Here follows the story in question.
A person I know was recently moving into their new office, which was on the first floor of the building. They were bringing their stuff into the office bit-by-bit. No lift in this premises so everything was being person-handled up the two flights of stairs. The person would leave some of the stuff outside the front door while some more of the stuff was being carried up. A one-person job which begged a couple more persons to do it easier.
One of the items left on the walkway outside the front door, during one of these trips up the stairs, was a hatstand. Quite a nice hatstand, modern and sleek. A little metal, a little wood. You know the type. If you don’t, picture it. It’ll come to you.
The hatstand stood outside the front door, minding its own business. All good. Except, in the really short time it took the person to carry a big box up, drop it in their new office and then come back down again, the hatstand was gone.
A story, yes, but not a great story. If it turns out that the hatstand was stolen, that’s a little bit better but still not great. If the town-cleaner brigade came by and swept it away, in the brief period of time it stood there, well, that’s fine but still not great. But the hatstand was not stolen nor was it taken away as rubbish.
It was sold.
Next door to the building containing the person’s new office, the lies a Charity Shop. A very good Charity Shop. Sometimes they place particular bargains outside of their shop. A little something to catch the eye of the passing public. No harm, no foul.
Except, in the brief moments that the person was up and down the stairs, somebody spotted the hatstand, mistook it very a potential nice bargain, carried it into the Charity Shop, asked ‘How much for this?’ paid up and left. By the time the new office person got back to street level, the hatstand was already long gone.
Now, maybe you don’t agree, but I think that’s a great little story. Hence my reaction.
When the person was telling it to me, within moments of it having happened, I simply could not conceal my delight at how the story concluded. Whatever little internal antennae I have for tales and narratives, must have been twitching excitedly. When the person, who was a bit put-out, finished telling me their story, I all but punched the air.
“That’s great,” I said, “isn’t that just great?”
The person, who doesn’t know me very well, looked at me in a somewhat bemused fashion.
“Well,” they replied, in a measured tone, “I’m not sure I’d call it exactly ‘great’…”
I tried to explain, as I will try to explain here now, but I don’t think they fully understood and I’m not sure you will either.
It’s simply this. I would sacrifice my hatstand for a good story any day of the week.
I do it all the time, if only metaphorically. This here blog is littered with stories where I have lost out. It might not always be something material, like a hatstand. It might just be a loss of my pride or my composure or my… anything really. If I lose (and I regularly do) and I get a little story to tell out of my defeat, then I can’t help but feel that’s I’ve really won.
It's a little comfort to me to realise that. I may not always be comfortable defining myself as a writer, having never quite gotten as far along that road as I thought I might. I may not be able to say I’m a theatre writer or a screen writer or a short story writer though I’ve done a fair measure of all of them. I may not always be able to sell that ‘Writer’ definition to myself in my own head.
But, by golly, I’m a storyteller. Put that on my gravestone or little marble plaque or whatever I end up behind or beneath.
Ken Armstrong – Storyteller
“Willing to Swap Hatstand for Story Any Day.”