storytelling



1. Let me Thread you a story…(1-16)
2. We got us some spooky properties here in town, left over from the days of the Great Spirit Invasion of ’07.
3. Spirits poured into town from all over through a rip in the Space-Time Continuum, taking up residence in homes and businesses.
4. Madame Nimby, town exorcist, & her son Rupert sewed up the rip with existential thread and that kept new ghosts from coming through.
5. But they were so busy exorcising the ones already here they couldn’t keep up. It took a deal of time for things to settle down.
6. Most ghosts was just lost souls sucked through the rip by accident and easily persuaded to move on to a higher place.
7. Some, though, were stubborn & not inclined to persuasion. Folks who had those spirits in their homes & businesses had a tough choice.
8. Either move out or learn to live with haints. Some businesses made deals with the ghosts to stay quiet during business hours.
9. Likewise, some residents made similar deals, asking that the hauntings stop after everyone had gone to bed.
10. Still others just couldn’t live with the ruckus, or the spirits refused to cooperate. But we take care of our own.
11. The town banded together to build new homes & businesses for those forced out. That left about a dozen spooky abandoned buildings.
12. Madame & Rupert laid down salt & warding spells ‘round those places. Kept the bad spirits from wandering.
13. Nowadays our biggest problem is out-of-towner ghost hunters pestering us to do investigations (cuz we got us a ghosty reputation).
14. Some of these are sincere folks just wanting to understand the nature of the universe & we towners got no problem with them.
15. Others seem to see ghost hunting as entertainment. I don’t hold with people who use the lost souls of the dead that way.
16. But ain’t no spells for exorcising dilettantes. More’s the pity.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

1. Let me thread you a story…(1-18)
2. We had us a preacher once named Mike Spike Huckleberry who liked to preach fire and brimstone and “superior” values.
3. He set up church in his house and called it the God’s True Will Church of Everlasting Superiority.
4. Trouble was, this ain’t a fire and brimstone kind of town. At least not in the sense of damning everyone to Hell.
5. But Mike Spike, well, he was one self-righteous sumbich. Not a speck of love in his Gospel, only judgement and damnation.
6. Some folks in this town ate it up with a big spoon cuz some folks love an excuse to feel superior to others.
7. And if they can fool themselves into thinking God is backing their claims to be chosen amongst men, that makes the poison more delicious.
8. For a time it seemed Mike Spike was going to take over the town. Most people didn’t hold with his message, but he shouted real loud.
9. Sometimes those who shout loudest and insist they’re being persecuted if you disagree with them can hold sway.
10. Cuz good-hearted folk just can’t believe that someone will preach about God and still hold evil intention in their heart.
11. It took a deal of cowering and doubt and good folks second-guessing their motives, but the tide finally turned on Mike Spike.
12. Billy Budd Gibbons, he of the All Souls Love Congregation, asked God to show us a sign if we should follow Mike Spike’s ways.
13. People lost count of the lightning strikes after 48 turned Mike Spike’s house into a deep, dark pit of char.
14. Mike’s daughter, Hectorine Huckleberry-Skanklebrass, spokesperson for Mike Spike, missed the deitific barbecue.
15. She was at her own home next door with her husband, Winnie, doing some cowering of her own in the basement.
16. She and Winnie did some considering while they cowered, afraid the Lord might have a postscript for them after finishing with Mike Spike.
17. They left town in an awful hurry. No one much was sorry to see ‘em go.
18. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile God’s ways to man. Other times it’s as clear as a flash of lightning.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

  1. Let me thread you a story…(1-20)
  2. Sheriff Rosa Limonada came to us by way of Texarkana where she worked as a deputy in a little town named Spoot.
  3. The sheriff she worked for had nothing but high praise for her. Said she was the crucial factor in solving their La Llorona murder case.
  4. She’s fit in well in Portalville and been a fine sheriff to us. She has this special power to quell magic. Mostly, she doesn’t use it.
  5. But if somebody is behaving bad magically, the sheriff can hawk up a metaphorical anti-magic spitball and launch it into their face.
  6. Do no harm is taken seriously ‘round these parts, and the sheriff enforces it—in the nicest possible way.
  7. If some of the young ‘uns get a little too rowdy with their mischief spells on a Saturday night, Sheriff Limonada knows how to calm ‘em.
  8. She’s mostly live and let live when it comes to magical working. If you do no harm, you’ll never hear from her.
  9. Most folks do as they will and harm none, but once in awhile someone gets out of hand or really full of themselves and needs quelling.
  10. Mostly, though, the sheriff uses her powers for the more sinister characters that slip into town.
  11. The last one was a skinwalker straight out of Uintah County in Utah. Was bothering folks’ cattle something fierce.
  12. Borrowing folks’ faces, too, and walking around like it owned the town. When it took the form of Mayor Begay the sheriff took action.
  13. Like a scene from one of them Old West movies, with the skinwalker standing at one end of Main Street, the sheriff at the other.
  14. The skinwalker reached out its hand, fit to steal the sheriff’s face or soul, and Sheriff Limonada drew her gun.
  15. The skinwalker laughed, a sound like rocks grinding together, cuz skinwalkers can’t be harmed by bullets.
  16. But the sheriff marshalled her resources and yelled, “Kapow!” at the thing as she launched her anti-magic.
  17. The skinwalker’s laugh turned to a shriek like ice ripping through a steel hull and it disappeared in a fiery ball.
  18. Took a helluva lot out of the sheriff, all that energy, but the critter ain’t never been back, so Sheriff Limonada did a real good job.
  19. She said it made an interesting change from wrangling drunks and setting up speed traps.
  20. All things considered, though, she hopes she doesn’t have to face one again soon.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-14)
2. Peaches McCaffrey stopped into Bar-Bar’s Ice Cream Parlor. She told Bar-Bar she’d been having strange dreams.
3. Now, Peaches is a sensitive soul. She runs the Peace Now Meditation Center down on Greenbriar Road.
4. She likes to talk about chakras and higher consciousness & all kinds of stuff I don’t rightly understand, but it seems to make her happy.
5. And folks come out of her center with big smiles on their faces so I guess something must be going right down there.
6. But she said that every time she ate Bar-Bar’s orange ripple chocolate ice cream—her favorite—she dreamed the same dream.
7. In it there was a beautiful white horse with sapphire eyes that always tried to coax her to frolic with it in Laverty Pond.
8. Bar-Bar told her, “Not everyone can take the higher emanations of the chocolate-fruit infusion.”
9. (Or the mystical spells some say Bar-Bar mumbles as she’s mixing batches.)
10. She told Peaches to try a dollop of Calming Sprinkles next time she got the orange ripple chocolate.
11. Oh—and on no account was she to follow that horse into that pond, in dreams or in real life.
12. Some say Bar-Bar was a high priestess of some sort before she moved here from New Orleans, but nobody really knows if that’s so.
13. She’d be far from the only one in town fond of spells and potions. It’s that kind of place. It don’t make no difference to me.
14. Because who am I to judge? I’m just a Narrator and everyone knows narrators are unreliable sots, fruit infused chocolate or not.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

