The Story of my Story
"What is Metafiction?" Kerry leaned over my shoulder, looking at the open Word document.
I stared at the screen, the blankness of the page overwhelming me. "It's where the writer includes the making of the story within the story."
He looked at me, and looked back at the screen. "I don't get it."
"I don't think I do, either." My eyes didn't move from the screen.
Steve walked in from the bathroom, wearing swim trunks. "Hey!" He grinned as he held up the hotel shampoo and conditioner. "Free soaps!"
Pat spoke up from the bed he had claimed. "This one time, a bunch of my friends and I snuck into a hotel and started-"
Steve cut him off. "Andrew," he regarded me questioningly. "You're not wearing your trunks, yet."
I took one last longing look at my laptop before closing it down. "Yeah, I'll get on that." I stood and passed Steve to get into the bathroom.
"Why are we going to the hotel the conference is in when there's a pool here?" Kerry asked, cleaning his glasses nonchalantly.
"Because their pool is really nice and ours is lame." Steve responded. "Besides, the girls are already over there waiting for us.
I closed the door, muffling the voices of the other three. My suit was short, stopping below the knees and I winced when looking into the mirror after changing. I studied my torso, sadly taking in a body that wasn't fat, per se, but certainly lacked tone. Looking up, I studied my eyes and briefly, the necklace around my neck.
A knock at the door brought me out of my self-reflection and I opened the door. "I'm driving." Steve grinned in that dopey way of his.
I shook my head. "Thanks, but I'll walk. It's just across the street." I moved back into the hotel room, stepping over Kerry's sleeping bag to get to my boots.
"You sure?" Steve asked. "It's really cold out."
A grin spread across my face. "I'm from Wisconsin. I'll manage." I finished lacing myself up and stood, feeling slightly ridiculous in my outfit. Turning to Kerry, I asked, "What about you? You're from Wisconsin and you're Russian."
Kerry smiled at me. "Sure, I'll walk. Can't have you showing me up."
"Pat?" I asked.
He shot a brief look at Steve. "Ok. Only a wimp would take a car."
Steve opened his mouth to respond but I cut him off. "It's no big thing. Chill out." Steve paused, as if to say something, but turned for the door instead. "I'll meet you guys there." The door closed behind him.
I grabbed my towel and headed for the door as well. "Come on guys."
"Aren't you wearing a shirt?" Kerry asked, midway through putting his own on.
Shooting him a playful look, I grinned. "No. Only a wimp would wear a shirt."
He paused. "Son of a bitch." He swore as he removed the shirt. "This isn't peer pressure. This is one-upmanship."
"Whatever," I responded, and turned to Pat who had hopped up from the bed. "You got the room key?"
He nodded and took it out of his pocket to show me.
"Cool," I responded. "Let's go."
The wind whipped through me, raising goose bumps as it went. I looked at the night around us. The long drive of the Hilton Garden Inn led out towards a busy intersection regulated by a light. Despite that, the area was sparse, empty tracts of land bordering our hotel on either side. The hairs on my arms and chest pressed flat as the wind blew against them.
"My nipples could cut flesh." Kerry remarked to my right.
I snorted. "Remind me not to rub against you too close."
"Ew." Pat piped up from behind us. "You homos."
Kerry and I exchanged a look and shook our heads. I scanned the landscape once more. "Not much around here, huh?"
"St. Charles: a city of hotels and emptiness, temporary housing and broken dreams." Kerry spoke in a mock-official tone.
I played along. "And, of course, the fabulous Pheasant Run Resort, home to all of the fanciest fancy-pants in Illinois."
"Hey," Kerry cut the act. "Did I show you my waterproof dress pants?"
"You did," I responded. "And I was amazed."
"Guys!" Pat moved up between us and pointed. "We're going to miss the light!"
I looked ahead to see the pedestrian light flashing red in front of us. Pat took off, leaving Kerry and me behind. We watched as he ran across the street, temporarily bathed in the yellow yield signal. He reached the far curb as the light turned red and disappeared into the vast parking lot of the Pheasant Run. Kerry and I stopped at the curb and watched the cars whiz past on the busy road.
