Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I'm terrible with ages, but sometime around when I was six or seven, I discovered that not all stories have to have a happy ending. This was a huge revelation to me as a child. Up until then, all the stories I'd been reading, all the television shows I'd been watching, and all the movies I'd seen all ended well for the main characters. I guess I thought it was a requirement that things had to be wrapped up positively in order for a story to be considered valid. I was thrilled to hear this didn't have to be! That at the end of the story, something bad could happen; a character could even...die. Imagine all the new possibilities! I was so excited.
Immediately I began work on a new series of stories called Tragedy Stories. A typical Tragedy Story of mine would go something like this: A baby alligator (I loved alligators, so I often wrote about them) got lost from it's home. He had to walk 100000000 miles (I'd usually just add a bunch of zeroes to the end of the number to make it look really impressive) to find his way back to his family. Just as he was about find them, he got hit by a car. The end. Or: A butterfly flew 9800000000 miles (another number that I thought would make an impression on grown-ups), and just as he reached home, he lost a wing and could not fly. The end.
At this time my mom had a reunion at Hampton University, and she took me and my four year old brother with her. I only remember two things about that visit. The first was that I got hit in my eye area with a toy car (my brother and I were throwing it back and forth to each other up and down a flight of stairs. I was at the bottom). I remember crying determinedly for a really long time in hopes I would get taken home, but no such luck. At some point I got tired of crying and moved on to something else.
The second thing I remember was that I was seated for dinner next to a hapless Alum of my mom's. I turned to him and began to explain with gusto and intensity my Tragedy Stories. I think I told him every single one I'd written, and to show off, threw in some bonus ones I made up on the spot. I remember him having an uncomfortable deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression. At the time I figured that was just how he wore his face.
My grandmother was horrified when I told her about the Stories. She begged me repeatedly to change the tragic endings to happy ones, after I read some of the stories to her. But I wouldn't budge. Changing the endings would defeat the whole purpose of the so-named Tragedy Stories. That logic didn't appease her in the least.
I have noticed, in more recent years as I've gone through my old stories, that these particular tales are mysteriously missing.