Today, I got a phone call with notice of acceptance of a short story I drafted 25 years ago. An actor with Stories on Stage-Davis (SOS-Davis) will perform the story in 2014; I'll receive $50. My story has earned me $2 a year. Not much income for my banking account. The satisfaction is having persistence pay.
"Learning to Swim" tells of a teenaged girl at a campground. I wrote it for all the families I had seen in my roaming, living out of motels and cars. In years following the story's first draft, I moved houses 21 times. Until recently, when I started purging files, I carried a paper copy of the story from place to place. The ink from the dot matrix printer that made that copy was starting to fade; "Learning to Swim" is now stored digitally in a cloud.
The story opens, "The summer we lived at the Lawrence, Kansas K.O.A, I learned to swim." I've written dozens more sentences and stories. Many of those are lost or abandoned. Why did I hang on to "Learning to Swim"?
The answer to why I persisted with the story, rereading and revising it, is in a phrase in the acceptance email from SOS-Davis: "We view you as family now...." Each piece I write that finds a home connects me with people who would otherwise remain strangers.
Often lost in a daydream of a line of poetry or an image, I don't recognize acquaintances' faces when I run into them at the grocery store in my day-to-day life. But I remember the people about whom I write. I recall where I saw them, our exchange-- eyes meeting or a full conversation. And when that exchange happens, I am bound to that person and situation because my vocation is to tell of that encounter.
For we humans, who have lost our tails, tales make us human again. Silly but true. Tell a story, someone hears it: we are reminded that all of us are one household. We can choose to view each other as family.