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The Storyteller

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Just a simple fiction short story

Mystery / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

As he lie there in his large bed, the storyteller’s breathing became more labored. He knew his time was drawing near, but he felt no pain, no regrets, just quiet contemplation as he watched the world outside his window. The day was quiet and warm, birds flew by at a slower pace and kept their songs to themselves this morning.

The storyteller watched as his grandson walked up the path. The storyteller’s passing would be hardest on the boy, but the storyteller had done his best to prepare him. He told the boy countless stories, some true, some embellished, some of pure fantasy, and he had explained the importance of all of them.

“Stories are more than just events or morals, they are meant to teach, to entertain, to help, to distract, but most of all to keep us going. Stories keep us alive,” the storyteller would tell the boy as he sat on his grandfather’s knee, “To be a story it must be all of these and yet be more than all of these. Otherwise it’s just babbling, and any baby can do that.” He had explained this so many times to the boy that now the boy could recite it back to him.

The storyteller turned his head slowly as his grandson entered his room. He watched him climb on the chair beside the bed and handed him some of his blanket to share in the cozy warmth. The boy nestled in up to his chin and smiled at his grandfather.

“Okay, ready for my story Grandpa,” the boy said as he settled into his seat and finally quit fidgeting the blankets.

The storyteller struggled to take in a breath. He began coughing deep coarse coughs. The boy got off the chair and reached for the water on the bedside table. The coughing fit subsided and the two settled back under the covers.

“Grandpa?,” The boy asked timidly, “Is it almost time?”

The storyteller looked at the boy, his eyes still wet from the coughing fit. When had he matured so much? He had such a brave face, but the storyteller could see the torrent of emotions wrestling for dominance in his eyes. He was sad, he was scared, but the one that won in the end was his determination to make his grandfather proud. The storyteller smiled weakly.

“Yes,” he told him.

“Can you still tell me a story?”

The storyteller adjusted himself so he could speak a little easier.

“One more,” he reached out his weathered hand and patted the blankets covering the small boy’s shoulder, “but, you may have to help me finish it.”

The boy sidled up to his grandpa, abandoning his chair to be closer to the storyteller. He rested his head on his grandfather’s chest and listened to the words before they formed and rattled their way out of the storyteller.

“Once upon a time, which is no times and all times, there was a very strong boy. He could clear a barn of hay in an hour, he could carry all the groceries to the house in one run, he could even carry the dog when she hurt her paw on the thistle bush and needed ointment. The boy was very strong indeed. One fine afternoon the boy was helping his grandfather prepare for a long journey. His grandfather had packed nearly everything he owned into a large sack because he was going to be gone for quite awhile. He asked the boy, since he was so strong and the grandfather was so old and weak, if he could help carry all the baggage to the train. The boy was happy to help and grabbed the big, heavy bag. The two set out for the train, walking side by side. As they walked, the grandfather told the boy stories of his childhood and the boy told the grandfather about all the times he had been strong and helpful. They enjoyed each other’s company a great deal, even though the boy’s bag weighed him down, and soon found themselves at the train station. When the grandfather went to board the train, the conductor stopped him. He told the grandfather that the train was too full and he could not bring everything with him. The boy set the bag on the ground. The grandfather turned to the boy and told him “I’m sorry to leave you with such a large burden, but you are very strong. If you share what is inside that bag you carried as you head home, it will make it easier. Although you will want to keep some for yourself, make sure you share what you can.” With his hands empty, the grandfather waved goodbye to his grandson and boarded the train. After waving, the boy picked the large bag up again. He looked back down the road he had traveled with his grandfather, the journey to the train station had not seemed so long since they had talked to each other the whole way. His bag felt so much heavier now. It felt like it weighed twice what it had when they set out. He walked over to a bench and set the bag down to inspect it. When he opened the bag, he saw all the stories his grandfather had ever told him. There was the one about the knight and the princess from when he was very small, the one about his grandfather being scared of spiders when he was a child that his grandfather had told him when the boy had found a spider next to his bed, there was even the story about how the grandfather had taken the last cookie from the cookie jar. Astonished, sad, and grateful, the boy picked up the bag and began to head home. As he walked, he passed a mother with two squalling toddlers in a stroller. The boy knelt down and opened his bag. He pulled out a story his grandfather once told him when he was very young about a rabbit who went looking for berries and found a very silly dragon instead. The toddlers giggled and the mother thanked him. The boy traveled on down the road sharing stories with people he met along the way. He also added other stories to the bag, learning new stories from other people as he went. His burden became lighter as he went, as the stories he added to the bag were smaller than the ones he took out. When he reached his home, the boy set down the bag and looked inside. So many of his grandfather's stories were still inside the bag. He held the bag up and hugged it tightly. He would miss his grandfather while they were apart, but he would always treasure his stories."

The storyteller took a deep breath. His grandson listened to it rattle around in his chest and slowly seep back out.

"That was a good story, Grandpa. I'm going to miss you," the boy said as he hugged his grandfather gently.

"Me too," his grandfather said as he kissed the boy's foreh

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