Ambush: on the nature of storytelling

Ambush: on the nature of storytelling


I was five years old when it first happened to me. I had just come home from kindergarten, and my mom was taking off my nice patent-leather boots before she let me go out to play.  She called my dad in to look at the bright red spots on both of my legs that had been hidden by my boots.

Maybe it’s heat rash, my Mom said.

It looks like chicken pox, my Dad answered.

It’s the chicken pox, I told them. My parents exchanged glances.

Do you even know what chicken pox is? my Dad asked.

I knew exactly what it was. It was there in my mind, erupting into being like a television switched on in the midst of a news broadcast.  Yesterday when I was playing, a pack of chickens jumped over the fence. I tried to get away, but they chased me up onto the front porch and before I could get in the door, they pocked me.

My parents burst into laughter.

I started to cry. I was angry that they did not believe me. I was confused because I knew it was not true, but the story hunkered down. It persisted: so much so that looking back, I don’t remember how long I scratched at those red blisters, or even how long my Dad suffered, who caught the virus from me because he had never been vaccinated.  What I do remember is as real now as it was at the moment the idea leapt from nowhere into my mind, insisting on being taken seriously. I remember myself, a little girl in a dress I never owned, in a yard I never lived in, being chased by a pack of escaped chickens.

chicken pox