"So when's the story due?" Kerry asked.
"Monday." I shivered slightly. "I've been tossing around a couple of ideas, but none of them really seem right."
"Well, like I said earlier, I was tossing around the idea of writing some metafiction, but I don't really think it would be all that good.
"I still don't really get what that is.
I thought about this for a second. "Yeah, I don't think I do either."
"Huh." We waited by the curb in quiet for a couple seconds.
"You know," I said. "I've been wanting to write a piece about the home life of Captain Planet for over a year now. You know, what he does when he's not fighting pollution."
"What does he do?" Kerry draped his towel over his shoulders.
I laughed to myself. "Well, I wanted him to be a college professor at a community college somewhere, teaching environmental studies. I don't really have much else besides the fact that he likes to spend his evenings eating TV dinners and watching Fraiser.
"You got a title?"
"Yeah," I said. "Fuck the Planeteers."
He laughed appreciatively. "Well why not write it?"
"I can't make it come together." I breathed out in exasperation. "It's like the opposite of the A-Team."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean…" I trailed off, gathering my thoughts. "I get all these good thoughts and good concepts, but it's hard to wrap it all up in a story. And you know me, and that I love stories and blah blah bullshit. But it's hard to make a good story on command. So all I have are these ideas that can't really go anywhere.."
"No," He said. "What do you mean about the A-Team?"
"Oh," I felt disconcerted for a second while I tried to backtrack my thoughts. "Hannibal, remember?" I held a fake cigar in the air and deepened my voice. "I love it when a good plan comes together."
The light changed and we continued through the cold in silence.
The warmth of the lobby swept over us as we entered, attracting a fair amount of looks from the mass of conference goers hanging around. I motioned up to a sign hung from the ceiling that read, "The Pheasant Run would like to welcome the members of the ACA Midstates Camping Conference."
"Look," I said. "We're honored guests."
We milled our way through the large complex, drawing a little attention in our shirtless state. I accidentally made eye contact with an attractive girl and we both quickly looked away. I wondered briefly if she found me attractive, then immediately chided myself for the thought. Why would she?
We entered the swimming area to find Steve waiting in the pool with the girls, Janelle, Keno, and Christina. The pool itself was large and vaguely spherical, with only one main distinguishing feature. In the center of the pool, a large plastic window reached down from the ceiling and stopped just under the surface of the water, separating the pool so that part of it was inside and part outside. Kerry and I set down our towels and waded in to greet the others.
"Where's Pat?" Keno asked, smiling by way of greeting.
"Dunno." I responded. "I think we lost him."
"Oh well," Steve said. "He'll find us."
Janelle squinted. "Is that you, pookie?"
"Yeah," I examined her face. "What's wrong? Your eyes ok?"
"I'm not wearing my glasses and am filled with rage." She let out a small, angry giggle.
"Does one have anything to do with the other?" Kerry asked.
"No." Janelle responded. "I'm just filled with rage." She raised her fist out of the water and shook it gently. "Rage."
"Why are you so angry?" Steve asked.
She very slowly rounded on him. "I'm not angry, Steve." Her eyes were squinted to make it look as if she were glaring at him, which may have been what she was doing. "I am simply rage-ful."
I smiled at her. "Well, whatever makes you happy." I pulled my attention back and addressed the whole group. "You guys want to go to the outside part?"
General assent murmured throughout the group and we collectively swam/waded towards the plastic divide. I lifted my weight to dive under the window when Christina moved inadvertently to block me. "Hey!" I exclaimed gently.
"Oh, sorry," She apologized.
I shook my head and narrowed my eyes at her. "Always in my way…"
She narrowed her eyes and we glared at each other for a moment before breaking out into grins. I made what I thought was a gentlemanly "after you" gesture and followed her under the hard plastic window.
