Richard Parkins lived at the top of a hill. In a beautiful old house. He'd lived there with his parents until they died. They died in the same year, twenty eight years ago. The house had a wonderful story. Almost as good as the stories told in it.
His parents were storytellers. Their stories were full of humor and pathos. When he was very young, they told him the stories first. A rehearsal of sorts. He did not understand a word. He only knew this because they told him later. In fact, that was the subject of one of their final stories.
At first, the Parkins' told their stories locally. At cafes and soup kitchens. To folks more interested in coffee and soup. At some point, folks started to look up. And listen. These were nice stories. As warm as the coffee and soup.
These people went out and told others. The cafes and church basements were soon too small. They began telling the stories in school auditoriums. And not just locally. Word continued to spread.
The family traveled to tell the stories when Richard was a little older. He had vague memories of this. Truth be told, he remembered the trips and places more than the stories. He remembered how vibrant his parents were. And the love. People would approach his parents and share many kind words. They waited in lines to say hello. To say how they had been moved. How the stories had changed them. His parents!
They traveled for a few years telling their stories. Until his mother's health became an issue. They began to travel less. Then not at all. They would tell the stories to Richard, like they had when he was younger. At the end, they would sit on the couch and tell the stories. They had to rely on the words.
Richard was aware that the kids talked about him. Crazy man at the top of the hill. Loner. But, he did not think he was a loner. He talked to folks. At the market and the bookstore. As time allowed on his mail route.
He did spend most of his time in the house. The house had such history and character. Still, it was starting to feel big and lonely to him. He would go weeks without venturing into certain parts of the house.
He watched his shows. He cooked. He really enjoyed trying new recipes from the wall of cookbooks he'd acquired over the years. Meals he ate by himself at the long dining room table. He would venture into the garden. The garden supplied him with many of the items he used in his recipes.
His days were fairly routine. He delivered mail on weekdays and the occasional Saturday. He went into town twice a week to buy food and such. He would stop at the bookstore. He was a voracious reader.
Richard considered himself a content man. He was healthy and financially secure. He had a few friends he could count on. Lately, he had been corresponding with people online. He knew the limitations, but he enjoyed it all the same.
Still, there was something missing. Not a woman, although he wouldn't mind having someone with whom to share the space. He'd had a few long term girlfriends over the years, but the relationships faded more than ended. No, it was more than that.
This is not how he wanted his life to go. He felt like he had more to offer. He had something to say. Like his parents, he wanted to tell stories.
Richard sat down at the computer thinking about which story he wanted to tell first. He had many rattling around in his brain. He had given serious thought to writing over the years. He'd begun different things. He'd never finished any of them.
After some debate, he decided he didn't want to use a computer. He wanted to do it by hand. On paper. Like his parents did. He liked the idea of that.
He would walk to the bookstore. He wanted to walk the few miles. It would help him think. He wanted to buy a few fancy journals. He imagined it would make him feel more like a writer.
At the bookstore, he took a long time choosing a few journals and some pens. As he approached the counter, he imagined what Martha would say. She would probably crack a joke about how he'd finally read them all. Now he had to write his own.
He'd wanted to wait until tomorrow. That was his usual day. That was one of the days Martha worked. But, he was anxious to get started. She would laugh anyway. Stick to reading them she would say. Maybe someday his work would be sold here
When he got back to the house, he set things up just so. He brewed some coffee. Some special coffee, the kind he usually reserved for guests. He made sure the lighting was just right. He turned the ringer off on the phone, even though he seldom got calls.
Everything was in place. Now he just needed to figure out what to write. He imagined this would be a long process. But, it was something he had always wanted to do. And now he was doing it.
Richard had anticipated that he would struggle to come up with the words and ideas. This was not the case. Quite the opposite occurrred. The words flowed rapidly. For hours. Days. Weeks. He began to neglect certain aspects of his life. He spent his days working, writing and sleeping. He did not even stop to visit Martha. He went to buy journals on her off days. He didn't want anything to distract him. He was focused.
The words continued to flow from his mind and his pen. One day, out of the blue, the pages could no longer contain the words. Literally. The ink started to flow from the pages. It did not take long for the flow to become heavy.
Richard ran to get towels. The ink started to rush toward the front of the house. The house was tilted ever so slightly forward. By the time he returned, the flow had become more rapid. The room was filling up.
As it was summer, he had the windows open. He enjoyed the warm breeze. This became a concern as the ink approached the window sills. He would not be able to close the windows fast enough. And, what would happen if he did? He began to worry about his safety. He could only watch as the ink poured out the windows and into the front yard.
He sensed, at that moment, that his life would never be the same. As he helplessly watched the ink and his words flow out of the windows, he became frantic about what people would think. Was he ready to have everyone see his words? The ink had made it all the way to the street. Some of the children had started to notice. He would have his question answered soon. Whether he was ready or not. There was no turning back.
Richard had to get out. He went to the side of the house to watch as the ink flowed down the street even more quickly. He sat in a lawn chair and just watched in amazement.
It was out of his hands now. He hoped people would not become angry. He started to become concerned for his well-being. He gave some thought to a flight plan. Where to go? Did he have enough cash?
Again, he was surprised by how things played out. The ink had reached some of the kids. The older kids stepped back and pointed. A few of the younger ones were less fearful. They went toward the ink. They started to run around in it. They sat down in it and began to splash one another. Some mothers heard all the commotion and came out on their porches. "What the hell are you guys doing?" he heard one say. One looked angry. She ran out to fetch her son.
As she snatched up her youngster, she noticed the words. She sat down on the curb and started to read. She laughed. Another mom came up beside her. She read over her shoulder. She let out a laugh herself. The same sort of thing was happening at various points on the street.
While he watched this all unfold, he was unaware the ink was flowing beyond the end of the road. He would notice this soon. It would cause him to wonder where it would go from here.
Over the next few days, the words overwhelmed the town. They got into the water. They got into the soil. They affected everyone. Most of the people enjoyed the words. Some folks waded through the ink to stop by and say thanks. They applauded him for being so courageous. Now he knew how his parents must have felt.
There were skeptics. Concerns about the water supply and such. How would this impact the town down the road? One man was particularly dismayed. He hastily organized a town meeting to discuss the "ink man".
News crews from all over started to camp outside the house. They wanted to get shots of the ink man. They hoped to tell stories about the man who tells stories. A family of storytellers.
He was not sure he was ready for the fame. He peered out a bedroom window at all the activity. He had been staying upstairs as the lower level was uninhabitable. He imagined the flow would slow at some point. Would this create a new problem? Would people expect it to continue forever?
Richard decided to embrace the situation. Wasn't this what he wanted. For his words to have an impact. For people to notice that he had something to offer. He was not just a crazy loner at the top of a hill. He came out to talk to the reporters. He told his story about stories.
His concerns about being able to produce more stories proved to be unfounded. He continued to write for the rest of his life. He became something of a local hero. He left his job at the post office to write full time. He traveled to tell his stories.
Over the years, parents would approach him to say how their kids swam in the ink pond. How they had eaten from the gardens penetrated by his words. How they had been changed. That was as beautiful as any story Richard Parkins had ever heard.