I don’t write stories very often. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I almost never write stories, and I don’t very often engage in creative writing. Occasionally, I write ridiculous story fragments whose purpose is to confuse and annoy the poor souls who get guilted into reading them.
While cleaning out my junk room on Labor Day (3rd mostly-annual Labor Day of Labor), I found a story fragment that I wrote four years ago as a secret santa gift for a fifteen year old boy whom I did not know. I usually figure that if you’re going to fail at something (in this case fail at getting a gift the receiver will appreciate and enjoy), you might as well fail big.
I think I nailed it.
The Importance of a Greeting, Or Why French People Hate Americans
Once upon a time, there was a young man named John. John was a very handsome man, and many of the young ladies of his day were wont to sigh and swoon as he walked past. Despite such accomplishments, life was not entirely without difficulty for the young man, for he had an unfortunate problem: John was deathly afraid of salutations.
Though John had exhibited the fear since he was a young lad, everyone around him figured he would eventually resolve to put such childish stuff behind him, to enter into conversations with equanimity, but he did not. Instead, John’s fear grew more pronounced with each passing year.
When John was young, the folk of his town humored him and entered into conversation with him without preamble. But as John grew older, folk began to expect him to behave normally. People started to find it more rude than amusing that John never said “hello” or “good day to you.” Some people went out of their way to salute young John, and this story is chiefly concerned with these exploits, with the day the baker said, “Good morning, and isn’t it a fine day?” to our young hero.
The baker was not a nice man. There were surely as many reasons for his crotchety behavior as there were people who disapproved of his manner, but whatever the provocation, his antics were such that, after passing several years in the village, the baker ceased to be known by his given name (Charlie) and was known merely by his occupation and any adjectives attendant on his behavior. If a person held him in neutral regard, he would be Baker, but if a person held him in contempt, he would be “that bastard, the baker,” or “that miserable old buffoon, the baker.”
On a particular morning in May, the sun dawned bright and warm, its rays stretching into the sleepy village, awakening the inhabitants in that natural way to be found only in country villages. John bathed and readied himself for the day without any of the trepidation that would surely have settled on him had he known what the day had in store; he left the friendly shelter of his family home and struck out on a well-worn path, his errand on this fine morning being to purchase some baked goods for his family. As he walked to the baker’s shop, John whistled a jaunty tune, and he reached his destination with such alacrity as is found only among the able-bodied.
Having fortified himself with a deep breath, John pushed open the door to the baker’s shop and proceeded, almost immediately, to express his reason for having come. “Baker,” he began, “my mother needs two loaves of your finest bread.” But that Mephistophelean miscreant, that nefarious ne’er-do-well, that baneful bully of a baker leveled his leering eye towards our hero and, in a loud voice, exclaimed, “Good morning, John! And isn’t it a fine day?”
Can one find fault with John for the actions which followed this attack? He gasped, staggering back against the door, clutching his heart and fixing upon the baker a look so full of terror as would have melted the heart of any good man. After fumbling briefly with the door handle, he flung wide the portal and ran into the streets of the village sobbing insensibly.
If that bit of nonsense made you laugh, chances are fairly good you’d like me, personally. If you now want to smash every tooth in my head, it probably wouldn’t work out between us.