“Once upon a time”
“Don’t tell us a crappy fairy tale” Donald interrupted. “Tell us a true story.”
I sighed, shoulders falling under the weight of this new task. I had a fairy tale all ready to share, something a little more adult for this older crowd, but clearly that wasn’t going to work out now. Donald had stirred everyone up. They wanted something they knew, yet something that scared them. Could I pull it off?
“Fine. Fine. Something true?” I paused, while the group calmed down. I need that extra time to think. I considered myself a good storyteller, but that was with prep time, some research, some idea of where the story wanted to go.
Everyone was eagerly waiting, when I decided to just go for it. Why not let the story just spill out of my mouth, and let the story dictate what happened? That was what the professional storytellers always said.
“There was knock at my front door.” My audience could hear me swallow the lump in my throat. “I hesitated to open it when I saw the dark suit and the leather briefcase. I only knew of two kinds of people that wore dark suits and carried leather briefcases.”
I paused. The audience was thinking. I smiled to myself. This was good. Not great storytelling, but not bad.
“I opened the door. The gentleman looked at me with cold, dead eyes. He said, “Good afternoon. I am Mr. Green, the tax man.””
“Boo!” Donald was already at it. He hated this story, and was quickly turning everyone against me.
“There seems to have been an error in your recent tax form. We would like to make you an offer.”
A couple people stopped booing. I had to think fast, think of a way to salvage this thing.
“Because the mistake was so grievous, we want to make it right. You can either have what is in this briefcase, money, deeds, titles, stocks, whatever it may be. Or, you may have the title and job of head of our taxation firm.”
Donald stopped booing. Everyone stopped booing. Not that the story was particularly compelling, but the idea of a great job or extra cash seemed like a fairy tale. It was something that we all wanted, something we all wanted to be reality.
The economic downturn had really hit our town hard. The coal mine, the small pulp mill, just about every kind of industrial business had to make huge cuts, in hours and in pay for employees. Even I felt it as a high school teacher.
A large number of people had started gathering in the high school for “lock-ins”, mini think tanks where business people, stay-at-home moms, anyone that wanted to stay here and make a life would get together and try to think of ways to make it work. I has tonight’s leader. And I had just filled their heads with a crazy real life fairy tale.
What was going to happen next?