A New Story
Eric was the Sous-chef at the restaurant where I worked for many years. He was optimistic and philosophical, a rather rare combination, and from time to time he would appear at my shoulder and say, “Bill, tell me a story.” One day I told him this story: I was living in Providence and performing a show I had written with my brother. It was a small show being performed at small theaters to small crowds, but we had gotten our first review in an actual newspaper and it was starting to feel a little bit real. But I wasn’t making any money at it, and so I was working as a waiter in a BBQ place. One day I was having lunch by myself in a restaurant across the street from where I worked when who should stop by but Jimmy Griffin.
Jimmy had gone to high school with me, and was working as a busboy in the restaurant. He sat down across from me and asked what I was up to. Unfortunately, I began by telling him I was a waiter at the BBQ place. Jimmy shook head and lowered his eyes. “Man, Bill,” he said, “I thought if anyone from that stupid high school could make it, it would be you.”
I began stammering about my show, about the review, about how the crowds were getting bigger—but it was too late. If I couldn’t make it, what hope was there for them rest of them? He wished me luck without enthusiasm, and went back to bussing tables.
I had always hated and feared this story, but I decided on the day I told it to Eric to make it a funny story. Eric thought it was the most hilarious story he had ever heard. He put his hand on my shoulder and imitated Jimmy and we both laughed. It was not an easy story to tell. A part of me had wanted to tell it the way I had always been telling it, but I kept my eyes on Eric and kept reminding myself it could be funny if I let it, and it was, and it has been ever since.
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