We swam for a bit outside. The pool was heated but the air seemed even colder, making my face tingle with warmth every time I dove under, but instantly chill upon resurfacing. Steve swam over to me. "Hey, you should tell us a story."
"Why?" I responded, not entirely defensive, but more curious. It seemed a random request.
He shrugged. "I like your stories, man. Come on"
Kerry and Keno swam over, adding their own enthusiasm to hear a story before a thought occurred to me. "Ok," I said. "I will tell you guys the best story I know, but first we need to find Pat."
"Why?" asked Steve.
"Because I don't want to tell the story twice."
This was valid enough to give him pause, after which he nodded. "I'll go find him." He turned to Kerry. "You want to come?"
"Sure." And with that, Steve and Kerry dived back under the plastic divide towards their towels, leaving me with the girls.
"So," I said. "How's everyone doing?"
There were a couple shrugs before Keno responded. "I think I'm feeling some sympathy rage."
My faced turned questioning. "Sympathy rage?" I asked.
"You know how when a woman is pregnant her husband feels sympathy pain?" Keno smiled at Janelle who laughed. "I'm feeling sympathy rage."
"Well," I focused on Janelle. "Why are you so rage-y?"
She shrugged. "Well, a little bit is the conference, specifically since this is the eighth time I've heard Michael Brandwein speak. The other part is Jeff."
I nodded sympathetically at the mention of our Camp Director's name. "Yeah, he's a hard guy to work under."
"So yeah. That's what's bugging me."
I turned to Christina. "You getting any sympathy rage?"
She shook her head. "Nope. I am rage-free."
I grinned and floated on my back briefly, looking up into the cold night sky.
"What about you, Andyroohoo?" Keno asked, giving me a poke that sent me floating gently away from her. "How do you feel?"
I thought about this before righting myself and treading back towards her. "I'm kind of freaking out about this story."
"Well, you don't have to tell one if you don't want to."
"No, not that." I shook my head, knocking some of the water out of my hair. "I have to write a story for class on Monday and don't know what to write yet. No big deal." I sighed and glanced towards the plastic barrier. I felt stupid talking about my writing with the girls, like I was bragging or something. Who brags about their shortcomings, though? Maybe I was just looking for sympathy. I smiled and wondered if there was such a thing as sympathy sympathy.
"Let's go back towards the shallow end." Janelle said. "I want to rest."
We swam back under the barrier and headed towards the side of the pool. I looked towards the door and turned back towards the girls. "I'm not sure if they're coming back and I'm getting tired of waiting. Do you guys want to hear the story?"
The girls laughed a bit and nodded. I smiled at them and continued. "There are two conditions for hearing this, my best story. They are as follows," I held up a finger. "One, I am not at any point obligated to reveal whether this is a true story or not. Two," I held up another finger. "It ends where it ends. No complaining, got it?"
General assent was given, and with that, I began my story.
When I was eighth grade, I was in love. Now, I know what you're thinking. No one knows what love is in eighth grade, but this was it. Her name isn't important, but I will tell you that she smelled like rain and her skin was as soft as suede rubbed the right way. We were happy in that idyllic, prepubescent way. Unfortunately, predictably, tragedy struck. Her dad was offered a job in Germany and his whole family was moving with him. When she told me, I got so angry. Clearly, I had no right to get angry, but I couldn't think straight. All that registered in my mind was the girl I loved was leaving, and I didn't want her to. So we got into a huge fight and she stormed out of my house, leaving me without a forwarding address or phone number. Of course, I realized my stupidity a couple days later, but by then it was too late. The girl I loved was gone.
