I’m feeling a little nostalgic right now. My youngest niece, Devon, graduates high school in a few weeks. It seems like just yesterday that I would visit my sister’s family, and Devon and her older sister, Brianna, would run out of the house on my arrival and hurl themselves at me for a hug. I adored them then, and I adore them now. I’m so proud of the wonderful young adults they’ve grown up to be. But then I can say that about all my nieces and nephews. They’re an amazing, diverse, and fascinating group of human beings.
When Devi and Bri were little, they used to enjoy having me make up fantastical stories for them. Now, Devon is a rising young filmmaker with her own stories to tell. Though only seventeen, she’s won multiple competitions during her high school years, and recently she and her filmmaking partner won a provincial competition. They now move onto a national competition at the end of May. Telling stories through film is Devon’s gift and her passion, and she aspires to go on to make it her profession as well. If all works out as she hopes, she’ll go first to film school, and then wherever the bright lights take her.
Since telling stories is what I love to do, too, though my métier is the written word, I occasionally dream of a day when Devon might use one of my stories for a film script. I would gladly sign over the creative rights to her, just for the thrill of seeing what she would create with it.
Last year, for another competition, Devon turned one of her stories into a spoken performance. I asked her if I could borrow her story for my blog, and she very kindly gave me permission. So because I’m a bit harried this week as I meet a deadline for my new book, here is my niece’s story—slightly edited—about a fateful weekend with her family in the wilds of British Columbia.
It was a late summer’s eve, and my family and I were sitting around a crackling fire, in an open field, surrounded by forest. The sky was a midnight blue, and so dark that you could hardly see anything. The only thing wrong with this idyllic picture? My sister’s a jerk, and she tried to kill me.
It all started with my father and his cruel sense of humour.
We were roasting marshmallows; I was four years old, my sister six. We were winding down, talking about what we had done earlier. It was a full day of checking fence posts, going for tractor rides, and hunting gophers—a day of East Kootenay paradise.
Suddenly my father hushed everyone, tilted his head to the woods, and whispered, “What was that noise?”
Silence fell over the family as we strained to listen.
“There!” He pointed into the black abyss, and encouraged my sister and me to go see what it was.
My father can be very persuasive, and at the time I thought, “Why would Daddy lead me astray?” So in our naiveté, we ventured off into the great unknown.
The said object was about four hundred feet away from our campfire, at the edge of the forest, and my sister Brianna and I took our time, for we were not eager to be eaten.
As we crept to the edge of the tree line, we heard a low rumbling. In an instant, that sound turned to a roar, and Brianna and I screamed in fear for our lives. In a split second, our blissful haven had turned into a horror story. We sped back to the safety of the fire as fast as our little legs could carry us. Tears and sweat dripped down our faces as the unknown beast thundered behind us, snarling and snapping.
Suddenly, there was a shove on my back, and my face slammed into the dirt! I wailed, frantic to save my life, but paralyzed with fear. I shrieked as I saw my sister bolt for the fire and leave me in the dust.
In seconds, the beast was upon me. I thrashed for survival as I was locked in its arms. It wasn’t until I ran out of breath that I realized the beast was…my father.
Now, you may have heard of the Jimmy Kimmel video, where the children yell at the parents for eating their candy? That was nowhere approaching the fury of the fit I threw at my father. I ran back to the campfire, having seen that my sister had no intention of helping me evade the beast, and screamed, “The Beast was Daddy!”
If you’ve ever made my sister mad, you’ll know that the word “grudge” is her best friend. That weekend was not filled with happy, loving family stories. It was filled with my mother lecturing my father on appropriate and inappropriate pranks, with my sister’s death glares directed at our father, and with my own worries that not only had my sister pushed me down for her own advantage (escape?), oh no—she had left me for dead.
* * *
The child who ran screaming from her father’s prank is now a young woman with a dazzling future. I say, with utter confidence, that she will surely entertain and enlighten millions of people in years to come through the magic of her story-telling. It makes this humble teller of tales proud to be part of her family. And some day, when Devon is accepting her first Academy Award for Best Director, I will point at the TV screen and say, “That’s my niece! That girl always did know how to tell a story.”
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