Unforgettable Stories by Ralph FletcherPresentation Transcript
lrr'.r rtilrrl, colorful, or awesome. You wonder:', Is
,onrt:thing wrong with me?
'l'ltcn one summer day you huppen to notice a
srrrrrll lrlix k ant draggitg the body of another
lrl;rt k rrrrl along the sidewalk. Nobody else sees it,
lrrrt lor some reason this sight captures your inter-
csl; you squat down to take a closer look.
Unforgettable Stories '['he ant is really workitg, strainitg to hoist a
wcight nearly equal to its own. A dozen questions
('r'()w(lyour mind. Is the ant carrying the body of
l li it.nrl? A brother or child? If So,does itfeel sad?
Does this ever happen to you? You sta;rup late on l)o ;rrrls lurvc li'('lirrgs? (Probably not.) Where is
New Year's Eve and watch T/. Seems like every- tlrr' ;rrrt llkirrg the body? Is it going to feed the
body in the country has gone bananas, especially Irorly Io its babies? Are ants cannibalistic? You
the crowd of people waiting for the ball to drop in r crrrl tlral some ants actually build graveyards for
Times Square in New York City. "Huppy New tlrc rlr':r,1. llrr':rnt going to bury the body?
Year'sEve!" people are shouting, j,.-pirg up and 1,,;rtt'r, irr y()ut.lrt:rlroom, /ou can't get it oUt
ol y()ur lrt'lrrl, tlrt' sislrt ol' thzrt ant draggitg the
4o* as if they've just won the lottery. "Huppy
New Year!" r lr';rrllrorly zrk)ngllrt' sirl('wrrlk. has stirred some-
You say to yourself: What's the big deal? tlrirrg irrside you-y()tr llir k ttp y()ttr-
pen to write.
You watch the opening ceremonies of the We live in a world where people are quick to
Oly-pic Games. Next duy at school, people are It'll us how to feel. TV commercials promise 'oarr
talking about how beautiful it was, how colorful, urrforgettable vacation," a candy bar that will
how &wesorne. you didn't find it the least bit
But "have your taste buds poppitg wheelies on your
AWRITER'S NOTEBOOK UNFORGETTABLE STORIES
tongue," a movie that will "make you want to
stand up and cheer. " But too often we end up feel-
irg hollow instead.
Jerry Kellytold me someth he heard from a
When something truly touches you, it touches young white teacher who urorksin en all-block
you on the inside, and you can't fake that. I schoolin Eost Harlem,New York On Fridoy, the
watched on TV when the Rostr>n Rnrins held a day of the LosAngelesriots, her studentswere
special night to honor their ho<.kt:y star; tlobby ofraidfor her safety.After
Orr. Just thirty years dlcl, ()rr was lleing forced by around her,wolkedher from the schoolto a sofe
injuries to retire. I loved Orr. Hc was so unbeliev- place,
and stayed there untilshe couldget o toxi.
ably fast and skilled. You could take someone to a
hockey game, someone who knew nothing about I looh li rr slol'it's., this ()I)c',
likt' that inspireme.
hockey, arl'd you could say: 'nWatch number four- I l, rr, l* lu r wlt ; rl l; rs c it u t l( ' s l ( : ( ) t - I i l l s m e w i t h
he's the best guy on the ice"-2n6[ you would 'oIrrlt'l . I look lr lr st<lt'ics
t.lratanger or disgust me,
always be right. That night when Bobby orr ( )r' rrurkc nlc laugh out loud.
appeared, the crowd eruptecl in an ernotional six Itt'rnember when that comet collided with
rninute standing ovaticln that brought me to tears. f ,rpitcr-? 'fhis event, and the spectacular photo.
