Drops of early morning coffee fell onto the cabin porch as Caldwell Owens assumed his position in the rocker. Last night had been a long one, full of stories and other useful banter, and as the first light cleared the distant tree line, he wondered what the new day would bring.
Owens was a teller of tales, the town muse, and keeper of sometimes useful gossip. He couldn’t remember exactly when he became such, but now it was his role and he played it as best as he could. People came long distances to sit on his porch, and whether regular or first-time visitor, Owens saw too it everyone left fed.
“Once upon a time . . .” was all it took to quiet the crowd, and then with castles and knights, farmers and weather, friends and family members, he wove his fabric of lightly-veiled commentary on life. He was never without a story, and his wisdom left people hungry for more.
One day, a family from the next county over came to sit on the porch. The children had heard about Owens and nagged their parents until they agreed to make the considerable journey. After the third story, their youngest began to fidget and asked if he could go into the cabin for some water.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” one of the adults whispered. “He doesn’t allow anyone off the porch.”
Just then, as Owens began another tale, he was interrupted by the now-curious little boy.
“Excuse me, Mr. Owens, Sir, but would you tell us one of your stories.”
“That’s what I am doing,” replied Owens.
“No, I mean one of YOUR stories. You know, one about you as a boy, or something that happened to you.”
People still talk about the long pause that followed the exchanged. It’s the only time anyone remembers Caldwell Owens being at a loss for words. With face changing shape and color, and looking out into the neighboring field, he searched for such a story. After a few failed attempts, Owens sighed and looked at the boy and said: “I’m afraid I don’t know such a story.”