it said everything it needed to. It made my heart race. It left me speechless. It completely delighted and horrified me at the same time. It even taught me something. And I can still hear my Dad’s voice as he shared that first story (and quite likely my favourite shortest story) one day while driving me home:
“David. If you pick your nose and eat it, do you know what happens? Flies grow in your stomach.”
I thought about that for years. Years.