The Words of the StoryTeller
by Cathy Faye Rudolph
he hadn't expected to meet him in the airport lounge.
She hadn't expected to meet him at all.
In fact, the StoryTeller seemed like so much legend and fairy dust to her. The reading circles and cellar coffeehouses were a-buzz with reports of a new artist on the scene, one who was referred to simply as the StoryTeller, one who could mesmerize with words and intonation. But the descriptions of the man did not evoke a Shakespearean actor, or a god of the glossy photos, but a simple, quiet, slightly near-sighted writer in his late 50s.
She shook her head. Millions of people would fit that description. Yet she was absolutely certain, in that way that was both revealing and godlike, that this was the StoryTeller.
She crossed the lounge and stopped 4 feet away from his seat. He was jotting some notes in a small leather-bound notebook with a pencil. Suddenly all the witty introductions in the world seemed inappropriate. She said the only thing that came to her lips.
He looked up, and smiled gently. There was no evidence of impatience or irritation at the interruption, and no hostility at the invasion of his privacy. Just a genuine affability and a quiet certainty.
The invitation for her to sit down was unexpressed, but apparent. She took the seat next to him. There was no hurry in his demeanor, no surreptitious listening for flight announcements. His attitude made it possible for her to ask the favor.
"Tell me a story...please."
In the writers' circles she frequented, it was whispered that the StoryTeller could read your soul, and tell it back to you in parables. So much poetic license and weak-minded drivel, she'd thought.
Under the placid gaze of the StoryTeller, she was no longer so certain.
--Damn the highway department, anyway. Twenty miles back she'd suspected she was lost. That suspicion had just turned into a conviction. She kept on driving, the headlights of the Porsche throwing the country road into sharp relief ahead.
The effect was one of coming out of a tunnel into bright daylight: one moment a dark blanket of faint moonlight on a gravel road, then the next a sharp bend in the road revealed a cluster of buildings under yellow-white streetlights. A town so small that only a second of indecision would mean that the Porsche would carry her past this little outpost. She braked hard, and parked the car in front of the nearest building.
She opened the car door, and felt the chill of the evening breeze. The sign on the door of the nearest building said "Sheriff" and in smaller letters underneath, "Leave a note" and an arrow pointing to a small child's slate and a piece of blue chalk tethered by a string. But the door was locked, and there was no sign that anyone was there.
She walked up the broken sidewalk to the next building, a small general store. The moonlight illuminated the fruit in the window bins, and she could see a faint glow of the control lights for the frozen food case in the rear of the store. But no one came in response to her taps on the glass.
She passed the brightly-lit diner, and checked at a small house at the end of the row. It was dark, not even the bluish tinge of a television set to dispel the dark. Echoes from knocking on the door chased through the night.
She returned by way of the sidewalk, scattering the loose pebbles as she went. The music from the diner threaded past her, and the hiss of conversation momentarily became discernible words. The aroma of freshly-fried chicken wafted out the open door, and a burst of laughter erupted from the people within as if in response to a well-delivered joke.
She stopped at the Sheriff's office, and wrote a short message on the slate in neat, blue letters. Then she got into the Porsche, and drove into the night.
The message read, "I'm lost. I need directions back to the city."--
The StoryTeller boarded his flight, but his last word seemed to hang in the air. The airport and the tight little knots of humanity in it became her world again: a group of business travelers talking around mouthfuls of carry-out sandwiches, teens with duffel bags of mementos trading postcards, and parents with reluctant children in tow.
There was still an hour to go before her flight, and she was hungry. Well, she'd just find an airport official somewhere to ask for directions to the restaurant.
A little boy stumbled and spilled the treasures of his backpack as he passed, and she knelt to retrieve the errant marbles, crayons, and chalk for him. The chalk dust on her fingers brought a smile to her face.
The business travelers turned at the sound of her quiet cough. "Excuse me," she said with a smile, "could you tell me the way to the restaurant?"
from The Words of the StoryTeller © 1994, 1995 Cathy Faye Rudolph.
Contents © 1994, 1995 Wayward Fluffy Publications.
Last revised: August 16, 1995 by Wayward Fluffy Publications.