Stories from the Otherside (of the continent): Painting

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Michael Nalbone
Michael Nalbone, Contributing Writer

As a child, my active mind was full of images experienced while awake, and asleep. Trying to paint those scenes onto a canvas always resulted in my being disappointed in the final image failing to capture the essence. Crayons were first used with the results acceptable for a child under five. The teachers and Nuns at St. James School always criticized or tore up my attempts to portray on paper what my mind saw. Except for Mrs. Muzza of Kindergarten, she tried to get me to conform to the directions, but usually relented after I stubbornly continued to put wax to paper the way I wanted to. Then, I tried water colors, but lost patience because there was no light in the renderings. Next was chalk, but, without guidance, I still failed to capture on the paper with the colors what my mind saw. So, I started writing. Poems had no allure to me, I wanted to paint a story with words to describe my visions and experiences. I wanted to share all the discoveries made by reading massive quantity of books since age four! I got permission to walk to Prendergast Library after school to read until father picked me up on his way home from work. What a wonderful place a library is for a child with an acute imagination and a hunger to learn. No one was there to tell me what I could not read. Instead I was guided to the books they knew from their experience of seeing what I read and checked out every day.

My attempts to write stories were either dismissed as “fanciful meanderings” or falsehoods by the staff of St. James RC School. The last story I wrote involved traveling to Jupiter to visit several of its moons. The Nun told me that there were no such moons. “I never heard of Io, Europa, Ganymede, or Callisto.” F was my grade for making up such nonsense. I did not write again until the end of Ninth Grade. A fellow student knew how to type. She transcribed my chicken scratching to a readable verse. There were three chapters, I got a B if I remember correctly, but do not know what happened to my first short story.

My handwriting was/is atrocious. A teacher told me she believed it was because my mind was always ahead of my hand, hence, illegible script. A High School Councilor put me into typing class. Best thing that ever happened, but I did not have a typewriter.

Summer of 2012 a trip via ambulance to the Cardiac Intensive Care Ward changed a lot of things. The next morning after a lot of tests, a heart specialist asked me “Is there any stress in your life unresolved?” My heart attack was induced by extreme anxiety. A Shrink was located by a service attached to the Health Insurance I am blessed to have care of Colleen’s employer. After the first few sessions, she asked me “who are these Stupid People that pop up in our sessions? Next week I want you to write a short story about each one of them, and also chapters of Nice People.” The next week’s session a folder with twenty-two chapters was handed to her. “You do not have time to read all these now, do you?” She responded by asking how many there were, and when I told her twenty-two, she then asked if that meant eleven Stupid, and eleven Nice. “No, there are no nice people I remember in the slum apartments my father managed. When she next instructed me to put the pages into the shredder, my response, “Hell no, I am going to write a book.” Almost five years later, 87 chapters and counting. I do not know when they will be made into a book. {147 Chapters to date, 12/20/2019}

Now, I paint with the Microsoft Word(tm) to put images into my reader’s minds. I enjoy making people laugh, think, or possibly inspire them to write also.

To read Michael Nalbone’s previous columns please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Michael’s own web page.