What Really Happened

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is so not a picture of Coyote, but it’s cool.
Coyote Reading a Candy Wrapper
North Central Washington Museum
Wenatchee, WA
1995, cast aluminum

“So how’s that novel coming?” Coyote inquired. Innocently. He was reading a newspaper, which I found quaint.

“Why does everyone have to ask me that?” I was counting stitches to figure out where I had dropped one.

“Oh, just curious, I guess.” He pushed his glasses back up a little way on his nose. If he had had a mob cap he would have borne a striking resemblance to the Wolf impersonating Grandmama. Or so it seemed to me in that moment. 

I gave up trying to count, remembering why it is this shawl just never gets finished.

“Well, here’s the thing …”

Coyote closed the newspaper part way and looked at me from around it.

“Don’t tell me Stephen said something that meant you had to start over?” He shoved the glasses back again. They kept sliding.

“Oh you mean like the time he said I was writing a story with a ghost in it and I had to write a ghost story?”

“Uh-huh. Like that.”

“Well, he was right about that.” I said. “And I know, I know, it does seem like I keep circling back to Chapter 1, page one. But every time I do that it gets better.” I tried to keep a defensive tone out of my voice.

“So what’s the problem this time?” Coyote asked, giving up and folding the glasses into a little case.

“Clichés.” Really, that was it in a nutshell.

“You mean like, ‘The ghost made a moaning sound’?”

“Well, not quite that bad,” I laughed. (Had he been reading my draft??)

“So give me an example,” he said. He rolled the newspaper and tapped it against his paw.

“I don’t mean clichés in metaphors or similes, I mean, well maybe I don’t mean clichés, exactly, except that’s what happens when you fall into the trap I am worried about.”

Coyote looked down his nose at me, not deigning to comment on the sentence. “Trap?”

“I don’t want to fall for the story someone wants me to believe.”

“Ah,” Coyote said. “Go on.”

“Well, people never really tell the truth, do they?”

“Not if they can help it. Of course, most of the time they don’t mean to lie. They just see things in a certain way.” He laid the newspaper on the top of a pile of books next to his chair where it unrolled itself with a little swoosh.

“But what if something really isn’t true but someone wants everyone to believe it is?” I was warming to my argument. “And what if they do a really good job at making other people believe it? They dazzle people with something that isn’t true.”

I put the knitting away. Why do I even pretend I knit?

“So where do the clichés come in?”

“The dazzling. When people in power tell lies they use a lot of clichés because it leads people into thinking they understand.”

Coyote nodded. “And you are afraid if you find yourself using clichés that means you are falling for lies?”

It sounded a little silly but in a way it was true.

“It’s a kind of mind control, don’t you think?”

Coyote was quiet for a long time. He seemed to be studying a headline in the newspaper. Finally he looked up.

“You are not an investigative reporter,” he said, “You aren’t trying to find what really happened, even if you could. You are imagining what might have happened.”

“But what about the clichés,” I asked.

“Keep writing,” Coyote said.

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