The Story that Never Was
by William Michaelian

This is the sad story of the story that never was, the story that tried desperately to be written but couldnít because other things kept getting in the way ó telephones ringing, voices interrupting, washing machines growling, bills arriving, needs, wants, and a dozen urgent misunderstandings. Had it been another day, a day of peace and quiet, the story would have sprouted and grown like a weed. But instead it was its sad misfortune to flit about the room like a spirited little bird, only to bang its wings against the walls until it lay dead in the corner. And I am not God. I cannot take the dead story in my hands and breathe life into it. All I can do is look at its closed eyes and broken wings and weep.

Now, you might say, so what? Why the big fuss over an unwritten story? If stories are so important ó and I happen to think they are ó why not get busy and write another one? Well, to answer your question, thatís exactly what I plan to do. But donít think for a minute that the story I write will be anything like the one that just died. It might be better, or it might be worse, but it wonít be the same. An unwritten story is like an unborn child ó pure untried potential. Hope. Aspiration. Possibility. An unwritten story is also like a friend who has come to depend on you, only to find that you have let him down.

I have had so many dreams about home lately that I have come to expect them. Was my story going to be about that? Was it going to be about seeing my dead father and grandfather, and talking to them? Might it have been about the vineyard I found myself walking through in my sleep last night, and about the vines I knew as friends? I donít know. In one dream, my father had long wavy hair. But he didnít realize it, or that the sun shining upon it made him look like a prophet. For him, it was just another day. When I told him how glad I was to see him, he smiled. Then we walked out behind the house where I grew up, past the equipment shed and our old pump, and onto the dusty avenue that divided our farm into an east half and a west half. And then the dream ended. Was the story to be about endings, and about how endings are sometimes also beginnings? Again, I donít know.

The truth is, I will never know. Even now, the telephone is ringing. I answer, only to hear the voice of one more person in the world who thinks he wants something, not realizing that what he really wants is not what he thinks he wants at all. Never mind that heís a child. A childís wants are no less complex than an adultís. They only seem that way. It is one of our most destructive, casual mistakes, the assumption that age separates the young from the old.

When I first sat down to work this morning, I let my fingertips rest lightly on the letters of my keyboard. As I did, I felt a tingling of energy as the unwritten story began to seek its identity and form. Knowing it could not tell itself, it was asking me to be the instrument of its deliverance. It is hard to describe such a moment. It is a great thrill to be chosen by a story. Many think it is the writer who chooses, but that is not so. A writer sometimes has the power to deny a story, but the act of denial inevitably turns that power against him. Once a writer has denied a story, he or she is far less likely to be sought out by other stories. Even worse, the writer will often go on writing just the same, without knowing what has happened. Thatís why there are so many crippled pieces of writing in the world that are called stories, but arenít really stories at all.

So much mourning. So much sadness. So many people who believe in war, so many others set against. The earth, slowly turning. Hunger. The sun setting fire to the trees along the street. Geese flying overhead, calling to one another. The clouds, some gray and heavy, others bright-white. The mystery of blue sky reduced to an arrangement of atoms that sustain even the most skeptical scientist. You would think by now that weíd understand, except that there is far too much to understand, because we insist on keeping ourselves so small. In this way, we are all unwritten stories, stories whose wings are clipped to accommodate the confines of petty thought.

And though the day has passed, I, too, am still in mourning. But I know the time has come to let go. For if I dwell too long on the story that never was, tomorrowís story may not come at all.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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