This past weekend we had the pleasure of attending and performing at the first of what will no doubt be many Nerdcon: Stories events. Among the things both Paul and I did was give short presentations under the heading “Why Stories Matter”. Mine was a mostly humorous slideshow talk with the subtitle “A Scientific Explanation”.
A bunch of folks asked if the story I told at the end of my presentation was available anywhere. The answer is now YES; you’ll find it below. For those who weren’t at Nerdcon: Stories, the story was a “case study” of sorts that was run through an app that could allegedly determine a story’s value and assign it a numerical value of between 0-5.
This story stumped the app and caused my computer to crash.
One last bonus tidbit: the cover of the September 2015 issue of the American Journal of Totally Legitimate Science that appeared in the slideshow is here:
And now, please enjoy “Through-street”.
by Storm DiCostanzo
Doris Bennett lived for eighty-nine years, the last thirty as a clear-minded widow in her home on a quiet through-street in Chicago. Her only friend was her dog, Samson, a five-year-old Rottweiler the neighborhood kids called “Devil Dog,” mistaking his gruff demeanor for meanness.
And Samson was gruff, perhaps because he understood that Doris was alone in the world, and needed someone to help look out for her. When Doris ventured outside, Samson led the way with his double-barrel gaze, reserving a rumbling growl for the rowdier children.
“Hush, Samson,” Doris would say. “They’re just kids out here enjoying themselves, just like you and me.”
Apart from Doris Bennett, the only living creature that Samson couldn’t fool was a toffee-colored stray cat known as “Notch”, named for her battle-scarred left ear. Although Notch strictly avoided people, when Doris and Samson went strolling, she was rarely more than a trashcan’s width away. And when Notch’s eyes met Samson’s, he’d let out a Groof!, whose meaning they both well understood.
Of course canine and feline both knew that theirs was a love best savored from a discrete distance. But sometimes circumstance intercedes.
Doris Bennett didn’t think it unusual that Samson would be barking at the postal carrier as he came up her walkway, late one afternoon. And she didn’t notice that Samson’s eyes were trained across the street, and not at her front stoop.
Usually a single, sharp “HUSH” would back Samson away. But the moment Doris opened the door, Samson darted through, nearly knocking the letter carrier down.
Samson dodged one, two cars. A third grazed his hind quarters but didn’t slow his charge towards the shallow alley across the street, whose entryway was clogged with jeering children. Hands rose high, then swung down sharply like threshing blades. Some of the smaller kids fed stones into the hands of their taller peers. Others tried and failed to pull the rock throwers away. Doris couldn’t see their target—a small, toffee-colored cat—but Samson did.
None of Notch’s tormentors saw Samson coming, and the Rottweiler barreled through the forest of skinny legs, opening up a gap. Notch squirted free.
The gap closed, and Doris realized that Samson was now trapped in the alley. Arms rose high above anger-wrinkled faces, and swung down. Doris felt her cheeks flush with rage. She stepped through her front door, oblivious to the postman, to the five steps down her front stoop, to the fact that she hadn’t run a single pace in over two decades. And oblivious to the car rushing down her street.
Doris Bennett had not led an extravagant life. After her funeral expenses were paid, there was more than enough leftover for the veterinarians to patch up Samson, and to provide his new adoptive family with a stipend sufficient for him to live out the rest of his nine years in comfort. Which he did. More or less.
Doris Bennett had also been a thoughtful woman, and having no heirs or close friends, in her papers she’d specified that the remainder of her savings be used to improve the neighborhood where she’d spent most of her life. And one year to the day after being laid to rest next to her husband, the Alvin and Doris Bennett Memorial Playground was opened, for the benefit of the neighborhood children.
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