From 2002 until 2005, I was Annie the Nanny for two little boys in Seattle. The first year was a full-time job, and the next two were part-time as I finished school. These little guys were my funny companions, my paper airplane playmates, the reason that I wanted to pull my hair out and the reason that my heart spilled over with love. Even after I finished my stint as their nanny, I continued to see them about once each week. Now that I’m in Nashville, I miss them a lot.
One of their favorite treats was to be told stories – stories made up on the fly, extemporaneously, in real time, with virtually no prep.
In fact, my very first day on the job, it was requested of me to tell a story that integrated the lives of a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Black Widow Spider, and a Hyena. Welcome.
I found that, when telling stories about fictional characters in fantastical scenarios, my mind would tend to go blank, and then I would scramble. Put on the spot, my best character names were drawn directly from prescription drugs: “Captain… Zoloft, and his flunky… Prednisone!” In order to avoid the inevitable panic that would set in on the days when I had absolutely no creative spark, I began to build upon two series of stories; it was easier to make up something on the fly when I had already developed some characters to draw from.
My first series: “Crabs on the Loose.”
It was not about an STD.
My second series: “Annie Queen of Doom.”
“Annie Queen of Doom” starred myself, naturally – cloaked in a black cape and wearing excessive amounts of eyeliner – and two Komodo dragons, named after the boys. These illustrious characters lived on Mt. Distromotry (a fictional term which, very technically, translates to “acid mixed with lava”), next to the Bog of Eternal Stench, where they often battled Emperor Badbum. Emperor Badbum was constantly after the Rainbow Sapphire, buried deep within the bowels of Mt. Distromotry, and so our heroes were always on guard. He was a terrible enemy, but he had one weakness: crying babies. And so when Annie Queen of Doom and her Komodo dragons would march into battle, they would push trams full of wailing infants.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to my creativity.