"Four years later I'm a senior in high school. I have a job a limo driver, which is fine. It's also springtime, which is a busy time of year for the limo industry. I'm called to drive this guy and his date to prom. I pick him up and immediately don't like him. I want you to imagine the total asshole jock from your high school and you'll have a very good idea of what this guy is like. Anyway, we go to pick up the girl, and it's Her. It's the girl from grade school. I'm so shocked my brain can't form a single coherent thought. What should I do? Nothing in my life has even begun to prepare me for a situation like this, except maybe sitcoms, but I hate that crap. So what do I do? I roll up the tinted window, tip my dumb chauffeur's hat low over my face, and pretend I don't exist. I do sneak looks at her through the rearview mirror, and I do it often. She has matured from a pretty girl to an incredibly gorgeous woman. It is very difficult for me to keep my eyes on the road. We eventually arrive at the community center where the prom is being held. They both exit my limo arm in arm, the jock stopping by my limo on his way past. 'Hey,' he whispers. 'Why don't you hang around for a bit?' He slips me a dollar tip, the jerk. 'After the dance, take us for a ride to some secluded spot and go take a walk for a half-hour, ok?' He winks at me and for that brief instant I want nothing more then to rip his throat out. Instead I nod and give a weak smile of understanding to the wink. He then escorts the love of my life into the community center and leaves me to suffer with my thoughts.
"I sat in the driver's seat and felt more miserable then I ever had before in my life. The local rock station that I was listening to was playing all this wussy love rock junk that made me want to cry my eyes out. What was I supposed to do? Wait patiently until they get back and then drive them to a location where that stupid muscle head planned to violate the girl I love? I couldn't stand it. I literally wanted to explode so that I could express all the emotions that were raging inside me. All I could do was wait for them both to come back and do what I thought is right when the time came.
"The overhead light comes on as the back door opens. It's her, but something is wrong. The jerk is nowhere to be seen, and her mascara is running down her face. 'Please drive,' she manages to get out. I do so without hesitation. I am curious, so I roll down the tinted window a crack and lower my voice to disguise it. 'So, what happened to that guy you were with?' I asked. 'Complete asshole,' she responded. It was dark, so she couldn't see my smile. 'God,' she continued. 'Why do guys have to be such jerks?' 'I don't know,' I responded. We continued to talk like this until the subject came around to past relationships.
"'There was a guy once,' she said. 'And we were in love. I mean, we were in eighth grade, and who knows what love is in eighth grade, right? But still. there was something there.'
"'So what happened?' I asked, careful to keep my voice level.
"'My dad got a job in Europe and I had to leave. He was upset, and we fought.' She sighed. 'But still, I really did love him.' She broke into fresh sobs. 'I just wish I could see him one last time.'
"I couldn't take it. I rolled down the tinted window, removed my hat, flicked on the overhead light, looked her in the eyes and said, 'Hi.'"
I stopped, watching the girls for a reaction. They were, in turn, watching me expectantly.
"Is that it?" Keno asked.
"Yes." I responded.
"Oh." I watched the three of them exchange looks. My stomach sank at the slightly disappointed expressions on their faces.
Christina looked me in the eye. "I know you told us not to ask, but is it a true story?"
I considered her question while gently running my pruney toe along the bottom of the pool. Part of me wanted to lie, and another part wanted to ignore the question altogether. In the end I decided to do neither, the sick feeling in my stomach urging me on.
"No." My voice sounded like a lead weight. "It's not true. Things like that never happen in real life."
At 2:30 in the morning I found myself lying in my sleeping bag on the floor of the hotel room, sprawled out in front of my laptop, my blank screen. Kerry and Steve had found Pat, but the hotel pool was closing upon their return. I told them the story as we drove back to our hotel because sometimes you have to tell a story twice. I did not, however, tell them the truth of it. Much to my relief, they didn't ask.
Now they were all asleep in anticipation of Jeff's 7:00 AM wakeup call. My own eyes stung from the lack of sleep and the presence of chlorine. My hair was stiff and dry with the stuff, but I knew I had to think of something to write, anything at all.
I reflected back on the day and idly fingered my necklace, running my thumb over the smooth rock, feeling the symbol engraved on its surface. I imagined myself opening up my mind to all the knowledge in the universe, and from it selecting the perfect story, one that would not disappoint or dismay. I closed my eyes and began typing keys at random on my keyboard, willing my subconscious to guide my fingers and create the perfect piece of work. I opened my eyes to inspect the results.
