Drabble: The Storyteller
Written in response to the prompt smoke.
And if you listen carefully, you can still hear him howl on rainy nights.
* * *
The mangled humanoid canine unravelled into ribbons of smoke from the storyteller’s candle. The children cheered with easy smiles, the adults sat back with a more quiet amusement.
The story was over, but the candle still burned, and as long as it continued to burn, no matter how little was left, his job as a storyteller was not over.
He waved his hand over the candle and the smoke gathered to form a boy and a girl. His audience, many used to his routine, settled in for a new story.
“Once, there were two friends who lived a cross the street at an abandoned house.”
* * *
They looked at the worn brick wall. Behind that wall was the extra special kite they had just made for their school project.
“Should we get it?” the girl asked.
“It’s due tomorrow,” the boy pointed out.
They looked at the sun, dark red and rolling down the sky to bed, then at each other.
“We’ll be quick,” the boy said.
They clambered over the ancient wall and dropped into the overgrown garden. Immediately, they spotted the kite lodged between a window and a bush.
With a shared glance, the race was on. They dashed through the long grass and touched the kite at the same time.
Two hands shot out of the window and grabbed their wrist.
* * *
The candle winked out. He held the smoke in the last image of two friends captured by hands from a window. His more experienced regulars groaned, already knowing what would happen. For the sake of his newer audience, he explained.
“As I said at the beginning, I will spin you a tale for as long as this candle burned. The flame has gone out, which means our story would have to wait for another day. For those who want to know what happens next, I will be here tomorrow, same time, same place.”
He twisted his hand. The smoke dissipated, as did his captive audience for the past hour.
How many would return?
I’ve thought about this storyteller for years. I can’t remember where the idea came from, whether I created it myself or adapted it from an existing practice, but the idea is simple. The storyteller is paid to tell stories for as long as a candle burns. The difficult part is getting repeat customers, people who would come back again and again to listen to someone tell stories over a candle. The story has to be compelling, with plenty of hooks and cliff hangers so people can’t pull themselves away.
Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. So I changed what should have been an ordinary storyteller into a magician. And that’s how you got this peek into life as a storyteller when every scene has to reel the audience in for another gig.