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" If it wouldn't make believable fiction,
it's probably the truth."

I told my brother last night that the primary reason The Muse and I came 'back home' this time was because we'd been running dangerously low on family Soap Opera. Family seems to be the source of all true Soap Opera. In the near decade The Muse and I have lived away from my old home town, our Soap Opera consumption has noticeably diminished. Visitors and resident aliens in any place away from their family home place simply cannot plug into the channel that carries the deep local dirt. Sure, the odd axe murder might make the front pages, but it'll be very unlikely that the murderer or the victim went to grade school with your cousin's oldest, for that sort of detail separates genuine Soap Opera from run of the mill scandal, tragedy, or news. The juiciest news isn't fake news or national news, but family Soap Opera.

My mother, before she passed, was our primary access point into the swirling cesspool that was our Deep Family. We might seem perfectly respectable on the surface, but not all that deep down below that public presence, we could easily make any budding Dashiell Hammett blush. Our families now extend much further than the old family neighborhood, of course, but absent my mom's diligent stewardship, The Muse and I only rarely ever connect back into the eternally continuing story.

I'll spare all of us the details here, for the details hardly matter. When we return to my old hometown, the story re-emerges. No, we did not hear the latest, not since our shadows last crossed your door. The conversations hardly qualify as boring, though a few do border on the absolutely disgusting. Who knew? Who ever suspected? The plot twists and character turns are absolutely dizzying.

I know that The Muse and I maintain our place in what we lovingly refer to as The Jungle Telegraph. Did you hear what they're doing now? Heads undoubtedly shake and tongues tisk in wonder, for each recipient of some part of this endless story also holds a role as an actor
in the story as well. We will never hear the backstory that defines who we are to everyone else here, just as they will never learn the roles we cast them into when we impart our pieces of the never-ending telling. An occasional slip somewhere along the chain might get back to some currently scorned one (everyone eventually takes their occasional turn in the endless story's dunk tank), but nobody will ever ask after it and no real grudge will emerge. Any outsider might easily conclude that we're all of us crazy and/or stupid, and probably both. The basic guideline when it comes to Soap Opera is: If it wouldn't make believable fiction, it's probably the truth.

It's all The Truth, of course, filtered through the curious membrane of family. Some individuals will never catch a real break as the story unfolds. Soap Opera might convincingly demonstrate the ramifications of a belief in original sin. One might marry into the story yet never really gain access into its deepest reaches, and when they separate from their spouse or lose their job or contract some life-threatening malady, the Soap Opera seems to almost sing with appreciative retribution because nobody was ever
that convinced they actually belonged, anyway.

The Soap Opera provides a texture to a family. Whispers over a long-distance telephone connection do not suffice, for these stories only flourish face-to-face, with perhaps a beer or a glass of wine to lubricate the tongues. Most of the anecdotes elicit no more than a weary shaking of the head, though some, a blessed few, shock the socks off even the one recounting the incident again. One branch of my mom's family featured a couple of brothers who had been hung as horse thieves and one who was reported to have been shot through a bedroom window by the husband who was married to the woman and who owned the window, bedroom, and house. Today's installments lack much of the drama of the family's Wild West episodes, but one never knows what tomorrow's show might bring.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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