I sighed and shut off my computer. I still had one more day. I had time...
"So, did everyone sleep alright?" Jeff asked. Everyone sat at a table a small cafe in our hotel. In the center of the table sat our breakfast, three bags of items ordered of the McDonald's morning menu. I eyed it distastefully.
Steve spoke up. "Actually, it was really cold." He shot a look at Pat. "Someone turned on the air conditioning when we got back to the hotel room."
Pat opened his mouth to respond but Jeff cut him off. "Well, that's nice." He opened up his conference newspaper. "Does everyone know what session they want to go to?"
Around the table, people opened up their papers. I looked around, but mine was nowhere to be found. Keno put her paper between us and smiled at me, which I returned. My eyes began to travel to the conference sessions for the morning when I noticed Kerry reach into one of the bags and pull out an Egg McMuffin. My stomach churned.
"Do you know," I said aloud to the group. "Once I was going somewhere with my friends and we stopped at a McDonalds. One of the guys got an Egg McMuffin, but he didn't really want the egg part, so he opened up the sandwich, took it out, and tossed it out the window on a grass median dividing the road. Later that afternoon, we were on our way back, and we passed that same grass median. The egg patty was still there, and all the grass around it had died."
Everyone looked at me and I felt suddenly self-conscious. Kerry looked at his McMuffin, shrugged, and took a bite. Jeff smiled condescendingly and said, "That's fascinating." He turned his attention back to his paper. "Ok, I would like someone to check out 'Get your Campers to Work Together as a Team.' Any takers?"
"Sure." Janelle spoke up. "Maybe I can use something from that for the CIT program."
"Ok." Jeff made a mark on his paper. "Do I have any volunteers for 'Behavior Management'?"
"I'll do it." Steve spoke through the food in his mouth.
"Can I do 'Dutch Oven Cooking with Two Old Fat Guys'?" Kerry asked.
"No," Jeff said. "I want you and Christina to go to 'Silly Songs and Wacky Fun'. Try and bring back things we can use at camp, ok?"
Steve and Keno both nodded their assent. "Alright," Jeff said. "Who's left?"
"Andrew, Keno, and Pat." Janelle responded.
"Well, where would you like to go?" Jeff asked.
"I was looking at 'H2O Olympics'." Keno said.
Pat nodded. "And I wanted to do 'Around the World in 7 Minutes'."'
Jeff looked at me, "Andrew?" He asked.
I stared at Keno's paper, willing the perfect session to fall before my eyes, something that would suit me. A sudden excitement swept through me as I alighted on a title. I turned my eyes up to Jeff. "I'll do 'Storytelling at Camp'."
The only word to describe my mood as I walked to my session was "giddy". All my insecurities seemed to vanish in the face of the solution to my problem. I ran through the plan again in my head. I would go to the session, size up the presenter, and ask her how she came up with stories. Then, I would have the key to cracking this writing problem. I even felt like clicking my heels, but in the end decided that would probably be a bad idea.
As I continued down the various halls of the Pheasant Run Resort, I suddenly caught sight of the girl I had locked eyes with the night before on my way to the pool. She was standing in front of a set of elevators with some other people, presumably co-counselors from her camp. Thoughts battled each other in my mind, but my giddiness won out. Breathing slightly faster then normal, I approached the girl.
"Excuse me," I said. "So, don't take this the wrong way or anything, I'm not hitting on you and I'm fairly certain that we'll never see each other again. I just wanted to let you know that I think you're an extremely beautiful woman."
She stood before me at a loss for words. Likewise, her friends simply stared at me. Finally, the girl smiled and spoke. "Um, thank you." Her smile turned to a grin as she looked me up and down. "I like your necklace."
I laughed a little at this and immediately brought my hand up to my neck. "Yeah, the guy who sold it to me told me the stone is 'Amber Obsidian', which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist." She laughed as I continued. "The symbol is Celtic, and it means 'Fate, Chance, and Mystery'. She smiled appreciatively and I gave a little bow. "Well, I just wanted to let you know." I said, and left.
