I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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Category: Isabel Scheherazade-memoirist and blogger

#6. Should put this entry first? Is this where I start? Beginning a story is confusing. Here it is! The Opening Salvo. The Shot Across the Bow. Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe Confrontation.

The guy takes his head out of his hands and looks at me, blinking, like I’d blown smoke in his eyes. He picks up his coffee. Yes? he asks. Can I help you?

I take a big breath. You killed my Mom and Dad.

Ever wonder if your words pack a punch? The guy’s hands start to tremble. His coffee splashes onto the checkered tablecloth.

I wonder if he’s scalded himself. I hope yes, but then I think ouch.

His eyes dart back and forth like he’s hunting for an escape route.

And see those kids there? I point back at my table without looking. Those are my brothers. You killed their Mom and Dad, too.

 I stop. I don’t know what else to say.

We stare at each other. His face collapses, tears spill over his bleary eyes and into his whiskers. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, he whispers. Sorry. He pushes away from the table, up-ends the chair, rushes outside, and leaves his coffee.

I watch the door ease shut after him, the bird and viney window curtains whiff carelessly. (Makes sense: how many “cares” could cheerful gauzey curtains in a cute coffee shop have?)

I’m in shock. I didn’t know I had tough and bold in me. Like a robot, I pick up his chair, push it back to the table, blot the coffee spills with my sleeve, place the coffee cup in the wash bin, and walk back to my table.

Mimi skewers me over the heads of the twins. She’s horrified.

Not me. I’m hate-i-fied.



(sketches by my friend Ryan, BTW)

PS   I’m back home and calmer. I study what I wrote.

Is this a cliff hanger? Maybe not quite; but I needed to at least write about the  murderer. At Mimi and Pop’s he’s like the elephant in the room that nobody talks about.

Back to the nature of cliff hangers, just to get off vile and evil for a minute:

I can tolerate cliff hangers just so long as I can keep reading, or know that the next book in the series is within my reach. I just finished Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” When I started with the first book, all the rest of the series had been written and was either in paperback or in the library; so, as soon as I finished “The Lightning Thief,” I could start on “The Sea of Monsters!” Then the library had “The Titan’s Curse” lined up and waiting for me as soon as I finished Monsters.

Otherwise I don’t think I could have stood it. You know, all that hopping from foot to foot to see what was going to happen. Get it? Stood it? Hopping from foot to foot? I love puns; Mom said the two of us have the pun “gene.” She was a scientist with a sense of humor.  Every time I build a pun I think of her; so, that’s good, at least.

Come to think of it, my life right now is a series of cliff hangers. I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THIS WAY UNTIL THIS VERY SECOND. Writing brought the idea up. It’s like the idea was swimming in a lagoon and the writing was the hook that reeled it in.

end of PS, Isabel

#5. Wherein I explain who the narrator of my own life is…

I, Isabel Scheherazade, am 13-years old. Still a kid, technically; but what I’m writing is not-just-for-kids. Parts of my story is “for mature audiences” as they say. In fact, the movie rating for this memoir of mine wouldn’t be “G” or even “PG.” The reviewers would say it’s “edgy” and maybe give it one of those “parental warnings” for violence and death.

(My old school once tried to ban “A Day No Pigs Will Die.” We protested to the school board; that’s how I know about this stuff.)

My dad was writing a memoir with his high school Freshmen. (He’ll never finish it, BTW.) I asked him, “How do you decide which stories?”

“I write the stories that will still ring a bell in my heart when I’m 99,” he says.

How’s that for a not-really-an-answer answer? But now that I’ll never see him again I get it. My mind and heart throb with my stories. They’re seared into me and making a sound in my heart and mind every minute.

This is what happened. I’m going to write it quick and then throw up.

Mom and Dad were killed.

A guy in a truck ran a stop light; my parents swerved to avoid him and rolled over and over down this steep hill.

They wouldn’t let us see Mom and Dad after the accident. This means that the last time I saw them was about 5 PM. Mimi and Pop (my grandparents) had come over to babysit for date night. I was on our front porch in my PJ’s, electric- tooth brushing while telling Dad that Pop and I were going to play Settlers of Catan.

So, I didn’t even give them a good night kiss.

Since that night, me, Clyde, Sam (they’re twins) and Mimi and Pop sip and gulp from this Huge Cup of Sorrow.

I notice, though, even on the worst days I see OVER the lip of the cup a tiny bit. It’s because I’m trying to write to understand what’s happening. I’m trying to hold myself together by grabbing at words.

