Truth and Story

Traditional stories are transformative, flicking a switch on a mood in an instant, or working in silence, like a seed. Traditional stories are often ‘flash fiction’ as brief as the burning of a match. Take this Scottish traveller proverb, 'A story flies eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart.' Ben Okri says ‘the great essays on storytelling are done in stories themselves.’ Here’s a take on an old Jewish tale that does just that:

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Truth and Story

Truth stank like a subway. Naked, skinny, hair as greasy as old chip paper, he either wept, or stood on a soapbox and spat shrapnel.

‘You’re all going to die!’

We just blanked him.

Story was fragrant and done up to the nines. Whether stalking across the square sporting designer monochrome or whirling like a dervish with rainbow scarves, she caught the eye. That done, with a flick of her diamante fingers, a flute of her vaudeville lips, she began,

‘Satin, spandex, sequin, sparkle

Mystery, magic, music, marvel.’

Strutting down catwalks of cadence, she teased us with froth like a bad cappuccino. Wipe your moustache and she was gone. She drew the crowds but couldn't keep them.

Story satisfied our hunger about as much as bubble gum, but still, each night, we gathered in the square a while to wonder at her sorcery.

One night, after the crowds had dispersed, Story walked home depressed. You always know when you’ve had a bad gig. She passed Truth, pale and naked, muttering in his doorway,

‘War, winter, cold,' he ranted. Still hopeful for applause, Story smiled a red smile.

Truth spat on her scarlet shoes, ‘Whore! Husk!’

Story sighed and opened up her cloak, ‘Come here, you'll catch your death.’

She swathed Truth in soft, warm, bright, wool. He started to blubber,

‘Keep me close, keep me close.’

She did. And Truth began to change his tune, 'Peace, summer, sun,' he crooned.

Ever since, Truth and Story have travelled together. He gives her substance and she makes him palatable. The crowd in the market place clap and clap. They can’t get enough of the duo. He's the book to her cover, the milk to her froth and she collects his tears in a silver cup to change them into wine.

Xanthe Gresham Knight

Storyteller, Freelance