one day in the first grade, we were asked to tell stories, and then write them down. i knew what stories were; my parents had told me stories, about my grandfather who was picked up by a tornado and placed on a mountainside cliff, about the monkey king who needed to beat the troll in a footrace so he vomited in the troll's breakfast bowl to make him sick, about the wolves in the steppes that would sneak up behind you and tap you on the shoulder so they could tear out your throat when you turned around.

i listened to the stories told by my classmates, and they were equally likely-sounding to me. one told about a fat man who came down the chimney and brought gifts, one told about a baby bunny with a broken leg who kept losing its cast, one told of a new puppy they got. i thought about these stories, and wrote my own.

after i turned my story in, my teacher pulled me aside, her hand gripping my thin arm tightly as she took me out of earshot of the other students. 'i am very angry with you,' she whispered. 'you stole someone else's story. your story was a lie. you're a liar.'

i didn't understand why my story was wrong; i, too, wanted a puppy, so i described a new puppy we would have gotten if the world had bent to my will. it was a border collie, the same as my friend's, and knew the same tricks. this was a world i imagined, and i wanted to share a story about it.

no one told me that the stories had to be real. i didn't believe my classmate's story of a fat man coming down the chimney with a bag of toys; why wasn't his story wrong?

03 March 2018 22:54

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