Monday, March 7, 2011

The Storyteller Rock

Last night I dreamed that I called the Storyteller Rock on the phone.  "How have you been?" I asked.

"It's a long story," he replied.

But you probably don't know the context.  All my life I've been, off and on, writing stories in my sleep.  Not dreaming stories but actually writing them out, word by word.  In the morning I'd quickly forget everything about what I'd written, save that I'd written something.

Eventually, I got curious enough to teach myself to memorize the story and then quickly write it down after I awoke.  For a couple of years I wrote the stories down as I dream-wrote them.  Finally, unaltered, I published them as a series in the New York Review of Science Fiction.

"Storyteller Rock" was one of those dream-writings.  Here it is:

Storyteller Rock
You ask me why I'm such a good storyteller.  Well, I ought to be.  I learned how from the Storyteller Rock himself.
The Storyteller Rock is as old as the hills, and he started telling stories before there were any ears to hear them with.  He invented storytelling.  He told the first story there ever was.  Over the years, he made up all the stories there ever were or ever will be.  He told them all.  He told them over and over to himself until they reached their final forms.
Every story you've ever heard, he told it first.  And he told it best.
I met the Storyteller Rock when I was a boy in Winooski, Vermont.  There was a field out in the woods, and there he sat, just a little in from the edge, old and rounded and powdered white with lichens.
Down low to one side were three little holes, just big enough to stick your little finger into.  If you brought him a cigarette, lit it and stuck it in the bottom-most hole, he'd smoke it down to ash and then he'd tell you a story.
I stole a pack of my mother's Chesterfields from her purse and fed them to him one by one, a story a smoke.  When it was gone, I waited my chance and stole another.
At first the Storyteller Rock found it hard to focus on me.  He had the long view.  He kept confusing me with the last kid to give him tobacco, and telling the stories in Iroquois.  But as the years went by, we got to know each other better, and he taught me a lot.  He was a good teacher, but tough.  He didn't take any guff.
I remember how he said, "Boy.  You'll never be a first-rate storyteller until you learn to stop being so God-damned sincere."
Well . . . I listened to him.
And now I'm not.

Copyright 1991 by Michael Swanwick


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