i tell you what

I like stories. Full of everything-real and colour.

Small, heavy words soaked with life. Words you can’t find in a dictionary and couldn’t spell even if you tried.

Words that mean more than they ought – because they’re so little and all.

I want to be a storyteller. But my tone is never right. My words always fall short. I stutter and turn sideways and focus too much on grammar and intellect and forget what it’s all about.

I’m no good at telling stories. My grandfather is. So I steal his voice, because I know he won’t mind.

It’s soft, deep gravel that goes Boom Boom Boom and “Boy, I tell you what”. It reminds you of wise men from the East, turned Appalachia, and a little boy running through the mountains with no daddy and no shoes.

When he remembers, you see it in his eyes. When he tells stories, he does it with his hands.

They wave and jump and spread to the tune of him. There’s life in them, and when they still, so will he.

They’re hold-up-mountain strong; and that’s no play on words. That’s what they did. For years.

William was a roof bolter.

He drove steel spikes into the ceiling of the mountain. Sandwiched the layers together so they wouldn’t fall. Machines do it now. Pa did it with his hands.

Hands that were crushed and broken. He had his fingers cut off the week I was born. They sewed ’em back on. Crooked. One without its tip. He plays the piano with them now.

Hands that laugh and cry and hold the mountain off your back.

Full of stories of life’s been hard ….. but ain’t it grand!


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