The thing was, she was both the tale-teller and the story. She was both the portrait and the model. She was the song and its subject.
There were theories about that, of course: theories and theses and stories and myths. Stories have a lot of power, after all.
And storytellers have a power, a mystery, all of their own.
She came into town, whispers and mystery. Wild like the harvest wind, lean and hungry.
That’s what they’d say, when she was gone, if they remembered her at all. The wild hair, the wild scarf, the wild smile, the wild child. “Do you remember…?”
Do you remember, the time that wanderer came into town? Nobody knew quite what she was doing here, but she plopped down right there in Tamma’s cafe and the boy, Ed’s boy, he was looking at her like she was some fairy, and who can blame him? Her hair like this halo, all wild red curls, and her smile like an angel, with those hippy skirts and that scarf trailing from her hair all the way to the floor like a train. She held herself like a queen, didn’t she, like a queen or a movie star.
And Ed’s boy had asked her “What’s your story?”, Lord only knows where he got that phrasing, and she had grinned like he’d just given her a Christmas present and said “Oh, I thought nobody would ever ask. You see…”
What followed, do you remember, the way she twisted that story up and down and sideways and in the end, we all thought she’d told some wild shaggy dog tale, but going home, going home we realized that A) it might actually be true, at least the shell of it, and B), she’d stuck some pretty good morals in there?
Do you remember, the way she left Tamma a tip as big as her bill and bought Ed’s kid that toy he’d always wanted, and then Ed’s brother Tony found her sleeping down by the creek like she couldn’t pay for a motel?
Do you remember that lady, with her smile? The way she sat up all night telling stories at the pub, and when the old folks left the pub there was a skip in their step and a hunger in their gaze they hadn’t had in fifty years?
Do you remember, here one day and then there she was gone again, trailing out of town just like she’d come in, feet more dancing than walking and a mysterious smile on her lips?
She blew out of town with whispers and promises, walked out of town with their gaze for an entourage.
She slipped out of town like she’d never even been there, danced out of town… and stuck in their memory.
That was the tale-teller, the storyteller, the tale itself. That was the one who left them thinking of her.
That was the one whose jokes and tales they’d be telling as their own, long after she’d gone.
Storytellers have power - and the power they have lingers in their fables.