My best friend, who couldn't care less about rrphs of it, got a friend of mine all agitated.
sports, watched and yawned. "f was so shocked when that comet smacked
People are different. What dazzles one person irrto.fupiter," she said to me. "Didn't you feel sorry
rnight bore the next. The question is: What moves lirr' poor old Jupiter?"
you? As a writer, you need to be able to answer . "Not really," I admitted. "For heaven's sake,
that question. And take note of it. Whenever I f ,rlriter is a planet, not a human being! There's
hear a story that stirs something inside me I take rrotlring living on it. It can't feel a thing."
out mv notebook and write. She sniffed and stomped away. I didn't write
about this in my writer's notebook. But a few days there.The zoo got flooded quicklyond the zoo
later I heard on the radio a story about vietnam, people didn't hove'enough
advonce worning get
where so many American and Vietnamese soldiers the onimals The onimols
out were in cagesneorly
lost their lives during the 1960sand 1970s.Some underwoter the zoo peoplehad to go oround
vietnamese people believe rhe ghosts of rhe dead ond quickly shootoll the onimals.
soldiers still wander the land ar night. At night So horrible! meanif people going cop-
I ore to
these people put out food so the p4hosts have
will ture wild, endongered onimolsand put them in
something to eat. They put out Vietnamesefood our zoos,they betterhove o plan to keep them
for the ghosts of the dead victnamese soldiers. olivein on emergency this.
But many American GIs died, too, so they put out
American food for the ghosts of the dead ( )ften the stories that tug hardest at our heart-
American soldiers. str it lgs rlre close to home:
A story like rhis one simply refused to ger out
of my head; at night I found myself thinking abour o a womonyou knowwho stil, puts roseson
it before I fell asleep. In my writer's norebook I her husbond's
grove yeorsafter his death
jotted down a few sentences about this strange the eourageous your cat foughtoff o
hospitality to the ghosts of those dead soldiers. mueh largercat who ottocked one night
At times you hear something on the news, or r a localbottle betweenpeoplewho want, to
read something in a newspaper, that affects you preserve noture
o sonctu ond thosewho
strongly: wont to buildhouses thot lond
o o friend who lost his wolletwith a hundred
dollorscoshin it; the wolletand moneygot
Beenreoding aboutall the flooding the midwest.
in returned a young
by mon who refuse to
ln one plocetherewos a drive-through sofori accepto reword
AWRITER'S NOTEBOOK UNFORGETTABLE STORIES
The story could be something rhat huppened p,r t.;rt story and tell ourselves: "FI.y, no problem,
to you: | 'll r lt'lilritely remember that." But our lives are so
lrrrsy tlrat the story gets buried under a million
Came home from school yesterdoy, volentine's otlrr'r' ttrings in our memory. And lost forever.
Doy,ond something really
weird hoppened.Mom Wr itc it down in your notebook before it slips out
colledfrom work askingme to go out ond buy ,| y()rrrmind.
Dod o volentine's cord from her.I grumbtedbut
soi4 all right,l'lldo it.Assoonos she hung Dod
up, Don Murray ond I were tolking obout beors.He
colled.Would do him o bigfavorond go outand
I told me obout somethingthat hoppenedto him in
buy Mom some chocolotesfrom him for Alosko.He walked into o store ond sow o large
Volentine's Day? dog sitting besidee mon.
Whot's wrong with those two?! Give me o "Okoy if I pet your dog?" Don osked.
break! "Sure," the mon said,"but I won't."
"Why not?" Don osked.
What moves you? What stories keep rumbling "Ihot's o beor dog," the mon explained.
through your mind even when you try not to " A bear dog?" Don had neverheard of that.
think about them? Jot them down in your writer's "l work out in the wilderness,"
the mon told
notebook. You might write the whole stor/, but Iutrt."My last three dogs were killed when o beor
you don't have to. You can also"write down a key Theystood up to o chargingbeor-thot
phrase (L.A. riots-black kids making circlearound, w(rslrcw I monogedto get owoy."He lookeddown
white teacher) a mental place-holder to remind
as at his dog. "Chonces ere, the some thing will
you until you have the chance to go back and hoppen to this feller.lt'sjust too poinful for me to
write more about it. gct reol ottached to a good dog, and lose it. Go
Writers are people who have a keen nose for oheod ond pet him. I won't. I try not to care too
unforgettable stories. Often we stumble on to a much obout my dogs.lt's just tos painlul."