I could hear her friends' sounds of amazement as I continued towards my session, and the smile on my face grew. Everything would be alright.
This lightheartedness stayed with me as I reached the meeting room my session was taking place in. The room, the size of a classroom, was moderately full. At the front on a table were all sorts of props which I imagined could only be used as an aid to storytelling. The presenter herself was wearing casual clothing, but hanging around her neck was what I could only assume to be an Indian medicine pouch. She was talking to some people at the front, motioning towards the pouch around her neck, explaining its significance. I smiled. She certainly seemed knowledgeable enough to serve my purposes. She turned her eyes up to the clock and spoke to address the whole room.
"Hello, everyone, and welcome. This is Storytelling at Camp for those of you who may be in the wrong room, although even if you came in by mistake, I urge you to stay. Storytelling is a wonderfully important and powerful thing in our society, and it's something that can be utilized very well at camp. Now, I don't expect everyone here to be a professional storyteller, so I'm going to impart some tips and tricks to get stories going for your campers."
My excitement grew, this was perfect. Unable to contain myself, I raised my hand. The presenter noticed me and pointed, "Yes?"
"I was just wondering," I said. "I'm a huge supporter of storytelling at camp, and I have no problem telling them, but occasionally I have problems coming up with new stories. Is there any advice you could give me to help with this?"
She smiled. "I'm really glad that you asked that question. My answer lies in this bag." She reached into her satchel and my anticipation grew. This was it. She would solve my problem, I'd know what to write about, and my story would be done. No more worries.
She drew several small brightly colored books from the bag and waved them in front of the group. All of my good feelings died at the sight of them, but she smiled at me, oblivious. "Mad Libs," she explained. "Perfect for telling stories with your campers."
Misery swallowed me as I left my session. I berated myself for trying to find an easy answer to my problem, knowing that only I can write my own stories. The world seemed greyer now that I had left the session, and for the first time I considered just giving up. Forget this story, forget writing in general. I immediately abandoned this line of thought. What else was I good for, after all?
"What is metafiction?" A slightly bubbly voice to my left asked.
"What?" I looked around to see Christina walking next to me. "I... I don't really know. Why do you ask?"
"Kerry mentioned your story in our session. He said you were having problems with it."
Embarrassment flooded through me. Stupid Kerry. "Yeah, well, it's no big deal."
"You know," She said. "Usually if you can't find something, it means you're looking too hard."
"You think I'm trying too hard?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I'm just saying." She smiled. "Come on, let's find the others." She bounded off into the crowd of conference-goers.
I watched her go, unable to decide exactly how I felt about the exchange. "That girl is too cheerful for her own good." I muttered, and followed after.
That night was the last of the conference. The next morning I would awake, go to the closing session, and drive back to Milwaukee just in time to turn in nothing for my homework assignment. Jeff had retired to his own room for the night, and the rest of us decided to stay at our own hotel's pool.
"Are you kidding me?" Pat exclaimed. "My grandma's kiddie pool is bigger then this."
I watched the water lap around his chest as he stood in the deep end, and had to concede his point. "At least there's a hot tub."
It was in this tub that we all eventually gathered, crowding together in the bubbling water. No one spoke as we all relaxed in the warm water. My own mind was as tumultuous as the water we sat in. I screamed at myself to get out, go up to our room, and sit in front of the computer until something came to me. I played out a scenario in my mind where terrorists tried to stop me from writing my paper, but the thoughts quickly degenerated in my head.
The wall timer for the hot tub ran out and the bubbles ceased, leaving all of us in silence.
"Hey, Andrew," Pat said. "Why do you like stories so much?"
This question struck me hard, and for a second I could think of no response. Then, it came to me, and it seemed so obvious, that I wondered how I could've ever forgotten it in the first place. "Alright," I said. "The story I'm about to tell you guys is true. Absolutely true. It's important that you know this, because this is the story of why I do what I do."
