Thursday, May 24, 2012


My birthday is in two days! I am doing some special stuff. WHILE I AM GONE: Here is a story I wrote. Remember in 1816, when those three boring people sat together and wrote some books? It was like that. Rebecca, Sarah, and I all wrote stories about Deep Sea Creatures. This was mine.

I think everyone should know straight up that "Anglerfish (I Have A Light)" is probably the best song I have never written. I sing it in my head all the time, even though it barely has words.

The Rise and Fall of the Swizzlers
by Robert P Chatham
with much debt and thanks to Ms. Sarah Stephens

"do you believe in unicorns," she asked me
No I said
but in my heart
I heard a whispering
in my dreams, he is pink and muscular
his horn twisting from his forehead
he is magnificent

            Pete stared at his notebook, barely able to hide his excitement, half-gnawed pencil  in his sweaty hand. His first book, The Unicorn Diaries, was definitely going to be the best thing he’d ever written. He wondered if it would be good enough to read to Francis, when he was finished. Francis was Pete's favorite imaginary unicorn. Francis was not pink or even purple, but was a deep, majestic orange. His horn was about two feet long and could harness the power of the Daisy Forest Glen to defeat any Horde Minister who were invading on the Lords’ land. Pete was very proud of Francis.
            He carefully closed his notebook and placed it at the very bottom of his knapsack. He knew that if anyone else read his book, carefully printed on the wide-ruled notebook paper, they would be intensely jealous to learn of his special relationship as Ambassador to the Lordship of the Unicorns, and probably they would drop a dead bug in his lunch sack. He had seen it happen before. “Why don’t you play with your gay unicorn friends,” his school mates would laugh and jeer once they knew. But Pete would roll his eyes. They didn’t know. He only had ONE unicorn friend, and it happened to be his best friend. And he also knew that he was best qualified to be Ambassador, seeing that he had earned the Unicorn Fealty Badge and that he was the lead guitarist for The Swizzlers.
            The Swizzlers!!! Pete quickly glanced at his watch and looked at the time. Oh no, 12:15 already!! Mr. Jeff was going to be so mad!!!  He threw his knapsack over his shoulders and dashed for Music Tutoring, hoping he wouldn’t be too late.
            But there was Mr. Jeff, arms crossed, tapping his foot, his ponytail bouncing along. He looked stern and unforgiving. “Pete,” he began, looking perturbed.
            “Mr. Jeff!” cried Pete. He'd prepared an excuse on his way from the lunchroom. “I'm really really sorry I'm late but I was just thinking about The Swizzlers's first album!” He had been. He'd filled 12 pages of his notebook about the concept album he'd envisioned, tentatively entitled “Deep Sea Creatures” – two LPs featuring songs inspired by a dream he'd had where he'd ridden a Manta Ray down to the bottom of the sea and become best friends with a squid named S.L. Inky. It was probably the coolest dream he'd ever had – well, second coolest, right after the one where Francis had given him a ride through the Misty Meadow.
            “The Swizzlers won't be able to make a first album without a lot of practice, Pete,” Mr. Jeff said with a frown. He turned around and sat down on the top of his desk and crossed his arms. Pete noticed for the first time that Mr. Jeff was starting to lose his hairline. There was a long, uncomfortable silence. “Have you been practicing?” Mr. Jeff finally asked.
            Pete hadn't been, but he couldn't say that. “Well, kind of,” he admitted.
            “Let's jam a little now,” said Mr. Jeff confidently. “Come on, Pete!” He smiled and looked almost three years younger. “Let's rock this out, guy!”
            “Louie Louie”! Maybe the most classic rock riff in existence, certainly the coolest. Pete picked up the classroom guitar and frowned as he tuned the strings by ear the way Mr. Jeff had taught him. He contorted his fingers, getting ready for the first chord. Play three times... and then move the fingers again. He fumbled on the next chord, and then did okay on the third and fourth. And then repeat. He started over, gaining assurance. He closed his eyes and imagined The Swizzlers's first rock show. The crowd roaring, screaming, spotlight on him as he began plucking out the first notes of Louie Louie before slowly easing into the first track from “Deep Sea Creatures”, tentatively titled “We are the Octo-Posse.”
            He messed up the next chord and grimaced. Mr. Jeff crossed his arms again and looked frustrated.
            “Pete,” he said. “If you aren't practicing, you're wasting MY time and you're wasting The Swizzlers's time. Do you think that Toby and Jordie aren't giving this their all?”
            Toby was the bassist of The Swizzlers. He was really thin and asthmatic. He typically wore a black t-shirt that implied he was crazy, or that he was fond of crazy things. Jordie was a fat curly-haired boy who'd, as a joke the month before, improvised on the bongos one morning before music class and had thus been 'elected' by Mr. Jeff to be the class drummer.
            The three had not ever actually met or had a band practice together. Sure, they'd seen each other in the halls, but Pete, Toby, and Jordie were barely acquaintances. Mr. Jeff had formed the band as some sort of class project – Pete was not entirely sure why.
The real reason, actually, was that Mr. Jeff really liked the song “Louie Louie”, liked it to the point where he wanted – to some extent – to recreate The Kingsmen, as he'd been born the same year that The Kingsmen had formed and his mother used to bounce him on her hip, one cigarette tucked in the corner of her mouth, as they listened to the song on the radio. Two years later, she'd died of tuberculosis. Some psychiatrists would say he was still trying to please his mother nearly 40 years later, others would say that it was his way of connecting to the only time in life when he'd been happy. But the real reason was that he'd always had a fantasy of playing “Louie Louie” in front of his classmates at the school talent show when he was seventeen, but had lost the chance when his drummer contracted infectious mononucleosis a week before and they had to sit the show out. He'd never forgotten the disappointment, and so he'd finally decided that if he wasn't going to do it, he'd find someone whom he could play vicariously through.
            Mr. Jeff peered closely at Pete, who was still staring blankly at the floor. “Pete?” he said. “I asked you a question. Don't you think the other Swizzlers are giving this their all?”
            “Yes,” sighed Pete, shuffling his feet. “I think they're giving it their all.”
            “Of course they are,” Mr. Jeff said, leaning back, looking cool. He looked almost like he was on a motorcycle instead of a big wooden desk with a picture of a vase of tulips on it. “'Cause Swizzlers never say die, right?”
            “Yeah,” muttered Pete.
            “RIGHT?” repeated Mr. Jeff.
            Pete thought about riding Francis in on his first show and how cool it would be to play “Louie Louie” on the back of an orange unicorn. “Yeah!” he shouted enthusiastically. “Swizzlers never say die!!!”
            “That's right!” yelled Mr. Jeff. “Now play it again, Pete-oh!” And Pete picked up the guitar and started playing again, better this time. Mr. Jeff sang along:
            Louie Louie
            A-aahohhh baby
            Eehgghaa gooo.
            And both of them shouted along, “YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!”

