Where I write

Where I write

February 16, 2012

The Art of Storytelling

I met an amazing story teller the other day. I met him on craig's list. He sold me a  2000 Jeep Cherokee. I'm almost certain he had no college degree, much less one in creative writing, and he wasn't a published author. He works as a maintenace man on a private golf course in Scottsdale and he smokes cigarettes. Well maybe that wasn't really his work uniform, but I did see him smoking and that he was blonde, clean cut, in his 20s, and he said his name was Brandon.

Some may call storytelling lying. But isn't that what fiction writers do, use their imaingations to make up stuff?  Some do it so well they make fortunes from their books. Others, like Brandon, use it to sell cars on Craig's List. Here is the ad I saw for the jeep which Brandon posted.
He started his ad by writing "this is the last of gramp's estate." He went on to detail how an attorney told him to put the title in his name and that gramps took excellent care of this jeep and yada yada yada. He put lots of pretty pictures. On a Sunday afternoon, I took a drive to Cave Creek, an upscale community north of Phoenix, to see the jeep Brandon said he just inherited. We met at a nice-looking house, not a parking lot. I met a plain-looking young woman, Katie, who he said was his wife. She looked like she baked cookies for church bake sales. I met his big furry dog.  He said the ranch house was his mother in-law's. There was a bird cage in the window with a pretty white bird. In the garage another jeep, bright yellow, and even newer looking than the one for sale. He said he inherited that Jeep also from "gramps."

What a kind man, this gramps must be, I said to Brandon who agreed and added that gramps, John, wasn't really his relative. Hmmm. Red Flag. But the jeep was so nice looking!

"All my life I've hung out with people older than me. John took me under his wing." I was intrigued. And Brandon so easily answered all my questions that followed! The answers just glided from his tounge. Brandon said John died of lung cancer. Brandon hung his head and said, "I know. I shouldn't smoke." He said that John had a hard life. How so? Brandon didn't answer. He did say John worked at Honeywell. John had been married to Doris who, said Brandon, lived just down the road. Doris was about to sell her house. He pointed out a few dings by the gas tank and said "that turkey, John, would fill up his tank and knick the paint." This is how I pictured John.
Brandon said John was 67 when he died. Poor generous John.   Lest you think I was totally stupid, Brandon did have a lot of  paperwork for the Jeep, even the original sticker. I checked on the VIN number. It  matched the actual vehicle.
The folder beneath the original sticker is a file full of all the receipts on how the jeep was lovingly cared for by deceased John. It had less than 50,000 miles on it, when I drove it, as the ad had promised, and someone named, John, and someone named Doris had owned it, according to all the paper work. Also, the Jeep was in excellent condition, ran well, and the interior was clean. Weary of looking on Craig's List, weary of crummy vehicles with high mileage, and embracing Brandon's story, an offer was made. Brandon accepted.  Of course, he said there was someone else who had offered him a lot more money just that morning. Of course there was.

The next day I was driving the Jeep and I felt, well, wrong. That old reporter instinct in me told me something wasn't right. I began combing through the paperwork and everything fit except for one document, an oil change done last September in a city about two hours north of Phoenix. It said the 2000 Jeep, my Jeep, was owned by someone named Tom.

Tom?? Where was John in September. Already dead? Was Tom another dear friend? At this point my journalism degree came in handy (unlike when I sling hash each night) because a lot of times I had to make phone calls as a reporter that were uncomfortable and downright intrusive I called the name of the person listed on the above oil change receipt.  A woman answered the phone. The wife of the man listed as the owner of the Jeep. I know her only as Tom's wife.
Here's where Brandon's story came apart. John is not dead. Tom and his wife purchased it from John last summer, and Brandon purchased the Jeep from Tom and his wife in December. Brandon only owned the vhiecle for about two months and then he sold it to me. I couldn't bear to ask Tom's wife, how much Brandon paid for the Jeep. I couldn't. I might have hated the Jeep if I knew.

And actually Tom's wife knows John and Doris. Tom and John are good friends, Vietnam Vets. Tom's wife said it is true, the part of John taking very good care of the Jeep. It was garaged she said. I wanted to hug her through the phone. I wasn't a big idiot. Just a little idiot. She said Tom sold the Jeep only because she needed extensive dental work, something about a lot of crowns.

Story doesn't end there. I was so bummed. And a bit in awe. I like to think I can smell a storyteller a mile away. After all, haven't I worked as both a bartender and a reporter.  I called Brandon (he actually answered) and asked, "Why did you lie? I've got this other receipt that proves you did." Like any good story teller, Brandon refused to admit his fabrication, okay his lie,, though he couldn't explain the oil change paperwork in Tom's name. I said John is alive and still living with Doris.  John doesn't smoke cigareetes and never worked at Honeywell.
"John is dead. John is dead," he shouted. Then he hung up on me. The end.

Here it is. My mechanic, Dave, said it is a decent vehicle and didn't scold me too much for not buying a Toyota. He said he would have scolded me if I bought the Land Rover I had wanted to buy. Anyway, so far so good. Brandon found this jeep, took the time to drive a few hours out of town (which I wouldn't have done) slapped some new tires on it and then wove a great story.  Dave said I probably paid a little too much, but I guess that was my storyteller's fee. (I told Dave what I paid. You can't lie to your mechanic)

Actually Brandon inspired me. I can use my imagination as he did except I will put my stories on paper and use them to someday purchase that red cadillac I still dream about. In the meantime, I'll be driving my sporty red Jeep.


Anonymous said...

Wow - that's quite a yarn! Gee, if cars could talk I wonder what they'd say!

SunsetCindi said...

It's a great looking jeep but oh what a story to get it!! It really makes you wonder why Brandon went to all that trouble to make up that story. It does appeal to the heart strings but he could have sold it without that, couldn't he?? There's a reason for everything and only you could buy a car from a fellow storyteller. Take that inspiration and run with it!

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