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The Just-in-Case Story

January 19, 2009


In these complicated modern times, it’s wise to carry a story in one’s pocket, just in case. Like a peasant packing lunch in a napkin tied to a stick and angling it against your shoulder as you hit the road.

Suppose you’re in a pinch. You don’t need a lie; rather, a diversion, some wiggle-room amidst tension. A boa constrictor bloating to make room while it digests unexpectedly bulky prey. Hang on, too predatory…I don’t mean the sort of story that greases you up to slip free of a nasty but well-deserved pinch.

More like a time-out room built of words, a special place where you quell your short fuse. Something mild to say that stops you before you say something awful.

Or, you’re on the deadest dead-end date of all time, but can’t just walk out–that would be ignorant, unseemly. You need a story to speed the night toward concluding relief (for instance, a taxi purring at the curb, which you climb into en seule). For now, you need a tale that gives levity without giving more of yourself than your companion deserves. You are, after all, a lady (or gentleman), and a lady (or gentleman) knows how to share. Also, she (or he) avoids sharing too much. This sort of restraint and discretion requires a story prepared ahead of time and stashed for that moment of need.

And then, there is the Good Old Fashioned Excuse. Again, this is not a lie, per se. More like back-up for your itchy conscience. A stick with which to scratch the hives rising along the truly honest side of your skin. The story that saves your hide and your reputation without itself becoming a thing to hide from.

For instance, this story explains why it is 3 a.m., you’re clutching a cocktail gone boggy with melted ice and maintaining an upright posture only with the assistance of a nearby wall. Suddenly, you come back to yourself in the middle of a sentence that seems awfully off-colour. You give your head a figurative shake and realise you’re about to reach a woefully inappropriate punchline. A punchline that makes everything you’ve said so far seem utterly tasteful (and surely it was not). Also, it is only Wednesday.

The story in your pocket is the flotation device tossed from the deck of the ship you’ve plunged from, the ripcord to your parachute, the last huff of air drawn from a shared scuba tank while you and a careless partner await rescue at a depth of thirty feet.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. looka permalink
    January 20, 2009 9:56 am

    Yeah, thats true. Those moments suck.
    I sometimes wish people would carry a set of respect (for themselves and the other) on their chest and not have it tucked away somewhere in small box.

    That is some hard hitting prose!

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