Friday, June 7, 2013
Gifts of the Storyteller
The storyteller, dressed in a scarlet bodice and heavy patchwork skirt, smiled and brushed her long hair aside. I couldn't really follow her story, something about a kid in Ireland who helps a spirit living in the well behind his cottage. I might have been able to make sense of it all but the woman kept pausing after every line, either for dramatic effect or because she was making it up as she went along. I couldn't tell. Cliff, who was going by the name Thaddius today, stared at her with rapt attention though his long fingers twisted his tunic's lacing in tighter and tighter curls.
But spirit, tell me more of this world you speak of. I ... would know more.
Cliff nodded along, bouncing like a little ball. Why we were here when we could be at the bawdy pirate sing-along, or watching fire eaters? Boys liked naughty songs and fire, didn't they?
The spirit thought this admirable of the boy, so this was good.
Was that a double positive, or just redundant? Fifteen minutes in so far, with no end in sight. After this epic turd of a story was over, I hoped there was still something fun left to do.
The spirit said, 'By the light of a second new moon ... the portal will open to the land under the hill. If ye heart be true ... then no harm shall come to ye,' the spirit whispered.
Cliff leaned over and gave my shoulder a friendly bump. He had an amused glance, like we were sharing a secret. I faked my best amused look, which seemed to please him. This morning in the car we were making fun of these people, the scrawny men in chainmail with iPhones (Doth thou harken me now?), the serious roleplayers who sneered at each other's costumes (You bought that online, didn't you?), and the gawking parents who caved in to their kid's demands for plastic swords, tiaras, and all manner of junk-foodery (Funnel cakes! Snow cones! Turkey legs!). Yet here he was, as much a rube as any of them. And I was sitting next to him for what? Going on a date in some distant future? Not having to go to the homecoming dance alone?
Then the storyteller leaned forward, exposing more cleavage than she had any right to.
But if'n you be false, then the fae take ye!
It had to be the woman's boobs, I thought. Her bodice pushed everything up and together and masked her doubtless flabby tummy. While her chest was displayed for all to see, her heavy skirt could have hidden a circus's worth of elephant's thighs. I glanced at Cliff, and sure enough, his gaze drifted somewhere south of the storyteller's face. I wanted to reach out and cover his eyes, the perv, but to be consistent I'd have to blindfold him for the rest of the afternoon against all the other bawdy wenches running around. I had to admit that I considered a similar outfit for myself, but a corset on my chest would look as impressive as a gilded egg carton. Life just wasn't fair.
So the boy nodded and said 'I understand spirit, and pledge that it will be so. ... And the sprit found this to be good.
Wait, did the kid just admit to being true or false? And did if false, did the spirit think that was good? I sighed.
"I know," Cliff whispered. My heart rose as I thought he and I were back on the same wavelength, like the times at school where we'd roll our eyes at the same things: Mr. Burton's lectures on how tough college classes would be, the tired alpha-dog clichés shouted over the PA at school assemblies, or the way Tara Spielman closed her eyes sang with look-at-me vibrato in choir. Cliff was just teasing me with this storytelling bit. He did have an odd sense of humor.
I rocked to my feet to leave, but he put a hand on my knee. "What are you doing?"
His hand was on my knee! I should have been giddy. "Come on, let's go," I said.
He looked at me like I was crazy.
"I want to hear the end of this."
"I want to see the mud show."
"Come on," he said. Like I was the one being unreasonable here.
The storyteller cleared her throat. "Lass, if you don't mind, either sit quietly so others can enjoy the tale or kindly bugger off." She smiled saccharine sweet.
Would they put a minor in the stocks for punching out a storyteller? I was willing to find out, but Cliff put his hand in mine and pulled me back beside him. His hand was smooth and warm, just as I had imagined it. Part of me wanted to storm off —and I do love a good storming off—but most of me wanted to happy dance. This was what I wanted wasn't it? Yes, but I wasn't going to be a doormat.
"Ask me nicely, Thaddius. Say please," I said.
His face tightened, and his hand twitched in mine. He would have jerked it back, but I held it tight, squeezing harder. He glanced at my hand then smiled at me.
"Of course, m'lady. Please."
As I sat, he turned back to face the storyteller, though with less intensity. Around us, others stole glances; a few smiled. The storyteller kept on with her tale, though now she frowned during the dramatic pauses. I just stared past her shoulder, willing to listen to another hour of drivel if needed. If the worst thing about Cliff was a weakness for melodramatic stories told by top-heavy hacks, I could live with it.
Besides, the mud show had a second showing at 2:15.