I was recently asked to be one of the featured storytellers for the next installment of Truth Be Told, an open mic storytelling event that our local celebrities—I had no idea that I didn’t have a clue how to spell celebrities until this moment… huh—anyway, an event that our local celebrities Steve and Kobi have been pulling together up in the Municipal Building’s resurrection-in-progress theater. Pretty cool, really. Until I was invited to speak.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m tickled that someone would hate me enough to nominate my glossophobic self for such a thing, but Truth Be Told, I actually suck at opening my mouth in front of people.
I asked Steve how many folks usually turn up for these things. “Oh, you know, it depends, but I suppose on any given night we come up with 70-120 folks.” Possibly he heard the hyperventilation underway right through the phone, for he quickly revised his estimate. “I mean, like 3. Maybe 4 on a good night. Hardly anyone.”
Here’s the thing: the more people present, the more filters I drop. I go from being mildly comfortable and somewhat inhibited to extremely uncomfortable and given to extreme grasps at hilarity, often involving cussing or bathroom humor. I may make fun of your grandmother. To her face. What we have here is a recipe for Storytelling Armageddon.
Steve, ever helpful, tried another tack. “The thing is, you’ll know everybody in that theater. It’s a small town. They all just want you to succeed.” I’m not sure who he thought he was talking to, but the hyperventilation revved right back up to a fevered pitch.
It’s true that we live in a small town. We’re in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin. Colfax–aka the Nexus of the Universe–sports a bustling population of 1136 souls within the village limits. Add in those additional five of us from the township (Scott, me, Steve, Kobi, and the AK-totin’ conspiracy theorist up the way), and we’re talking about a full 10% of the local populace, all of them who I’ll get to meet at the gas station in the morning, turning out to hear me tell a story. Pretty much I want to cry.
The night of The Invitation, I showed up at a slightly weller-knowner theater in the slightly bigger-bustlinger neighboring town to ush for a Christmas show—yes, ush… it’s a verb… as in ‘to usher,’ only betterer—and who do I get the pleasure of ushing with for the evening? Kobi. That’s right. They’re an evil pair, those two clowns.
I held my ground. I insisted that I needed a full 24 hours to process said Invitation before either accepting or changing my name. I’m tough like that.
The theme this time around is Travels. I mean, OK. I do that. I don’t know what in tarnation I would have said if they had asked me to tell tales at any of the first four episodes of this thing.
I think the first one was about a year ago. Christmas. I guess I could have told the story of Sheldon, the anemic and abused Christmas tree, but that wasn’t really going to fill ten minutes gracefully. You know, until I got off on calculus or avocados or God only knows what other tangents that could have hijacked that story.
Then there was The Love Edition, in honor of Valentine’s Day. Oy. I do not think this town is ready for the tale of intrigue that is How Scott and Krista Got Together. Stay tuned for the book.
And I believe there was one all about Halloween. I hate Halloween. No one wants to hear those stories.
Oh, jah. I forgot. This summer they did a big one to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the tornado. I didn’t live here yet; I was still a bit more nebulous and nomadic back in ‘58. Best I could have done for that one is a show-and-tell event featuring all the twisted barn tin in my woods. At least I wouldn’t have had to talk.
So Travels. At least this one is in my ballpark.
Scott and I went downtown for the High School Christmas Concert tonight. Because we might not be ’58 old, but still, we are old. And because free entertainment. After the rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus wrapped up, I snuck down the bleachers to commiserate with a certain Library Director I might know about:
- the very obvious fact that she was the one who tipped Steve and Kobi off that I should be tortured on stage in front of everyone I know, and
- the very terrifying letter that I, the Library Board President, received today from another local conspiracy theorist (oops… township population:
56) and how they were wronged by the Library Director and did I know? I stepped down the bleachers tonight with so many reasons to fire her. As if that were in my job description. But if it were, buddy, was she in trouble.
As LD Lisa and I were plotting escape routes from the impending mail bombs, I could see two suspicious characters milling about two bleachers up. As though I didn’t see them. They were closing in slowly. It was like they thought they were invisibility clowns. But I have a sixth sense for those who are trying to catch me in humiliating circumstances. I can see it in their eyes, even when they’re invisible. I didn’t skip a beat when I whipped up my stiffarm and injected “Back off, Steve Russell!’ stealthily into our conversation about how to deal with paranoid schizophrenic ax-grinders. LD Lisa may have peed a little.
Long story short? I’m one of the featured storytellers for the next installment of Truth Be Told.
And so we are left with, What On Earth Am I Going To Say?
Also, How On Earth Am I Going To Keep My Filters Intact?
Suggestions welcome. Also Valium.
December 30th, in case you’d like to witness the next great Colfax Tornado.