G and I have a cast of characters we feature in hand-made stories when we go for long walks, on car trips, over breakfast. If there’s space and time, we make stories. His are stream-of-consciousness and feature a lot of clever, deeply random jokes. Mine are plot-rich and usually get hijacked during the climactic battle. (“I’ll take it from here!”)
Most of the time, everyone dies.
For years, George the Bunny, a savage pink rabbit who eats anything and everything, including the earth in a particularly thrilling episode, was the go-to character. But in recent months, we’ve created Ramona, a small and daring mouse who fights Evil with her sidekick, Cricket (a cricket, yes, as well as a master of kung fu).
Several weeks ago, I got us lost on a walk, and in my frustration, looking for landmarks, I zoned out of the story he was telling. Ramona and Cricket had been taken hostage in Paris and they were being held separately in canvas bags. That was the last I heard as I tried to figure out how the river had ended up on the wrong side of our trail.
It is intensely irritating to see a familiar rock and be reminded that not only are you going the wrong way, but that you have gone the wrong way before, and I felt quite like kicking said rock when I heard Gavin say, “And then the pirate told her, ‘You’re too young to fight evil; you’re only a child.’ And Ramona replied, “I’m 34!” in an exasperated way and –”
“Ramona’s 34?” I asked. My anxiety at being lost struck completely out of me by this astonishing news of a mouse nearly my own age. It was one of those moments where the character you had imagined, the character you had told countless stories about happened to be completely different from the one you’d envisioned. A small, daring mouse fighting Evil with her sword and her kung-fu Cricket sidekick, yes. A small, daring mouse living to be 34, I think not. Definitely not. It’s just not at all believable.
Gavin stopped and looked up at me, and then nodded. “‘I’m 34!’ Ramona said again, surprising even the narrator.”
Surprising even the narrator.
This happened two weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about his brilliant transition. I’d forgotten that stories can do anything. I’d forgotten. That’s why they feel like magic.
I stood there for a moment and realized the river on my left meant the bridge was also on my left and I chose the path to take us that direction. I hadn’t been lost at all.
These last months, I frequently feel like a surprised narrator. How did I not recognize this fact before? she asks herself.
But it would be odd if I didn’t feel startled. We’re telling the story from our vantage, and it shifts when we do. There is nothing but hope in that realization. We might be anything. At any moment. Surprising even the narrator.
4 thoughts on “This story has feet”
Big love! Amazing, surprising the narrator. The kid’s a genius. Nicely done!
You two are just crazy special. Imagine a storyteller parent to bring out the storyteller child. And vice versa. You know, your prose is never quite as bright as when you’re writing about Gavin.
It is magic. And beautiful. And I love reading it.
You know, it’s curious; I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s much point in continuing to write, but I happen to be reading Ann Patchett’s latest, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and I feel reinvigorated. The only thing worse than writing is not writing.
And thanks! Writing about him is nearly as fun as talking to him.