Novelists owe a lot to the bardic tradition, and in many societies (if not most) that tradition hasn’t died out. We are storytellers by nature, almost from the time we’re old enough to speak.
With that in mind, today’s writing challenge is: tell a story from your past. Long, short, funny, sad. Tell it in the comments, on your blog (feel free to link) or to anyone who will listen.
When my son was three years old, I took him to the doctor for a checkup. For a variety of reasons, mostly relating to my own shortsightedness, we ended up in the waiting room of a busy doctor’s office at 10am on a Saturday afternoon.
To call the place “packed” was an understatement akin to calling a saber-toothed tiger “cuddly.” Parents filled every full-sized seat and most of the molded plastic kids’ seats, too. I squeezed myself into a chair that would have struggled to hold Anorexia Barbie and waited while my son joined the other toddlers fighting playing at the center of the room.
A few minutes later I looked up from my book to see my son standing before me. “Mommy,” he asked, at a volume that carried clearly above the other voices in the room, “what does ‘virgin’ mean?”
I stared at my diminutive questioner, wondering when the Spanish Inquisition started hiring minors and realizing that I now had the attention of every other parent in the room.
“Excuse me?” I asked, hoping with all my heart that I had somehow heard the question wrong.
My son adjusted his volume to somewhere between a fire engine and a 747 preparing for takeoff. “What does ‘virgin’ mean?”
“That’s an interesting word,” I replied, stalling for time. “Where did you hear it?” (Note: do not ever ask this question, no matter how good an idea it seems at the moment.)
The next question flew out before I could stop it. “What program were you watching?”
“Not me. Daddy was watching TV and I heard it.”
Wondering whether this could possibly get any worse, and fully expecting child protective services to materialize out of thin air and drag me away for questioning, I followed up with the one question I knew I really shouldn’t ask: “What was Daddy watching?”
“It was a commercial,” my son replied. Before I could react, he continued, “for Captain Crunch. You get a CD in the cereal box, and it said it’s not a demo, it’s the full virgin game.”
“Oh, you mean VERSION,” I replied, “The full version means you don’t get just one level, you get the whole game. It’s all included on the CD.”
“Oh, okay,” my son said, turning away.
He returned to the tinkertoys as I huddled in my squeaky plastic chair, not quite believing how close I’d come to giving away far more information than the inquiry required.
The man beside me leaned over with a smile. “Well played.”
Indeed. To this day I can’t help thinking that a few less questions might have resulted in an entirely different virgin of the conversation.