Since my early days as a dad blogger, I have been singing the praises of local library book sales.
Well a few weekends ago, just as summer was coming to a close, my oldest son and I went to the Chapel Hill Public Library for one of their book sales. My youngest didn't want to come but he did request that we get him a book on "skateboarding, snowboarding or dinosaurs."
When we got there the stock was pretty much picked over and we weren't having much luck with our searches.
I did managed to get another Ross Macdonald book as well as replacing my copy of Ray because a few years back I passed on my precious, tattered and worn copy to one of my nimrod friends.
We didn't find any action sports or dinosaur books for my youngest but I knew we needed to come home with something. He's got a mild obsession with aliens but the alien books I saw would surely have crept him out more than entertain him.
I rummaged through a bunch of kids' books boxes and finally just grab bagged a book from the depths.
It was called The Frog Who Wanted To Be A Singer. It's a book about a frog who wants to be a singer but is told that frogs don't sing. Against every one's better judgement, the frog labor's on in the face of adversity and finally manages to pull off singing his song in front of an audience.
And it becomes a huge hit.
I have read my fair share of kids' books, most drive you bat shit insane with their quaint rhyme schemes and second-rate graphics, but this sucker fucking delivered!
It reminded me of the time I tried to tackle writing a story for kids. A friend of mine was part of this "write a book in a month" web site and convinced me I should sign up. Now I have enough unfinished writing that nags at me that it seemed like a silly thing to do.
And quite honestly, a waste of time.
But as a writer I'm always looking for a good way to exercise my chops without the frustration of having to rewrite a chapter or fine tune a character that has been in my head for years. So I signed up and said I would try and tackle a children's book.
As you can see from the excerpt below, I derailed from my original plan quite quickly...
Willie The Worm
“My name is Willie,” he said.
“Hello Willie!” said the crowd, some seated on fold-out chairs, others standing by the walls of the activity room of the local Unitarian Church.
“And I am a worm,” he said.
“Let’s welcome Willie with open arms and hearts,” said a whisker-scratching Harold, who was clearly the moderator here tonight.
“What if you don’t have arms?” chimed out that old crow Terence from the back.
“You know what I mean Terrance,” said Harold.
“Must you do that every meeting?”
Then Harold turned back to Willie.
“You may continue,” he said.
It all started when Willie began hanging out with the moles. They would go and dine on freshly-fertilized soil and then sit back and wait for their buzz kick in. The moles would tunnel endlessly and let the kaleidoscope of colors exploding in their heads guide their way.
At first it was fun for Willie. He’s slither behind his mole buddies riding their newly dug tunnels like a water slide at a theme park.
It was a blast.
The one day Marty didn’t show up for the party. They sent out a search party to find him. But the search party returned with bad news.
Marty had passed away.
“One too many trips to the DDT cabbage patch,” said a snarky Steve.
They memorialized him by doing what they do best: getting wasted.
A few weeks later, Willie had his own close call when he nearly drowned in a mud puddle because he was too far gone to get his butt out of it. So he stayed above ground for a few weeks, living under rocks and inside leaf piles until he could get his head straight. One thing he knew for sure: no more tripping with the moles.
It was his good friend Gary, a bulbous grub, who told him about the meetings at the church.
“But the church is a people place,” said Willie.
“Peoples can be cool,” said Gary who was cool like a jazz musician.
So Willie took his advice and now he found himself staring at a crowd of strange faces all wanting to hear his story.
“Wow, that was some story,” said Carrie the cow from the back of the room.
“Makes kicking my salt lick habit seem like a game of Chutes & Ladders.”
“Willie,” said Harold.
“Listen to me: When your friends start dying, it’s time to change your lifestyle,” he said.
“Do you hear me?”
“I do Harold,” said Willie.
“I guess that’s why I’m here… to, to, to get help,” he said with a hard swallow.
“Rehab! Rehab!” squawked Terence.
“I think you’re right on this one Terence,” said Harold as he took his back paw to his ear for a scratch.
“The boy needs to dry out and sober up,” he said.
The pastor – a tall, slender man with graying temples – rolled out a wheelbarrow. With shovel in hand he scooped up the poop left behind from the meeting and cleaned up the batch of compost he’d left as a snack for the rodents. He then genuflected at the front of the altar and made the sign of the cross. He said a short prayer in silence for God’s troubled creatures who had just left the building and then went out back and dumped the contents of the wheelbarrow into the church’s community garden.
Willie didn’t like rehab because he never slept. And when he did sleep he had the most horrific nightmares. His dreams were an amalgamation of memories and hallucinations.
One dream his had over and over again was the dad he watched his father die. It was a memory he could never shake and one night as he lay awake trying not to return to the horrid memory he can to the conclusion that he got loaded to erase the past.
So Willie surmised that if he could confront the one reoccurring bad dream, then it was be one giant step toward facing life sober. But then he drifted off back to sleep…
“Willie, c’mon!” he dad yelled. “Hurry up goddamn it,” he said angrily.
“You’re putting our lives on the line!”
Willie and his father we making a calculated risk trying to get from one side of the creek bed to the other in search of a food source and possibly a better home. Exposing themselves was a great risk and one his father ingrained into him over and over again.
“I know Dad, I know!” said Willie. And as he said this he went over the litany of dangers in his head. They were birds of every variety to fear: crows, owls, eagles, finches, woodpeckers… you name it. Not only that, but there was fowl and snakes and mice and all kinds of dangers out there. But one was the most dangerous of all: the fisherman. And it was at that moment, when Willie thought it, that the fisherman appeared behind a thicket of holly bushes. His boot barely missed squishing him. Just as he was catching his breath the fisherman’s dog came sniffing around, licked up Willie only to spit him back out on the ground.
“Hold up!” said the fisherman. “What do we have here?” he said.
Willie can’t remember much after that, or rather he tries not to but suffice it to say he had to watch his father be turned into bait.
Seeing you’re fathered skewered on a fisherman’s hook is not something you easily forget and suddenly Willie stirred from his dream and awoke.
He wanted to get wasted.