Rendered Fat Content


Attributed to Sumiyoshi Jokei:
A Story of Crickets (second half 17th century)

"The sweetest dreams always came before sleep …"

When I was a child, StoryTime was my favorite time of any day. My dad used to read to his children. We'd gather around, me often perching on the back of the couch, for the first imperative would always be to get just as close as possible to the narrator. The little sisters tucked in closest. He'd smell of aftershave. His baritone resonated whatever he recited. He was one of those who could read the stock market report to rapt audiences; the story's content always seemed much less important than his performance.

But even when he was unavailable to read, someone would read aloud, the older sister or even the youngest one when she was first learning to read.
I'd hang on every word. We wore out our collection of Childcraft® books with their lovely illustrations and familiar poems. The spoken word was the purpose of printing; the highest best use of books was scripts for reciting. We could read silently, but why? Every story seemed infinitely better when shared—when read aloud. The voice breathed life into even the most arcane work. Robert Lewis Stephenson came to life. So did his reader.

I read slowly because I silently read every story aloud to myself. I rarely move my lips, but I carefully intone each syllable to myself. In high school, I took a speed reading class which turned out to be a kind of disaster. My inner reader sounded like one of The Chipmunks whenever I attempted to read faster. The idea that I might glimpse a phrase and instantly translate it—without savoring its sounds and shapes—struck me as an abomination. I struggled to successfully achieve the objective even though I understood that I was only faking it, for the effort seemed as though it had excised the underlying purpose so that anything attempted using those techniques couldn't help but seem meaningless. Why, when we're each granted all the time in the world, would speed have anything to do with reading? Reading's for savoring, sharing, and reveling within, not for dashing toward the end. I always wanted StoryTime to last forever.

When I began reading through my recently assembled manuscript, I'd forgotten what I was really doing. I'd been cutting, pasting, and copying for so long that I'd honestly forgotten the underlying reason I'd written the book in the first place. That reason had absolutely nothing to do with collecting sixty-six thousand nine-hundred words into a confined space—the real reason centered around creating some StoryTime. I had been dutifully silently reading the stories since I started creating them, but I had yet to road-test even the least of them in their naturally intended environment. I had not yet gifted myself with an actual performance of any of them. I quickly brushed up on invoking the spoken word from my MacBook Air. The voice of Samantha, a virtual American English reader, commenced to speak. I mentally curled up on the back of a long-ago couch, and I swear I could even smell a whiff of aftershave there.

The manuscript became a book in that instant. It had real life breathed into it, even if that breath was virtual and electronic. The stories were performed as The Gods intended, and not just rendered into ink on paper. So what happens to a story after it’s been resigned to paper, when the words seemingly captured there escape and float around as if on air, free for the hearing? Absolutely liberating! When my kids were small, StoryTime signaled the end to every evening without exception. Missing StoryTime was unthinkable and never once experienced. Their mom would chase us out of the Big bedroom where we'd been winding ourselves up by jumping on the Big bed, and we'd retreat to the cozy room where we'd read stories until all of us fell asleep. I'd wake with a start hours later, one arm numb and tingling, to stumble back into the Big bedroom to employ that bed for its other, infinitely less important purpose and sleep until just before dawn. The sweetest dreams always came before sleep in those days when stories swirled around the room before entering us during StoryTime.
©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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