Reading · Writing

It all comes down to the story.

The old man sits there, all tweed and spectacles and proper. He has a musty smell about him and a papery quality to his skin; he looks like he might tear if you manhandle him. He rubs his arm, upsetting his smoking jacket, revealing words tattooed across his forearm just under the sleeve. He looks at the youngster across from him, and a crinkly smile touches his lips.

The youngster, in turn, regards him coolly and with a little bit of disdain. With his immaculate black suit, his smooth skin, his modern, metallic scent, he feels far superior. He too has tattoos, a series of binary numbers visible just above the stiff neck of his dress shirt.

“What exactly are we supposed to be doing here?” he asks, impatient, his voice crisp and clear. It has been an hour since he was placed in this room with the old man, and he was growing weary of the company. He could feel the dust accumulating on his spotless visage.

The old man shrugs. “I do not know, but I have all the time in the world to find out.”

The youngster glances at his watch. “Well my time is limited. I tune out in approximately 3 hours and 22 minutes and 5… no, 4 seconds.”

“Enough time for a story.”

A smirk touches the youngster’s lips. “I bet I can tell a story better than you. And why stop at one?” He taps his forehead. “I have an excellent memory. I have like hundreds of stories stored up here. I bet your feeble mind cannot remember more than one tale.”

The old man shrugs again. “Such is my curse, I suppose.”

The youngster stretches languidly. “I’m going to play it fair. Let’s tell the one story you know, and the winner is he who tells it best.”

The old man smiles. In a soft voice, he tells the story he read countless times before. The youngster watches and listen, first bored then with increasing attention. The old man’s rustling voice envelops him, drowning him in the story, and as he listens, he wishes he was a child again so he may sit on the old man’s lap and snuggle closely to him. There is something intimate about the way he tells the story, something tangible. He looks so… unmodern, but it doesn’t affect his storytelling, whereas he has to upgrade his appearance and gadgets every month to keep up with the trends.

When the old man finishes with a quiet, “The End”, the youngster breaks out of his reverie and tries to appear unperturbed, like his feathers hadn’t been ruffled. He acknowledges the old man’s recital with a tight smile then launches into one of his own. The old man reclines in his chair, listening to the smooth and fluid voice of the young narrator. He is secretly jealous of all the knowledge he possesses and feels sad that he will never be able to tell more than one story. He wishes he could walk around and gesticulate with his hands like the youngster, but he’s not so light on his feet.

When the youngster is done, they both regard each other silently, each withholding the fact that they both enjoyed the other’s recital, each not wishing to admit the other’s virtues. Then the old man smiles.

“It’s really the story that counts, doesn’t it, regardless of who tells it?”

The youngster allows himself to return the smile. “Agreed.”


This was written in response to this week’s writing challenge, which posed a question about eBooks and physical books. I thought it would be interesting to have the two subjects discuss it among themselves. Can you pick out the attributes I highlighted in each one? Do you agree with their conclusion? ๐Ÿ™‚

22 thoughts on “It all comes down to the story.

  1. Very intelligently written Zen! The older man is reminiscent of a paperback, hence how he knows only one story. The younger man is representative of the e-book, and has a wealth of stories downloaded inside his cortex. Right? Moreover, I agree with your conclusions – a story is a story and is enjoyable in any form, regardless of the technological advancements. A story has heart; it has a mind; a body; a soul. The apparatus that holds it altogether is simply that, and has no involvement in the story telling.
    Also, I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award!

    1. Thank you! And yep, that’s what I was getting at. =D You’d think the old guy would have more information because he’s wiser, but in this case the tables have turned. And that was the point I was trying to get across. I mean, I love paperbacks… but eBooks are not so bad either!
      Also, thank you very much. =D I’ll check it out.

  2. Beautifully written and represented.

    “There is something intimate about the way he tells the story, something tangible.” such an apt description of a book.

    Personally I disagree with their conclusion. Whilst I am all for technology and in most areas of my life I am quite obsessive about it, I cannot imagine anything taking the place of my treasured books. I love the feel of it, the weight, waiting in anticipation to literally turn the page.

    I was gifted an e-reader a few years ago, and make no mistake, I have made very good use of it … as a book end ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Aww, thanks, Harmony. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Fair enough! I can understand the appeal of paperbacks, as I lean more towards them most of the time. I just wanted to reach a sort of conclusion, and it seemed like a good idea to end on a point where they both agreed.

  3. I loved it! I think you did a great job drawing in the reader, and had some very nice imagery in there too. I felt like I was there with them. I could definitely picture it in my head. I’m a traditionalist and love my books, but I’ve never actually had an ereader, so I’m not the best judge. Either way, this was a wonderful read.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. =D I’m usually not very good with imagery, but I think it works for small pieces like this. Books are wonderful, no doubt about that, but ereaders have their perks too! If you get the chance, I do recommend you try it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks, Maddie! I’m terrible with sci-fi, so it’s interesting that it gave off that impression. I tried not to define them too much, but I couldn’t escape referring to them as the old man and the youngster.

  4. I love this, Zen. Very clever indeed. The old man has a papery quality and has all the time in the world (like a paperback). The young man is digital and has to update his appearance and gadgets every month to keep up with the trend. I love it! ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Haha, yes! ๐Ÿ˜€ Did you catch all the other references too? For example, the old man has words, but the youngster has binary numbers since that’s all machines recognize.

  5. Ms. Zen–I have tagged you in my blog post today, because I think you’re insightful and intelligent. The challenge is to answer some questions about yourself. If you’re up to it…

  6. Zen, this is so cool! I thought at first it was going to be some kind of sci-fi (waiting in that room without knowing why…), and I loved how in retrospect it made so much sense when the young man said he was tuning out and the old man said he had all the time in the world. Beautifully done! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Also totally agree that in the end, it’s the story that counts.

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