A question of tales

Anyway, I was savoring a turkey and Swiss wrap when Bree sat down to tell me about her writing assignment.  The littlest member of the Murphey clan had just finished high school and was commuting to one of the Jesuit colleges in town.  College life often combined work with essay-writing, and Bree was leaning over her laptop gently bobbing her head to Taylor Swift.  The rest of the family had piled slices of roast beef onto sliced wheat and slathered the sandwich with gravy.  My doctor asked that I consume only an occasional sampling of the four-legged flycatchers, and so I had passed.

“I’m writing a narrative today, Murph,” Bree said pulling her earbuds from her head — I swear I heard a Pop! – and slicing through a pool of gravy-soaked bread.  News of my intermittent blogging was a thing at the Murphey household.  I am known as the writing, science, and geek-guy.  The others have far more impressive titles like football all-star, skydiver, and six-figure paycheck guy.  Fame is a cruel mistress.

My sister being partially dyslexic, I attempted to support her as she embarked on her first college assignment.

“Are there zombies in it?” I asked automatically.

She seemed confused by this question.

“No,” she scoffed sarcastically.  “It’s a narrative.”

I frowned.  Clearly, she was evading the question.

“So, are there zombies?” I repeated.

“No,” Bree sighed.  “It’s a narrative.  You know, a true story.  No zombies.”

“Soo, write about what happened the other day when you were coming home from school and suddenly found yourself chased by zombies.”

“That didn’t happen, Murph,” she shouted.  “Because there are no zombies in real life.”

“There can be if you write about them.”

“Look.  I’m writing about the day that Kelsey was born, okay?”

I considered this.  The birth of a child is a wonderful thing, a moment of excitement and joy for an entire family.


“That’s your niece your talking about,” Bree shouted aghast.  “And how can it be boring?  The day was  . . . awesome.”

“Which is why it’s boring.  Kelsey’s birth is incredible but the details were lacking any disaster, panic or complication, basically all the components that make a tale interesting.  Basically, you intend to write a Hallmark card.”

“The assignment asks for 300 words.”

“An overly long Hallmark card,” I sighed.  “Look, how often do you go back and read thank you notes?  Answer: never.  Not once.  Because they are tawdry lines of cookie-cutter sentiment.  No body recalls Hallmark cards.  Same thing with baby’s first birthdays.  A miracle, sure.  Important?  Absolutely.   But hardly interesting.  Soooo, whatever you’re writing add some zombies.  The undead are like literary salt, improving everything they touch . . . or bite.  Look what they did for Pride and Prejudice!”

She wasn’t buying any of my Kool Aid, so to speak.  The rest of the women in my family agreed with Bree, and in retrospect, it is rather insensitive to suggest that the birth of a child is a less viable topic than the walking dead . . . even if it is true.    

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