The Best Story Ever
"There's a random guy walking on the railroad. . . Hmm."
Jake ignored the comment. He was actually trying to do something productive. Danny, on the other hand, never seemed to do anything at all. His straight A's, honour-roll friend never did anything. And that really irked Jake.
Danny was bored. He didn't feel like doing his work; of course, he rarely felt like doing anything. He wanted to talk, about nothing in particular, but just to pass the time. French class really sucked. Since Jake didn't pick up on the conversation Danny turned back to his aimless doodling. He began to wonder about the man walking on the railroad.
Lunch time didn't come soon enough.
"Hey! You remember the guy on the rail road?! The one I commented on in French? "
Jake nodded, his nose buried in his lunch bag, in search of the ever elusive spoon. "So?" He glimpsed a glint of metal at the very bottom and set to retrieving the wayward silverware.
"So. I made a story for him."
Jake's face was screwed up in concentration, his whole arm disappearing down the lunch bag, past the jelly and peanut butter sandwich.
"You want my sandwich?" Jake asked, still peering into the lunch bag.
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's jelly and peanut butter."
"So? You like PB&J?" Danny didn't see the problem.
Pausing in his quest for the all important eating implement, Jake threw Danny a look usually reserved for the youngest of children or the slowest of people.
"There's a difference." Jake explained slowly, careful to enunciate every syllable. "Making a sandwich is like art. In a PB&J the peanut butter has to go on first, then the jelly. Not the other way around." He paused, searching for an example. "Like when we did fractions. 2/3 does not equal 3/2, a jelly and peanut butter sandwich is not a PB&J."
"Whatever." Danny wasn't about to waste a perfectly good sandwich.
Shaking his head mournfully Jake muttered. "I still can't get that through to Dad, either."
Turning back to his adventure to the center of the lunch bag, Jake dove past the pudding cup, past the various snacks and the weird gooey thing that was last week's banana, to finally rest on his prize.
"Aha!" He wiped the utensil on his pants to get rid of the crusted on apple sauce.
"Wanna hear it?"
"Not if it sounds like your usual stories," Jake mumbled around a mouthful of soup.
"What's wrong with my usual stories?" Danny was appalled at the slight given to his brain children.
"'The other day? I was riding, right?'" Jake quoted in a Danny voice. "'And I saw this cat. It was holding a mouse, right? Then it dropped it and caught it again. Then it dropped it again and then it walked away.' They really aren't very . . . story-like."
"Hey! That one's a classic. And you forgot the part where the cat chased after it."
Jake sighed, closing his eyes in resignation.
"What if I promise that it's not like that? It's got a beginning and ending and a plot and everything. Huh? You know you want to."
Jake rubbed at his side where Danny's not so subtle nudging had left what felt like the beginning of a spectacular set of bruises. "Whatever."
"So there's this guy right? We'll call him . . . Bob. And he works for the railroad company. His job is to look after the rails to make sure that nothing is broken. He loves his job because all he has to do is to walk along the railways and make sure that it's not broken—"
"You just said that."
Jake rolled his eyes.
"Anyway, he has this bright orange—or was it red?—we'll go with orange stick—to carry around so people at the train yards know that he's on official business and also to beat back stray animals and squirrels with rabies—"
"Come on! Rabid squirrels? Do you expect anyone to believe that?"
"My mother's friend says squirrels are bad and carry rabies. But I could change it to wolves or something."
Danny covered his face with his hand.
"One day his boss asked him to follow this really, really, long railroad that leads to other cities. Bob didn't want to, but his boss said he had to. So Bob packs a bag with things he will need for the trip, like his Gameboy, extra batteries, clean underwear, and lots of snacks—"
"That's not going to work. You need—"
"Look. Do you want to hear the story or not?" Danny rounded on his friend, waving the half-eaten jelly and peanut butter sandwich in Jake's face.
"Actually—" Jake tried to use the rhetorical question as a way to get out of listening to the rest of his friend's story.
"If you want to hear it, stop cutting me off." Pausing to take a bite of his sandwich, Danny continued. "So he walked for days and—"
"That's just phony. You can't—"
"SO HE ENDS UP IN OUR CITY!" Instead of stopping Danny just raised his voice above Jake's. "And followed the railway over there." He pointed out the window for clarification. "That's when he thought that someone was looking at him. So he looked about, trying to find out. He couldn't see anyone, so he just kept walking. He decided that our city was weird because there's invisible people looking at him and he decided to never come back. The End.
"So what did you think?"
"How would he know if anyone was looking at him? And who was looking at him? You can't leave that. And shouldn't he be used to people looking at him? I mean, how many other people walk on the railroad? And—"
"Look. I asked you how the story was. I didn't ask you to pick out bad parts."
"But you can't leave a story like that!"
"What's wrong with it?"
"Granted, you had a good beginning. It made me want to know about this Bob and what he does. Sending him to a different place puts the plot in motion, and that's good too,—"
"So what's the problem? Throw an ending onto that and voilà—instant story."
"Then you put in the mysterious invisible people and that's great too because it makes the plot more interesting—"
"I'm still not seeing the problem. All you've said are good things—"
"Will you stop interrupting!"
Danny clamped his mouth shut, stunned by the outburst from his usually mild mannered friend.
"You're supposed to expand the story afterwards, not just end it like that. It makes the listener feel cheated, like they didn't get the whole story."
"Like it's anti-climactic?"
"NO!" Then the comment sank in. "YES! I'm surprised you paid that much attention in class. That word was mentioned once."
"So it was a good story?"
"I think I liked the cat story better. As they say, 'don't give up your day job.'"
"Huh?" Danny frowned. "I don't have a job. I'm twelve."
Jake sighed, again, and realized that it was becoming a habit depressingly quickly.
"Never mind." Jake got up to leave. Danny followed.
"No, really. What do you mean?"
Shaking his head, Jake continued on his way. Jabbering incessantly about nothing, Danny followed at his heels.