Once upon a time there was a boy whose family ran a funeral home in Scranton and kept a fire pit in the backyard. While the boy and his cousin Frankie were playing outside one day, they spotted what they thought was a human soul hovering over the pit.
They ran to get their grandmother, who told them the not-so-scary truth.
“It turned out it was an old cabbage, a crippled cabbage that was wet or something so it didn’t burn. It was just smoldering,” said Pamela McNichols, who has organized a Scranton StorySlam this weekend.
If you attend the StorySlam, set for 7 p.m. Saturday evening at Honeychild’s Bar & Grill in Dunmore, you’ll likely hear tales of drama or humor similar to the fire-pit escapade, which was chosen as winner of a previous event.
For each of the four-per-year StorySlams, McNichols invites eight people who, she’s confident, will tell a captivating story. Saturday’s lineup includes Jeff Boam, Jim Breslin, Michaela Moore, Patrick Martin, Maggie O’Brien, Jeff Stolarcyk, Ashley Teatum and Hank Willenbrink.
Anyone in the audience who also would like to share a story can put his or her name into a hat, from which two “wildcards” will be drawn.
Wildcard entries won each of the last two StorySlams, McNichols said, citing the fire-pit story as winner when the tales of the evening were “West Side Stories, ” all tied to Scranton’s West Side.
Another wildcard tale, this one about a youngster who rescued a fellow boarding-school student in Cuba, won a StorySlam devoted to “life-altering moments.”
It turned out, the schoolboy in the latter story had rescued a young Fidel Castro after a bicycle accident. Punch line: Ever since, the rescuer’s sister has held him responsible for the Cuban revolution.
For Saturday’s StorySlam, McNichols said, participants are asked to tell something about a road trip. Stories should be limited to 5 minutes, told without relying on notes, and must not be made up.
“We tell them the story must be true,” she said. “That’s what makes it so appealing for the audience.”
The winner, chosen by judges, will receive $50 and a trophy known as “the Slammy.”
“It’s kind of like a Grammy,” McNichols said. “You also get bragging rights.”
If you’re already looking ahead to future StorySlams, McNichols expects there will be one Sept. 14 in Jessup, where the topic will be “A Tale of Two Cities” in light of Jessup’s ties to Gubbio, Italy.