            the sea is beauty
            octopus: eight tentacles
            four more than i have
            Pete decided the third track on “Deep Sea Creatures” would be an acoustic song, the lyrics consisting of several haikus. He did not want Jordie or Toby playing on this track because he'd left notes in their lockers asking if they liked haikus and both had returned the notes with the box checked “No”. This meant that they were not as cool as he hoped they were. He could not share the radical secret of Francis with his band mates yet. He'd put away The Unicorn Diaries for now, hiding it in the special place under his mattress in his room, but he knew for sure that one day he'd go back and finish the book. One day, when The Swizzlers were famous, the entire world would know of his secret world of Unicorns and High Faeries, who did not live in harmony and yet had not warred in over eight thousand septanias.
            Toby and Jordie looked funny, but Pete was okay with that. He wondered if Peter Gabriel had ever realized how silly Phil Collins looked, back when they played together with Genesis. Probably, Pete thought. But Phil Collins was a really good drummer, and also, Peter Gabriel got all of the girls because no one wanted Phil. I hope that one day Jordie's okay as a drummer, he thought to himself.
            He'd spent the night before making a really cool website for The Swizzlers. Their first show together was tomorrow, and he wanted to leave fliers for all the music label reps who would come see their gig. They were going to play “Louie Louie” at the school talent show. The website just had a centered JPEG that said “THE SWIZZLERS” in a pretty font, and then underneath that in plain text:
            He knew that would get the Swizzlers's fans all excited about the gig as well as spread new word of mouth. He had spent two hours drawing a picture of a fish on a piece of notebook paper he ripped out, and he wanted to use his dad's scanner so he could put that at the bottom of the page, but his dad was busy working on the computer, so he couldn't. Pete was disappointed.
            Still, he took 20 index cards and, on each one, carefully printed:
That night, he barely slept.

