Joe’s family were great story tellers. And when they weren’t telling true stories, true but polished and embellished through the years and the retellings, they were making up stories to prick and provoke, cause brother to turn on cousin, son-in-law on another. The greatest compliment you could hear was that you could have two breastbones fighting.
And the talking and the drinking and the telling went on, night by night, and year by year, even the youngsters being drawn away from their games, their chat with friends, their posting and defacing of photos. The arguments were clever and sly, the language a cutlass wrapped in the sweetest roses, the pauses for breath always in the middle of a phrase. Holding the table was holding your own, if you didn’t talk over you went under and were held there.
But the talking and the telling hid the missing, hid the gaping, hid the empty. There were stories but no feelings, flat stones skipping on the surface of the sea. Feelings were beyond the bounds of the storyteller or the story hearer, too deep and dangerous to sparkle and enchant. Black art.
So Joe told stories and was good at it and made a life of it, a good life of it it seemed, and came to the end, like all of us, eventually. And when he wondered at the end if his story had been a good one, he realised he did not know.