The outcast, deep thinker, and storyteller, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, doesn’t stop sharing his stories even when no one listens to him and everyone rejects him in Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”.
“We are all given one thing by which our lives are measured, one determination. Mine are the stories which can change or not change the world. It doesn’t matter which stories as long as I continue to tell the stories.”
In addition to storytelling, Thomas has the gifts of seeing visions, receiving messages about the future, and knowing what people are thinking.
One of the problems with Thomas’s storytelling is that he’s been retelling the stories for so long that his community becomes tired of hearing them, but one begins to wonder: are people actually listening to them, taking in their messages?
At one point during the short story, Thomas asks his former friend, Victor, for a favor that seems really simple, but which will take a lot of effort and courage: Can Victor listen to just one of his stories in the future? This is hard to do considering that anyone who associates with Thomas is frowned upon.
In connection to my rookie short story writing skills, I’ve been writing stories because I felt inspired to write them, and, sometimes, I kind of feel like Thomas receiving his stories. I don’t hear a voice tell me the stories word for word, but the stories form without effort.
This is what it feels like to be a storyteller, to feel the call to write from within, to feel a spark of inspiration, to let stories form on their own terms.
Do you ever wonder about the impact your words have on the world? According to Thomas, writers must use their gifts to share stories even when no one seems to be listening. You may never know the full extent of the impact of your words. In the end, you show up to the task of writing, the only thing you’re fully in control of as the storyteller, as the writer.