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Participant Information

William B. Trevillian

City:
Charlottesville
State:
VA
Country:
USA
Essay:

I write because I am compelled to write down the stories I conjure up. Perhaps I can explain through the stories I encountered as a child.

Growing up during the Second World War, I visited my grandfather, who lived in a home overlooking the railroad tracks at Red Hill, Virginia.

In the summer evenings it was hot even after the sun went down. The entire family would gather on the front porch extending across the front of his traditional farm house and watch for trains carrying all sorts of war materiel, even planes and tanks, along with an occasional troop train or what we assumed were troop trains until one day a train actually stopped and they unloaded.
The men we thought were troops, were prisoners.

Germans, they looked just like us, not like the billboard scarecrows at the theater. One of them tried to hide in a concrete culvert, hiding where my cousin and I had just been swimming, in the Hardware River flowing through. They caught the prisoner, and made him sit down by himself.

From the porch we stared at him, and I think he saw us, too, and especially he saw my cousin Martha Teel who, I had to concede, was beautiful.

So my grandfather would begin a story. Perhaps, on that day, it would involve the German prisoner. My grandfather was a gifted storyteller, but just when he was getting to the good part, he would say "Well, what happened next, Billy?" Oh, boy, was I taken by surprise.

But I would get started somehow, overcoming my self-centeredness as I went, until Grandad broke in to hand it off to one of his sons or Martha Teel.

My mother kept up with storytelling and either told us a story or read one to us as far back as I can remember. They were stories about people mostly, and my sister and I were always the heroes.

It came naturally for me to become a storytelling junkie, with the exception that all my stories are based on true events. They may all not have happened as chronicled in a story, but each snippet is true even if the ordering of them may be fiction.

Before I know it, I've given birth to a tale and given some kind of permanence to an event that, without the story, would have been lost forever.

Parkinson's disease has taken away from me the athleticism that I always enjoyed. I have been most blessed. Physically I have been lucky to have had the personal freedom to participate in anything I wanted to do, maybe not strikingly well, but not an embarrassment to my team or partner, either.

Parkinson's disease has made me slow. It has taken away the agility I took for granted to cross a creek balancing on a fallen tree, to run and cut. The only thing I do physically better than before is fall down, and this expertise has a good chance of eventually killing me.

But Parkinson's disease has not made my brain mushy. Through my stories I fly like an eagle. I move with breakneck speed to the delight of those watching me play the tennis match or watching me run my bird dogs across a frosted field of broom sage and rabbit tobacco, as the frost collects on the dogs' coats, and shines in the crisp, brittle, morning air.

Writing is my freedom to escape the entrapment, to swim like the German prisoner away down the Hardware River. I am not captured, and while alive, I can always have freedom.

You see, my characters always have the perfect health that I used to have, and that I dream of going back to.