Dark stories

Crime fiction novelist P.D. James recently wrote that her storytelling began with the dark stories she told her siblings at night, as a kid.

Matchbooks were an essential prop of my childhood storytelling. Never mind that I wasn’t allowed to play with them. My mom would park the car outside a mall. “Be right back,” she’d say, disappearing into the stores for hours while my sister and I bitched at and pinched each other.

When we got tired of that, Sister asked me to tell stories. In the glove compartment at any given time were fifteen or twenty matchbooks hidden under papers with the cigarettes Mom claimed not to smoke.

I picked out a matchbook and wrote “Match Village” on the inside flap. Then I drew smiling faces on each individual match. Sometimes I provided brief biographical information about some of the matches. “This is Gertrude,” I’d say, bending one happy face forward, “She smells bad and works at the bank.” And then I’d set the whole thing on fire and make all of the matches scream until the matchbook singed my hand. Sister would laugh and beg me to do it again.

The events in my written stories were no less random and dire. Here’s the text of the first one.

Have I mentioned that mental illness runs in my family? Both sides. Okay, off to collect my friend now.

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