The Stories We Tell

Every night when I was a young child, I begged my father to tell me stories from his youth. He called them, “School of Hard Knocks,” and he had dozens of them. Even the ones I’d heard before I loved.

My father grew up in a teeny tiny town in south-central Kansas. Towns this size become microcosms. Everyone is a character, and every character is present. The class clown. The bully. The popular girl. The jock. The absent-minded teacher. The brain. And then there was my dad: a kind, middle-of-the-road, Kansas kid.

He told me about how the class clown could make a sound like a cricket that was so loud and realistic that his bottle-cap-bespectacled teacher was always alarmed and dumbfounded as to its origin. He’d look around the room and under chairs until he finally gave up and walked back to his desk shaking his head.