Stories jump up and down to get my attention.

I’m like this lady Pop told me about. She thinks someone is trying to poison her, so pretty soon, since she expects it, all her food begins to taste funny. Because I’m on the look-out for stories that will shed light, I find them.  All around me.  Just waiting for me to pick them up.

My memories are organized like our minivan (the one that rolled down the embankment.) Before it got squashed, it had three rows of seats, but, we used this van differently from other families.

I’ve got stories about what’s happening Right This Minute: The front seat memories. They’re full of our life With Mimi and Pop, school, neighbors, every day kinds of stuff. Some big. Some little.

I’ve got stories of Mom and Dad’s car crash: That’s the middle row o seats. But most times it’s like that row is turned down for storage.  In our family we used that middle section for storage because the twins’ huge double stroller didn’t fit in the usual back door storage area.  So all  three of us kids sat in the third row of seats, me in between two car seats full of noisy boys. Tight and gooey.

Back to the middle row. You know how you can press a lever to fold and turn the seat cushions so they’re out of sight? That’s how it is with the crash day memories. Out of sight. Usually.

Then there’s our whole life with Mom and Dad.  Before. It’s like they’re just sitting in the way back seat of my memory, waiting for me to notice them.

So, here goes.  This is the story of our first few months–After.  You’ll see how memories and stories jump out of the way back and into the front.

And sometimes plunk right into the middle.



It’s over.  We had a memorial service at the stone chapel near Raging River, which was not.

I can’t remember much of what was said except this. One of the readers quoted Abraham Lincoln, “it’s not the years in a life, it’s the life in the years.”

Words as comforting as peroxide on a cut. When President Lincoln’s kids, Tad, Edward, and Willie died,  he couldn’t have uttered this.

I don’t process most of the words. They were like that blah blah background grown-up talk in Charlie Brown TV specials.

In the front row, Pop and Mimi clamp onto us like Dad’s woodwork vise, the one with super sturdy metal and wide wide “jaws.” I use this vise, Izzy, for the heavy-duty projects, Dad would explain while I sat on the cellar steps just above the work bench. See? The vise keeps it all from coming apart.

Sam, Clyde, and I are Mimi and Pop’s heavy-duty projects. Otherwise, I know we’d come apart.

Now we’re back at Pop’s. The twins and I are hiding out on a glider behind a tall wooden trellis loaded with viney, orange trumpet-shaped flowers. They’re glorious. Inappropriately jolly?

What a minute, Isabel. Give it a rest.

Clyde and Sam had a playgroup we brought them to for a while; we stopped because one of the mothers was always scolding kids for being “inappropriate.” Honestly?  At age 2!!  So, take a lesson, self. These flowers are perfect. Mom would be pointing out how their shape suits Hummingbirds.

I peer at the bunches of people in the backyard. If you didn’t know, you’d think this was a picnic.  Pop calls the crowd the partying mourners. Some party.

Right now one of Mom’s scientist buddies is talking to Mimi. Just last week I was at Mom’s lab waiting for her. The two of them were comparing slides, talking about honey bee mouth parts. Now he looks up at the trumpet trellis and gives a tiny wave.

Sam and Clyde are rolling their little trucks back and forth on the seat slats.  It’s weird though. Unlike usually, they make no noise. None. It’s like their volume control knob is turned all the way to OFF.  If Mom were here, she’d be holding their foreheads and murmuring, where you gone, little guys?

But they’re not. Gone, that is.

And she is.

And there’s this killer, not even in jail. Even though he made Mom and Dad go off the road and roll down a hill.

And die.

And, unlike the river, I am, raging that is.




#1. Preface to a murder memoir by Isabel Scheherazade, story catcher and orphan.

A week before he was murdered, Dad was learning Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” on his guitar. First he listened to the song a lot. Then he learned the guitar part. Then he played it while he deliberately talked to me or Mom. Then he listened again.  Then he copied the lyrics and read them over and over while he brushed his teeth. Then he sang along with Bob Dylan on his iPod figuring out which words and syllables had chord changes. Then he sang and strummed and finally said, Listen up, Izzy.

One of the lyrics went like this:

“…something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is…”

That is exactly what it’s like for me now. Something is happening, and I don’t know what it is.

And, Dad? Are you  nearby, somehow? How else to explain why I’m hearing “Thin Man” in my mind’s ear? And Listen up, Izzy? in your exact tone of voice?

Is there magic going on?

—Isabel Scheherazade (who’s trying to keep it all together by writing it down in this blog)

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