Ambrose wasn’t sure if he liked telling stories to the kids because he would get TOO into them, and if the stories were supposed to be scary HE would get scared and if they were supposed to be sad HE would get sad. And he wasn’t even sure if the kids liked the stories. And the parents — from what he had been told they DEFINITELY did not like the stories. They didn’t think he should tell them to children. They didn’t think he should tell the at all. They actually thought, and they didn’t mind saying it (or maybe they did but it didn’t stop them) there was something wrong with him, to think of such stories, and to tell them at all, and to tell the to children. But sometimes when the kids were restless the people whose job was to take care of the kids would bring Ambrose into tell them a story, and since Ambrose was a bit conflict-adverse he would oblige.
“Tell us a story!” the kids would say. “What kind of story?” the kids Ambrose would ask. “A scary story!” the kids would say.
And Ambrose would sigh and he would tell them:
This is the story of Clever Man when he was on a lonely country road. Clever Man could escape just about anything. But this night he knew something was chasing him that he didn’t think he could get away from.
What was it? asked the kids.
His own death, said Ambrose.
Oh. said the kids.
I fucked up thought Ambrose. The kids aren’t going to like this story. Anyway I can’t back out now thought Ambrose. And he continued.
So his own death looked just like him but at the end of his life, in his grave. And it was behind him on the lonely country road. And he would look back and just catch a glimpse of it. But when he looked forward to run away from him he knew it was closer. He knew it was looking at him. It wasn’t close enough to feel its breath on his neck — cold oh so cold but he could imagine it.
Ambrose looked at the kids. They deifnitely did not like this story at all.
But he got away.
How did he get away? asked one girl whose name was Mabel.
Well he got away by turning himself into a kid, a little kid, do you know why?
Why? asked Mabel.
Think. If you’re a little kid is your own death further away than if you’re a grown up.
You think it is, said Mabel. People say it is. But not necessarily. Because kids die.
They do. Did somebody you know die?
Yes said Mabel. My brother.
The other kids didn’t like how this was going even less than they did before!
But you know what? What did the death do that was chasing him? Did it give up? What do you think?
No said Mabel very quietly.
What did he do? He said if you’re going to hide as a child then I’m going to come after you. I’m going to come after you and tell you this very story. The story of a Clever Man on a country road who feels his own death behind him, and who runs away hiding as a child, and who then disguises himself as me, telling you this story right now, and at the end of it — you die.
No, said Mabel, at the end of it YOU DIE.
And she killed Ambrose right then and there.
They took her away to a facility for children who do things like that and she was there for a few years and then got out and became a successful writer of mystery stories.
When Ambrose told happy stories it worked out a little bit differently. So, Ambrose asked the children, what kind of story do you want me to tell? Because a lot depends upon it, not just the middle and the beginning but most importantly, the end.
So think a little bit before you answer the question “What kind of story do you want me to tell?”
Because it’s up to you.