Sunday, July 26, 2015
When I was living in Massachusetts in the mid 1990s, I was invited to be one of the featured storytellers at the New England Modern Storytelling Festival in Windsor, Maine. One of the venues in which I was going to be participating was called Flash Fiction. We were advised that our stories could be no more than four minutes long and that people in the audience would be expecting to laugh.
This was a dilemma for me. My average story was twenty minutes long, and, at that time, serious stories were my trademark. Two days before I had to leave for the festival, I still did not have a four minute, funny story. I was about to panic, when I remembered a joke that my friend Cathy told me when we were in the third grade. That joke, I realized, would make a great middle for a story. I just had to add a beginning and an end.
This is what I came up with:
Why Fire Trucks Are Red?
By Linda Goodman
My friend Kelly is in the second grade, and last week she came home with an unusual homework assignment. She had to find out why fire trucks are red.
Kelly needed some help, and the first person she asked was her father. “Daddy, can you tell me why fire trucks are red?”
“Well,” he chortled, “ They’re red…..hahaha….THEY’RE RED BECAUSE THEY’RE EMBARRASSED!” He laughed so hard he had to lean on the refrigerator to keep from falling on the floor.
Kelly should have known better than to ask her father. He made a joke out of everything.
So she asked her mother. “Mama, do you know why fire trucks are red?”
Kelly’s mother was the no nonsense type. She turned to Kelly with both hands on her hips and said, “They’re red because somebody painted them that color.”
Kelly knew that her mother’s answer was correct, but she did not think that it was the answer her teacher was looking for.
Finally, Kelly asked the smartest person she knew: her grandmother. “Grandmama, can you tell me why fire trucks are red?”
“Well sure I can,” her grandmother assured her. “That’s right easy, actually. It’s like this: One plus one is two, and two plus two is four. Four times three is twelve…. That’s right isn’t it?”
“Yes, Grandmama, it is,” Kelly told her.
Her grandmother nodded and said, “I thought so,” before continuing, “Now twelve inches is a foot, and last week I went to the hardware store and bought myself a foot ruler…. now let me see…. Queen Mary was a ruler…. and so was Queen Elizabeth. And Queen Elizabeth was also the name of a ship….a ship that sailed the seven seas. And what is in the seven seas? FISH! And every single one of those fish have fins…. The fins, now, they got uppity and went off to fight the Russians…. and the Russians are also called Reds. And fire trucks are always rushin’. AND THAT’S WHY FIRE TRUCKS ARE RED!
Kelly liked her grandmother’s answer best, and that’s the one that she turned in to her teacher the next day. And guess what! She got an A!
I told that story on the Flash Fiction stage, and it was a huge hit. The audience howled, and I felt great getting laughter for a change. Now I have numerous former jokes turned story in my storytelling arsenal. It’s a good trick to have up your sleeve. By the way - it's in the delivery.