Ten minutes before The Swizzlers began playing at the talent show, Pete's heart was in his throat. The truth was, he'd just met Toby and Jordie a week before and they'd practiced the song twice together. Pete felt a big lump in his throat when he realized that the band was finally coming together at last. “The Herbs,” as they'd been instructed to call Mr. Jeff (because, as he told them with a big smile, his last name was Herbertson), was going to sing at their first show. Mr. Jeff said that he planned to move from his role as manager to being the band's lead singer until Pete's voice stopped cracking.
            Pete tuned and retuned his guitar nervously. They hadn't figured out a way to get the entire drum kit out to the stage, so Mr. Jeff had hauled in the bongo drums and brought a pair of drumsticks for Jordie. “This will work for now,” he said dismissively. “'Louie Louie' doesn't rely too much on drums.”
            Pete sat and watched the talent show from backstage as one girl clumsily twirled a baton, one boy played a song on the piano (“Yesterday” by John Lennon; he played it like he was attempting to play whack-a-mole using the keys as the moles and his own oafish fingers as a mallet), and two girls acted out a skit they'd obviously gigglingly written the night before. It was apparently about seeing a spider in the bathroom, and there were hinted repeated references to their best girl friends as well as a sly knock at the school's principal. Pete barely paid attention; he knew that this was The Swizzlers's big chance for success; these guys were nowhere near coming close to his class act. “Only 15 and already a mega-star,” he whispered to himself, liking how the words tasted in his mouth.
            “And now,” said Principal Werner smoothly, causing Pete to jerk out of his daydream, “I would like to introduce... Mr. Jeff and the Twizzlers!” The auditorium politely applauded. Pete's heart was in his throat as he picked up his guitar and stepped out onto the middle of the stage.
            “Uh,” said Mr. Jeff into the microphone, and feedback shrieked from the amps into the audience. “Sorry about that. Uh, we're the Swizzlers, not the Twizzlers.” Pete felt an enormous burst of pride almost split his heart in two. Mr. Jeff was seriously awesome. Seriously.
            Jordie tapped out a beat, one two three four, and then the problem began. Pete thought they started playing ON four, but Toby thought it was four GO, and so they started off one beat and Pete had to stop playing so he could catch up. He felt really embarrassed and saw Mr. Jeff swear to himself, but they were playing pretty loudly and no one could hear. Pete was really in the groove, really feeling the song, and he hoped Mr. Jeff was too!
            Mr. Jeff started singing. “A fine girl, she wadder me. Me mmm mmm mmm cross the sea.” It was painfully apparent to Pete that Mr. Jeff did not really know the words to the song and was just humming the parts he'd forgotten. Then Pete, who had really gotten into the rhythm of the song and started trying to sort of dance a little, accidentally pulled the cord out of the guitar amp! He felt really bad and had to stop playing and bend over and pick it up and plug it back in, and also he hit the neck of the guitar on the stage when he bent over fast and it was a little out of tune after that.
            But despite these minor flaws, the song went pretty well. The auditorium mustered semi-enthusiastic applause for the band. Pete wished they'd gotten to play the song he'd written last Friday called “Anglerfish (I Have a Light.)” That was a love ballad that would have brought the house down as an encore. Mr. Jeff bowed and then motioned to the rest of The Swizzlers. Pete bowed, and Jordie raised his drumsticks and bowed. Show off, thought Pete. Toby took a hit off his asthma inhaler and then waved feebly to the audience. Pete swore he could hear someone that sounded like Toby's mom yell out “We love you Toby!” Watching his bassist's face turn beet red, he thought he might have heard correctly.


