Wednesday, November 25, 2009


solo rio

Last night I missed the Moth StorySLAM by a whisker. Through a series of misfires my companion and I got on the long rainy road into the city too late, and the show had sold out by the time we arrived. Every month Moth hosts a StorySLAM in Chicago, where you throw your name into a hat and, if it’s selected, you have five minutes to tell your story. I’ll try again next month. The theme will be different so the story will be fresh. This time around it was “Blunders.”

This was the story I carried rain-soaked into the city.

My ex- likes the tell the story of the time he spent in Kenya as a kid, when his father was on a meteorological mission, seeding clouds to turn hail into rain. And he likes to tell about how, when he returned with his family to Clarksville, Tennessee, he would entertain the kids in the playground with stories of the zebras and the lions and the giraffes; with stories of the bush babies whose many eyes blinked and glowed in the headlights as the family returned in the dark to the tea plantation they rented while they were there.

He liked to tell the kids about the monkeys that lived in his backyard.

All this led to a Parent-Teacher conference in which his teacher pointed out to his mother that, while B was bright boy, he had an overactive imagination, and he was he was in the habit of telling lies. For example: he liked to tell the students that he had monkeys in his backyard.

To which his mother replied: “We’ve just returned from Kenya. We had monkeys in our backyard.”

I loved this story; I loved how the man I loved was unjustly accused and exonerated in the end. I loved it until I learned that I had married a liar, and a wondered then if it was a plant, a decoy, designed to distract me from all the stories that were untrue.

When we finally arrived at that awkward middle place between deciding to divorce and signing the decree, we had dinner one night at one of our favorite places, a cheap sushi joint on Broadway in Seattle. Over dinner he told me he was sorry; over dinner he told me everything would change; over dinner I told him I didn’t believe him. Then I asked for the check.

They brought us a couple of fortune cookies with the bill and B cracked his open. He laughed a little and handed it to me with a tear in his eye. It read: “A liar is never believed, even when he tells the truth.”

But this story isn’t about that blunder. This story is about when his family was still in Kenya, and his mother wanted to ask the academic wives over for tea. She asked the gentleman servant, a man named Jealous whose services came with the house they had rented for the season, to help her prepare a place for tea by clearing a small overgrown area near the house, under an ancient spreading shade tree; a tree that had been planted by some British colonial who knows when, or maybe had been left to stand when the other trees were cut down around it. A tree that offered shade from the hot African sun. A perfect place for tea.

“Clear it?” he asked, concern in his voice.

“Yes,” she said.

She left him to his task, which he approached reluctantly. She returned later to find he had cleared the grasses away, and then he sharpened his axe. He took his axe to the trunk of that ancient spreading shade tree.

He cut it down.

1 comment:

I, Rodius said...

Ah, you'd have killed. Next time.

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