If you can’t tell a story, then just be quiet . . .


There is a friend I have who cannot, for the life of her, tell a story.

Sadly, she thinks she can.

This often leads to drawn out phone conversations, dinners and afternoons over coffee that can be nothing less than a yawning bore.

First, she has very little sense of humor. At least when she’s the one doing the talking. Now, she laughs merrily at others and often at my witticisms, proving she knows a good punch line when she hears it. She just can’t conjure up one of her own.

For years, our friends have been grumbling among themselves, saying, “Someone should tell Nancy Marie that she can’t tell a story worth a flip so it would be much prettier if she just sat quietly and listened to others.”

Inevitably, they will turn flittering eyes toward me, smile with purpose and always one or two will arch an eyebrow.

“Not me.” I protest.

“It would be doing the rest of us such a big favor,” Claudette pointed out.

“It would also be hurting her feelings and I won’t do it. She majored in literature at Chapel Hill so she believes she knows all there is to know about stories. Nope, sorry. You’ll just have to be the gracious Southern women you all are and bear it.”

But the other night, I almost broke. I almost caved, like a crazy woman who steps off the edge and there’s no pulling her back. I dang near broke the cardinal rule of Southern womanhood: Thou shalt not hurt the feelings of those who eagerly bake you a casserole at the first sign of a sniffle.

We had been to dinner and her stories went from bad to worse. She adds enormous detail – nothing frilly and pretty – then weaves through a long story before it abruptly ends. Twice, she finished stories and I leaned forward to prompt her with, “Then?”

“Then, nothing. That’s it. That’s the end of the story.”

Folks, it is not good when someone has to explain that the story had ended.

I was so bored at this point, that I couldn’t even think of another story to tell myself before she could begin another. That was my downfall. Her next story involved a drawn-out story about a dog she had encountered. It took her 10 minutes to say: This woman had a dog. The dog saw me. Sniffed my hand and sat down beside me. I don’t know why.

I don’t know why either. Perhaps the dog thought that Nancy Marie would not tell one of her stories. Otherwise, the dog, had it been smart, would have run the other way.

That’s when I almost broke and told my friend, who has made me a few casseroles, “You have to quit telling stories. You’re no good at it. For the sake of my sanity and all the women around you, you must stop. Now.”

Then, it hit me. Why not do it like Jesus did it? Tell a parable and let her figure it out. You know, some of that stuff of his is pretty edgy, such as the bridegroom and the wedding supper. I figured if it worked in the book of Matthew, it could work in the book of Ronda.

So, I began. My parable was about the man who had a fiddle and it was, in fact, a beautiful fiddle by all appearances. The man loved music and since he loved it so much, he figured that he could make music. But when he began to play, horrendous sounds screeched out. His friends threw their hands to their ears and ran from the room, screaming for relief. His heart was there and his intentions were admirable, but he could not make beautiful music.

You get it, right?

She didn’t.

The torture continues.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]