"Last summer, I was at camp with you guys. My cabin had just gotten back from an overnight trip to the Bear Sanctuary in Ely, and we were greeted with unpleasantness. André and Becca had just been fired for smoking with a CIT, and Shannon had quit. Everything seemed miserable, and everyone was miserable. On top of all that, I felt sick as a dog, and I went to lie down in the health center during dinner and so forth.
"Well, I was lying in my bed when I awoken by a camper screaming. I went into the main room of the health center to see one of the girls being escorted by her counselor. She was about 13-14 years old and was crying and screaming and demanding to see her mom. Now, I'm not going to tell you who the camper was, but she had had some horrible things happen to her in her youth. Her counselor had told the rest of us to be careful with her, partially because of her history, but partially because she was on medication for bi-polar disorder.
"The nurse was there, and the girl's counselor was there, so I felt I wasn't needed and left. I went to go sit in the dining hall until the girl calmed down. Jeff was called in from the office and I watched him go into the health center to try to calm the girl down, but he couldn't. Jeff and the girl's counselor left the health center, and I heard Jeff say to her 'There's nothing we can do, we're not prepared to handle a problem of this magnitude, we'll just have to ride it out.'
"The counselor went back into the health center and Jeff came to talk to me about the recent events. Time passed, but the girl did not stop crying or screaming. I felt like hell, and all I wanted was to lie down in the health center. Finally, I looked at Jeff and said, 'I'm going to fix this.' I got up and entered the room.
"The girl was just as loud as when she first came in demanding to see her mom. Heather, the nurse, explained that she couldn't reach the girl's mom and the girl would need to calm down, but the girl had no intention of doing so. All the seats were taken, so I sat on the broken scale that's been in there forever. I turned to the girl and asked, 'Do you want to hear a story?'
"'No!' The girl screamed, and I was taken aback. This hadn't really happened before. I turned to the girl's counselor, and asked if she wanted to hear a story, which she did. I then began telling the limo story, because it's my best one, and I know it well.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The girl was in no mood for listening, and so she simply screamed while I talked. It wasn't doing any good, and I knew it. I almost stopped halfway though, but I couldn't let myself do it. I decided to finish the story and leave.
"But then, something happened. I got to the part of the story where the guy finds his lost love and decides to hide his face from her. Every time I mentioned the girl in the story, the camper would get quieter and calm down. This little bit energized me, and my voice grew stronger with the telling. I was calming her.
"Then, a horrible thought struck me. The ending. As a writer, I like leaving the end open to interpretation, something to give the story a level of depth. I had never really even though about it myself, leaving that for the listener to do. I knew, though, that if I ended the story the way I usually do, the girl would hate it and my work would be undone. And so this is how I ended the story.
"'I looked into her eyes and said, "Hi." She stared at me a long time before tears began running down her face. Tears of joy. She dove through the tinted window in the middle and hugged me, and we lived happily ever after.'
"I finished the story and looked at the camper's face. She was smiling. I took my leave to go back to my cabin, and on my way, Jeff stopped me.
"'Isn't it amazing,' He said. 'The things you can accomplish with a story and a calm face.'"
"That's why I do what I do." I looked at the others, and they were all beaming at me. I was suddenly struck by their individual natures, how all of these people had their own stories, their own defining moments. I smiled. I hoped to get to hear them over the summer.
Something clicked, and I knew it was right. "Excuse me." I said and got out of the hot tub. I grabbed a towel and headed back to the room. The giddiness and self-doubt of the past two days were gone. I was calm, I was content.
The key to our room slid in and out of the slot easily and I went inside. Without hesitation, I moved to my laptop and switched it on. I reflected back on the weekend, on my friends and fellow counselors and the way we all fit together. I thought about happiness, anger, doubt. I though about the stories, and the power they contain. I opened up the blank word document, and it no longer seemed an impassable wall, but a blank slate awaiting my ideas. Fingers struck keys as I wrote…
"What is Metafiction?"
I leaned back and looked at my screen, at those words. I grinned, and plucked a cigar out of the air.