I had the privilege of travelling the province last month reading from The Glorious Mysteries. At Word on the Street, in Lethbridge, I had just finished reading “The Water Witcher,” one of the Alberta stories in my collection. There was an attentive crowd gathered, probably 30 to 35 people. It was an outdoor festival; we were under a tent. The skies were clear and warm, the winds were calm for Lethbridge. A hand shot up. A middle-aged man, dressed in the clean, white work shirt and pants of a painter or other tradesman, had the first question. I had watched during my twenty-minute reading as he paused at the back of the tent, leaned in to listen, and finally took a seat with the rest of the audience. “One thing I want to know, in that story of yours, did they really end up finding water in that place?”
Often it’s the sign of a good story when a reader is “taken in.” The man was sincere and earnest. I almost didn’t have the heart to answer. “This is a work of fiction, but it could have happened and it does happen.” The man slumped a little lower in his seat, clearly disappointed. The context is southern Alberta, the summer of the Great Flood of 2013.
That got me to thinking about fact and fiction and why our age demands so much of reality. Metaphors seem to pale beside the reality of devastation. There are fundamental parts of our world that are out of balance. And yet I would argue that stories illuminate and hold out more hope for the future than all the facts in the world. Just saying… but then I am a writer.