The Lonely Story

Mark Gozonsky

Once upon a time, there was a lonely story.  It was lonely because it didn’t know what it was about.

Was it a love story?  A coming-of-age story?  A shaggy dog story?  The story didn’t know, and that made it sad.

Sad, and lonely, because it had no other stories to hang out with.  Horror stories gave it the cold shoulder.  Parables wanted no part of it.  The story was alone, by itself, with no one to talk to or to read it.

Despite its sad mood, the story was not depressed.  It wanted things and hoped for them.  It wanted characters.  It wanted a plot and a setting.  It wanted dialogue, rising action, a climax – and a satisfying resolution.  It wanted to leave a lasting impression, even to be discussed and quoted.  Sometimes it fantasized that one of its images or phrases would enter the lexicon, and become emblematic of an idea, the way madeleines are emblematic of nostalgia, or rabbit holes of fantasy.

But most of all, the story wanted to be told.  The problem was, it did not know where to begin.

“I’m nothing,” the story said to itself.  “I have no beginning, middle or end.”  And it felt so meaningless and empty that the story began to cry.

Well, it just so happened that a sentence heard the story crying.  The sentence asked, “What’s the matter?” and the story explained.

The sentence looked at the story thoughtfully, and then said, “Maybe I can help.”

“But how?” the story sputtered.

“I’ll show you,” the sentence said, and with that, it typed itself out.

The steps leading up to our house:  they’re eroding.

After a moment of consideration, the story said, “I like your colon.”

“Thank you,” said the sentence.

The story mused a little further.  “Eroding steps – that could be dangerous.  And dangerous is interesting.” 

A bit more contemplation, then:    “You could describe the steps.  That would be setting.  And whomever the ‘our’ is, they have to be characters.”

Now it was the sentence’s turn to cry.

“Don’t you think I know all that?” it lashed out, somewhat harshly, seeing as how the story was only trying to help.  “I could have setting and characters and plot, too.  I could have conflict and resolution” – it said these words with the longing of a child intoning the names of forbidden candies – “but no.  I can’t.  The things I want the most are denied to me forever.”

There the sentence paused, and raised an apostrophe to its forehead. 

“But I don’t understand,” the story interjected.  “Why can’t you have those things?”

“I’ll tell you why – it’s because I’m real!”  And here the sentence commenced sobbing so disconsolately the story knew it would just have to let the sentence go on like that for a while.  That was all right.  The story had time.  It wasn’t going anywhere. 

Although actually, that might not be so true, because now the story had what it had been searching for all along:  a beginning.

“Forgive me for going on and on like a paragraph,” the sentence finally said, when it had composed itself.

“No problem,” the story replied.  “I’m sad a lot too.  But tell me – why is it a problem that you’re real?  I thought being real was good and true.”

“Hah!” spat the sentence.  “Tell that to my author – he thinks that for a sentence to be good, it has to be made-up.”

“Who’s  your author?” the story asked.

“Some guy no one has ever heard of,” the sentence replied bitterly.

“Well, what does he know?” the story said.  “You don’t have to listen to him.  And besides, making stuff up is easy.”

“Maybe for you it is,” said the sentence.  “But it’s all over for me.  I’m done.  I have a period at the end of me.”

“That’s nothing to worry about,” said the story.  “You’re just a draft.  Anything can still happen to you.  Anything!”

“Really?” asked the sentence, excited for the first time since it was written.

“Sure,” said the story.  “Let’s just brainstorm a little.”

Before long they had come up with two lists.  One was about steps, and the other was about “our.”




Spanish tile


Whitewashed stone




A brother and sister living together after both parents killed in car accident.

Unemployed mom and dad plus disabled son.

Seemingly happy family of four mom, dad, high school age boys – with dark secret about

to destroy them.

Dolls in dollhouse.

Childless couple, in middle of middle age, no pets.

King and queen in castle.

When they were finished, the story and the sentence gazed upon their list with pleasure, but they were soon interrupted by a loud, impatient voice.

“That’s all well and good,” the voice said, “but I don’t really like any of those ideas.  None of them get to the heart of my situation.”

And here the voice began to sigh giant heaving sighs.

“What is that awful noise?” asked the story.

“That’s my author,” said the sentence.

“I see,” the story replied.  Then it did something it hadn’t expected to do.  It spoke back to the author.

“Why don’t you keep out of it!” said the story.  “How do you even know anything anyway?  You talk about the heart of your situation, but what kind of heart do you have, writing a sentence and then abandoning it?  You should be ashamed of yourself.  Your sentence has a chance at life, and all you can do is complain.  Why can’t you just have the decency to be quiet and stay out of our way!”

The sentence looked at the story with admiring surprise, and the story just shrugged, and smiled a little smile, as if it said brave things like that all the time.

“Now then,” the story said.  “Where were we?”

The sentence quoted itself:

The steps leading up to our house:  they’re eroding.

“Fine,” said the story.  “Excellent start.  You’ve done your part.  Let me take it from here…”

This should not be happening to us.

“Ooh, I like that!” the sentence blurted out.  The story would have smiled again, but it was concentrating.

I understand about rocks eroding in nature.  Wind, rain, tectonic plates, all that.  But this is our HOUSE.  It’s not NATURE.  That’s the whole point.  If we wanted to live in nature we could buy a yurt and live on a cliff outside of Santa Cruz.  The whole point is, we don’t want to do that.  We want to live right here, supposedly protected from the elements, and also from lawsuits brought by leafletters who break their leg stepping on one of our cracking steps of so-called stone.  Shouldn’t the original owners have gotten some kind of treatment or something before we bought the place to prevent this  kind of thing from happening?  Some kind of polyurethane?

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