  1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-11)
  2. A big orange blob parked itself in the town square. Just appeared overnight and plugged up the fountain something fierce.
  3. Trapper Bruce poked it with a stick & it blatted something that sounded like “Sad!” then barfed chicken fat out of one of its orifices.
  4. Sheriff Limonada suggested taking a flamethrower to it, but nobody had one of those, so a mob with torches formed up.
  5. I don’t really hold with mobs carrying torches myself as many an innocent creature has been declared a monster by them.
  6. But this blob gave off a foul odor of corruption & kept getting bigger, spreading all over the fountain and the park benches around it.
  7. It exploded soon as the first torch hit it. Guess it wasn’t much more than a giant gasbag filled with grease. Burned real good.
  8. The fountain ain’t never going to be the same, though. The nymphs who frequented it have been debauched & are quite traumatized.
  9. They had to go to Aunt Cozy’s Soothin’ Shack for some deep soothin’. Don’t know if they’ll ever return to the fountain.
  10. Only one happy about the situation was Natty Knowles who owns Spic n’ Span Like It Never Happened Cleaning Service.
  11. One of his biggest jobs in recent memory. I hope we’re all done with explosive orange blobs.

These tales can also be found on Twitter: @downportalville

 

  1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-12)
  2. Ned Riskom said as how he’d seen a leshy down Woodward Lane way. He’s usually sober as a church mouse. Not like him to spread tall tales.
  3. Then again he did once say as how he’d met the Queen of Sheba coming out of Bar-Bar’s Ice Cream Parlor & that sounded a bit off the mark.
  4. Bar-Bar herself didn’t mention the Queen. Then again, Bar-Bar once served a cone to Vice President Gilroy and didn’t know him from Adam.
  5. Vice President Gilroy allowed as how he’d never tasted finer rocky road in his life. Nice man. Him and his puppy, Adam.
  6. We’re always glad when Big People come through to visit us Little People. Makes us know we’re not totally alone out here on the fringe.
  7. So, back to Ned’s leshy. Trapper Bruce went down there to check things out but Woodward Lane can sometimes be downright weird.
  8. By the time Bruce got there, the elms had crossed the lane to have words with the oaks and there was an all-out tree war going on.
  9. ‘Spose one of them tree-shaper leshies could have had something to do with that, if more than one of them was walking Woodward Lane.
  10. I hear they fight to protect their territory. And they can take the shape of anything. Nobody remembers elms on Woodward Lane before.
  11. Bruce hightailed it out of there cuz the branches was flying like javelins & he didn’t fancy getting impaled for somebody’s else’s war.
  12. Ain’t none of us worked up the nerve to go down thattaway to see how the chips have fallen. Like I said, Woodward Lane is weird.

These tales can also be found on Twitter: @downportalville

PHOTO REMOVED AT THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S REQUEST

While recently reading American Folklore by Richard M. Dorson, I came upon a passage relating the curious testimony of John Josselyn from 1638. He’d taken ship to New England and upon arriving in Massachusetts Bay, was catching up on news from those he met on shore, including prodigious tales of earthquakes, mermen, monster births. He went on to say:

Mr. Foxwell came forth and related how he had passed a night at sea in a small shallop, hugging the shore but afraid to land; suddenly at midnight a loud voice called him, “Foxwell, Foxwell, come ashore,” and upon the beach he beheld a great fire ringed by dancing men and women. After an hour they vanished, and next morning Foxwell put ashore and found their footprints and brands’ ends on the sand. But no living Englishman or Indian could he find on shore or in the woods.

The passage is odd in itself, to be sure, and although logical reasons might be found to explain it, they are no fun at all. I reject them soundly. I love the fairy-like creepiness of it, and think it’s a good thing Mr. Foxwell was too timid to put ashore. The story really sets my imagination to quivering.

But the passage has extra resonance, extra quiveration, because it reminds me of a more famous passage, this one from Plutarch, On the Failure of Oracles, 17-1:

The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement.

The sea holds many mysteries and dangers, but let’s not forget that strange shores do as well.

You can find the rest of this Loeb Classics Library translation of Plutarch here.