When my children were portable and saw me as a funnel for the world, my favorite duty was telling bedtime stories. I’m not a brilliant storyteller, but credulity inspires improvisation. I painted myself into corners to see how I might get out.
Rather than write a full post, I’m exercising those atrophied muscles in 15 single sentences from stories—beginnings, middles, and ends. Only a few are really suitable for children, but I aimed to find fanciful and promising ideas ripe for plot, not sleep:
1. The other alchemists thought it silly to try to turn gold into food.
2. What you’ve heard is true—dogs are humans’ best friends—but there was one dog whose only friends were cats.
3. At first just household objects reappeared as papier-mâché but soon whole buildings, the town, and finally its citizens became immobile and lumpy from someone’s bungled construction.
4. He dreamed the sun was a plow and so did she—when they kissed for the first time, they decided to make the dream so.
5. The soothsayer kept the bear caged but told everyone the bars marked the limits of their world and not the bear’s.
6. The tools, unwilling to touch anyone who might use their talents poorly, fled from the people who meant to wield them.
7. “Be careful,” her grandmother told her, “or you’ll end up like your father, lost in his own bedroom.”
8. Once a king decided to possess everything and soon owned all of the planet except himself.
9. Before, she had visited the priest, but that morning she decided to write her confessions on cards and hand them to strangers in the town square in front of the cathedral.
10. Another day, another habit, and soon the animals were very different from the humans, who never learned the knack of making one day echo another.
11. All his life he worked on one map—drawing landmarks guiding him out of his house, through streets, into countryside, over mountains, and into another house with another map just like the first, only dark.
12. Most people don’t know that sleep’s twin is jealous of his sister’s influence.
13. A tree shot straight out from the face of the cliff, and every year or so a villager came along to build a house in it, but the tree and the wind knew what to do and shook them off like flies.
14. “This seat,” he said, “is the judgment seat, and, if you want to know what to think about anything at all, you just need to sit down and close your eyes.”
15. Each of the library’s books contained a song, and opening their covers released the music forever.