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BackStory: Small Fists – by Ryan Trauman


We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

BackStory: Small Fists – by Ryan Trauman

Emily Paulos

Small Fists by Ryan Trauman is the first post in our BackStory series... The Story Behind the Picture.

This first BackStory is made up by someone (Trauman) who has no clue about the photo.

Here's how it works:

Someone submits a photo, and we ask our readers to write and submit their 250-300 word BackStory – what they THINK the story behind the photo is... everything you can't see in the picture.

This time, to give you an example, we asked our friend Trauman do the first one. 

The owner of the photo – in this instance our very own Daniel Weinshenker – will pick his favorite submission and we'll post it, along with the REAL BackStory by Daniel.

Please email your BackStory submissions or questions to: by May 30th for consideration.

If you have a photo that you'd like to submit to BackStory, please send it along with your BackStory script and we will consider it for a future posting.


– Storycenter Blog Team

Small Fists

You are five years old, and your mother forgot to let you out of the station wagon. So you opened the door and let yourself out. She's already up the porch and into the house. But this isn't your house. It's your aunt and uncle's. It's spring, and you hear a distant lawn mower. You're not sure if you should follow her in. An older woman in a flowered dress emerges from the house next door. And doesn't notice you. She crosses in front of the flowerbeds, carrying a foil-covered casserole dish, and slips into the house. You don't move. It's not that you can't. Or maybe it is that you can't. You just stand there. You know something is happening. Something that everybody else already knows. Something that doesn't care whether or not you're ready for it.

A cat emerges deliberately from the bushes in front of you. Not hunting. Not called for. Just coming home. He pauses, turns his head, and looks at you. He senses something. Not about you, but about where you're headed. His eyes blink slowly. His ear twitches away a fly. You want him to stop looking at you. To stop feeling whatever it is he's feeling about you.

You don't know it now, but you'll recognize this same look on your wife's face just before she tells you she has a lump in her breast. It'll come back to you when your parents tell you they’re splitting up. You'll see it again in the bathroom mirror when you finally admit that you never became the father you'd promised. You don't yet know this look. Not at five years old. And that's why you shove your small fists into your pockets, look down at your grass-stained tennis shoes, and follow the cat into the house.

Ryan Trauman is a scholar and digital storyteller drifting his way back to the Great Plains of the upper Midwest. This fall he'll make his way as far as Chicago. He likes other people's stories, pictures, voices, and music. As long as he can, he'll keep working to contribute his own. Tell him yours:; @newmediascholar