CORAL SPRINGS, FL – They say everyone has a story to tell, even a book to write.
I’ve always been a prolific story-teller. As a camp counselor for three years, I kept telling a campfire story that I heard as a camper at a campfire. It is the story of “Three-Fingered Willy.” It’s a silly horror story about an angry disgruntled three-fingered forest wanderer who killed children. It is best told with the fire crackling and the flames casting Halloween like shadows against the trees.
As the campers got older, I began to get more challenges about the veracity of the story. I challenged the non-believers to contact the mayor of the closest town, which was not much bigger than the campfire itself. The office we heard was inundated with letters. We heard because he called the director of the camp. The third-year my cover was blown. A letter arrived, very formal looking, saying they had researched the archives of the town going back to the 1800’s and not reference of a killer of children, no less one with three fingers were found.
A good story is no good without some embellishment. My wife says I never let the facts get in the way of a good story. So be it.
While wading through my emails last month I stumbled across a storytelling contest.
Sometimes on Saturdays on NPR I listen to the story slam programs. In conjunction with the Boca Raton Public Library, WNPR Public Radio, and Florida Atlantic University, I found a notice of a monthly slam contest running from October through March. It was done on Zoom. First 10 storytellers get to tell their stories. The rules for this one were that the story had to be personal, true, could not be written or memorized, and no longer than 5-7 minutes. Since I’ve recently had a memoir published, I had a ton of stories that would fit the criteria. So, with a tea timer as my companion, I practiced. Bless me if I didn’t win first prize, a certificate and a check. It was a real hoot.
No, Three-Fingered Willy was not my choice, but I did tell a story from camp. It was about a lesson I learned. Some things you think and then keep them to yourself. The story was about a cow and a girl.
Here’s a synopsis. I was at summer camp until you have a “steady.” It is not unusual for a boy to have a crush on a different girl every week. On my day off, I had gone up to the country store, and while walking back, I passed a cow pasture. A cow ambled over to check me out. She put her head over the fence railing. One doesn’t get up close and personal too often with a cow when one lives in Brooklyn. I treated it like a large dog, rubbing its head, scratching its ears. It seemed to like it and nuzzled me. A cow nuzzle has a lot of weight behind it. When I got up from the ground, I went back to what I was doing when I noticed her eyes. Suffice it to say that were spectacularly deep and beautiful. I’d never seen anything like them, not even on a deer.
But it was mid-August in the mountains. The sun was scooting down to the horizon and the moon beginning to take shape in its place. I had to get back and picked up the pace. I noticed a bit later than there was a form in front of me. Not a child killer but a girl I had a crush on and had gotten no response from for weeks. She was one of those unfortunate 15-year-olds who already had a body like a 25-year-old swimsuit model.
I decided to try again. On that country road she seemed a lot more relaxed, and happy for the company. Soon our elbows were rubbing, our arms were touching, and seemingly seamlessly our fingers had become intertwined. All very romantic. As we got to the camp’s gate, I turned her to me, took her face in my hands, and looked deeply into her eyes. I said, “You have eyes like a cow.” She stepped back, slapped me across the face like a Rocky Marciano right cross and ran crying into camp. The devil is in the adjectival details; the story I told was longer and more detailed. But it was the winner.
Since in recent weeks I’ve been concentrating on telling you how not to get, robbed, raped, scammed, I hope I’d bring a little fun into your lives. Here is the contest info to get on the mailing list. The next one is in about three weeks. If you participate, let me know. And good luck!
Call either the Spanish River Branch of the Boca Raton Library or FAU and ask to be connected to the professor who runs the storytelling slam contest.
Read William A. Gralnick’s recent columns for TAPinto Coral Springs:
A resident of South Florida for more than 30 years, Bill Gralnick has written more than 900 op-eds and columns for newspapers around the country, including columns for the Brooklyn Eagle.
His latest book, found on Amazon.com, Kindle or paperback, is the coming-of-age memoir, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales from Brooklyn.”
His writings can be found on his website: williamgralnickauthor.com
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