Storytelling Cast of Characters
The characters in my fictitious town of Prides Hollow are extremely entertaining, which surprises me because they very simple. They lead ordinary lives behind the curtain. They are the people you know, the people you work with, the people in your family. And while their accents might not match yours, you recognize them. They remind you of home. They remind you of life. They are amazingly real and human. Their flaws look like your flaws.
This is the page where you can meet some of these characters. I’ll keep adding to them as we go.
Mamma ran on one speed, and that was high. She sandblasted her way through life, changing course sporadically, and wondering at every turn should she have gone in the other direction. One arm cleaning, another arm baking, an ear to the phone, an eye out the window, and looking for miracles every step of the way. My mamma believed in angels, ghosts, premonitions, superstitions, intuitions, every other “ition” you want to throw in there, and that anything dangling outside the realm of the ordinary was undoubtedly a sign from God. Most folks called her a passionate woman. I called her a leech on my soul. Mamma didn’t just live her life, she sucked every moment out of it like a thick chocolate shake going through a straw. Mamma didn’t walk if she could dance. She didn’t talk if she could sing. She didn’t cry, she bellowed. She didn’t hug, she crushed. I probably would have admired her if she’d been somebody else’s mamma. Ask me about the time she got herself painted on black velvet for Daddy for Christmas. Or the time she showed up at my senior prom wearing the same dress. Or the time…
Excerpt from “Daddy Played For Angels” by storyteller Kelly Swanson
Daddy was a simple man, known by very few
He never traveled further than what his work required him to.
His face was lined with wisdom, his eyes no stranger to life’s toil
Like his feet his mood was calloused, and his nails stained by the soil.
Like his shoes his wants were basic, he was the sort who’d blended in
He’d come from generations of hard-working honest men.
Good Book was all he’d ever read – saw things in black and white.
He was a man of strong convictions, didn’t need you to tell him he was right.
Daddy was slow to anger, kept his emotions buried deep.
He always took the back row and rarely felt the need to speak.
He had no time for useless dreaming. He lived in the here and now.
He was as stubborn and unrelenting as the sweat upon his brow.
And each night he’d head out to the barn, without a word he’d slip away.
We never knew where he was going and Daddy’d never say.
But one night I followed him, and before I reached the barn’s soft light,
I could hear the notes so rich and sweet, drifting through the night.
It was a sight I’d never seen from this hard and calloused man,
The sight of Daddy sitting all alone with a fiddle in his hand.
The notes were pure and they were perfect, he was a master of his art,
As Daddy sat and simply played the music of his heart…..
Aunt Vyrnetta was consumed with her personal appearance. She is her favorite subject and she spends considerable time studying it. There’s not a body part on that woman that hadn’t been tucked, sucked, plucked, tweezed, shifted or lifted at one time or another. She’s got these frightening long fingernails that curve at the tips, and they’re painted this color that always (and I do mean always) matches her lipstick. She’s got a beauty mole she’s designed herself, right on the side of her face, big thick black false eyelashes, and wigs too. Rumor has it that woman has a closet just for her own hair. And every one of those wigs has a kick to it, if you know what I mean, because Aunt Vyrnetta’s way of thinking is that when it comes to hair, bigger is better. She is pure-t artificial from the inside out. Mamma used to say it was a shame she wasn’t proud of the face God give her. Daddy said it was a wonder God even recognized that woman anymore at all. Ask me about the time she had the run-in with the ceiling fan over at Erma Dean Jean Jones’s bridal shower. Or the time she got on the local news. Or when her hair blew up during the Christmas Eve service at church.
Crazy Man Harry
Crazy Man Harry sits on the corner of Route 29 and Old Wiley School road. You don’t have to live there to know him. Just drive by and you’ll see him sitting there on the corner of his property, in the rusty old lawn chair with that one broken strap dragging the ground. He’ll be sitting there in his threadbare t-shirt and boxers, waving around a brown paper bag. And just when you get close enough to see the yellow in his eyes, and the spittle in the corners of his mouth, he will yell at you to get out. You think you know him. But you really don’t – until you hear his story.
Bitsy, bless her heart, is a walking sponge of information. Useless information for the most part, that she picks up at the drugstore, or over at Myrlene Vyrlene and Shyrlene’s House of Beauty. She’s always into one cause or another, like the time she refused to eat meat after she saw that show on the emotional impact on those animals being led to the slaughter. Or when she tried to adopt that Cambodian young’un she saw on an infomercial, and learned an important lesson about what happens if you try to order you a young’un off the internet. And then there was the time she got caught up in the preachings of a high-fallutin’ head doctor who came through town giving a talk on conquering your fears. That’s when Bitsy decided she’d conquer her fear of wearing a bikini in public. And the way we saw it, that woman had every reason to be afraid. Wait ‘til you hear how she conquered that fear!
You don’t know my Uncle Cleet, but you know somebody like him. The loud one in the family. The obnoxious one. The one who doesn’t seem to know the unspoken rules that the rest of us know. He’s the one who hoots and hollers in church, or gets naked in places you aren’t supposed to be naked. It was always a wild ride waiting to see what Uncle Cleet would do. And then one day he was gone. And church got a little too quiet – the dinner table a little too normal – and life a little less exciting. And we realized that while Uncle Cleet was being obnoxious and irritating, he was also teaching us how to live. Or even better, how to live out loud. Not worrying if our beat matches the drum of the dance. Not caring if we zig when everyone else zags. Living with no regrets. And for that I’m truly grateful. So at your next family reunion, when your Uncle Cleet is at it again – don’t let him get to you. Just take a deep breath, and let Uncle Cleet do what he does best – annoy you, irritate you, and teach you how to live out loud.
Charlie Just Charlie
Charlie Just Charlie worked in the cafeteria at Parkview Elementary School in a job that was so perfect you would suspect it had been created just for him. He was the official silverware sorter – knives go here, forks go here, spoons go here, trash goes here. He stood about four feet tall, shuffled wherever he went, and spent most of the day staring at the tops of his shoes. Occasionally he would look up and his face would break out into a smile as if suddenly he just got the best idea. It was Charlie Just Charlie who taught me a lesson in persistence.
The Woman With The Mop
You could hear her singing all the way from the parking lot – her loud, staccato, jubilant notes of a life well lived. The automatic glass doors opened up and I could see this woman standing there holding her mop as if it were a beloved dance partner, as if her faded cotton dress were made of the finest silk. I sat in the corner of the lobby and tried not to stare, but it didn’t matter. She was oblivious to everyone around her, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be dancing and twirling and singing her way across the marbled floors of her hospital lobby, while the beeps of the monitors and the dings of the elevators sang to her in sweet harmony. And I could smell the perfume of my changed perspective as I watched this woman turn her job into an art. Ask me to tell you how she taught me about happiness.
These are just a few of the characters in my town. There are many more. And you’ll also meet me and the people in my own family who help me stay on the funny side of life