STORYTIME FOR THE EASILY ENTERTAINED
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
The fire roared and sparked and cussed as Poppa threw a cold new log into the stove.
"Tell us the story about how you went to the store and bought some laundry detergent, Poppa!" Marla begged.
Poppa removed his filthy gloves and tossed them onto the little woodpile. While the other kids watched the fire through the stove's open door, Bill watched the woodpile. Soon it would be low enough that he'd have to trudge out into the storm to the big wood pile. It was dark out and there'd be trees for snowball practice and lots of snow for pissing. He took another drink of hot chocolate in anticipation.
"Welp," said Poppa, "It all started when I went to the store. Then I bought some laundry detergent."
The kids "ooo"'d and "aah"'d in all the appropriate places.
"Goddamn, I love that story!" Little Timmy said.
"Watch your mouth, son."
"How bout when you washed the dog?" asked Bill.
"I washed the dog," Poppa said. Bill never got tired of hearing that one. He'd hoped to memorize the whole thing and pass it off as his own story to his children someday.
"Tell the one where you stopped at the red light." Timmy said.
"Why, I never done that!" Poppa said. The children howled in consternation. Mama started from under the pile of blankets on the rocking chair. Bill quietly removed a log from the pile and rolled it beneath the sofa.
"You did too done it!" Marla yelled.
"Hush up now! You done woke up Momma!" Poppa said.
"You're losin' your mind, Poppa," Timmy said. "You remember? There was a red light?"
Poppa seemed intrigued. "And then what?"
"You stopped at it."
"Oh, yeah! Yeah! Now I remember!"
"Well tell us!" Marla said.
"There was this red light, see . . ." Poppa trailed off. The children, wide-eyed and mouths agape, leaned forward. Poppa reached for his pipe as if he'd forgotten he'd been telling a story.
"Then what happened?" Timmy asked. Something seemed about to burst in his little skull as he clenched his teeth.
"I stopped at it."
In the chaos that followed the final story of the night, Bill managed to tuck yet another log away, this one beneath the dog.
"I gotta get more wood," Bill said, grabbing his coat and bolting to the door.
Poppa did a double take at the depleted wood pile near the stove. "What do you know? Maybe I am losin' my mind."
"It's all them damn fool stories!" Momma said.