            The Swizzlers had a celebratory meeting at the McDonalds a mile away. Over hamburgers and french fries (Mr. Jeff had treated them all), they discussed the next phase in The Swizzlers's career.
            “I think that we should totally do a world tour!” shouted Jordie, slurping through his third hamburger. Pete thought it was a distasteful idea. He thought they should be writing and recording for the “Deep Sea Creatures” album, and he had said as much when they first arrived and ordered their food. But Mr. Jeff had been dismissive of the idea when he'd brought it up, saying “Let's just eat our hamburgers, okay, Pete? Can we do that right now?”
            “I still don't understand why we didn't win,” Toby muttered, picking at his fries. He'd cried for half an hour, even after Principal Werner had explained that acts involving teachers were not suitable for judging. “It wouldn't be fair to the other participants,” he'd explained to a tearful Toby and the remaining solemn Swizzlers. But it could have been worse. At least the baton twirler hadn't won.
            “I think,” Mr. Jeff said carefully, wiping his mouth with a little napkin, “that we did awesome. And I think that The Swizzlers need to have a break. We've had our first gig and we don't want to move too fast. Maybe we need to take some time off, practice on our own.”
            “But that isn't right!” Pete shouted. Some of the people in the McDonalds were looking over. “It isn't right,” he said more quietly. “I mean we have a website and a fan base, right? We need to make an album! We need to get critical approval!”
            “Sounds like someone's been reading too many internet websites,” Mr. Jeff said heartily. “No, trust me, this is the right step. I've been in several bands before.” He winked at the waitress at the counter, who chewed her gum lazily at him. “Several bands, my Swizzlers.”
            And though no one at the table could possibly know it, that was the last meeting of The Swizzlers, hot on the heels of their first and last concert. Pete remembered it always, especially when he quietly sang his favorite track off “Deep Sea Creatures” to himself (in the memory of Francis, who had died the summer before of Foot and Mouth disease) as he sat in 10th grade Biology class:

            Coral reef
            In the deep      
            Ocean blue
            I love you.
            Oh Francis,
            How I miss
            Your pretty horn
            Good night, my unicorn.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rebecca's first official Mother's-Day-As-A-Mom was this year. I wrote her this as a Mother's Day present. It's  about being both a daughter and a mother, and it's about everything that's going on in her life right now, and it's also about how we met. It's also sort of a story about ducks, so we can read it to Audrey when she's old enough!

Webby, the Sure-Footed Duck
A Mother’s Day Story
By Robert Chatham

Mr. and Mrs. Duck studied the beautifully blue egg.
“You did a nice job,” said Mr. Duck. “Firm. Symmetrical. Ovoid. It’s absolutely perfect.”
Mrs. Duck did not answer. She already knew the egg was perfect. As usual, Mr. Duck was simply stating the obvious.
“So now, we need to come up with a name,” said Mr. Duck. “May I make a suggestion? Henry Duck, Jr. I think that’s the one.”
“It’s a girl,” said Mrs. Duck.
“But how do you - ”
“Mother’s intuition.”
“What about Violetta? After my grandmother?”
“No. Her name will be Webby.” Mrs. Duck’s voice was firm.
“Well…” Mr. Duck leaned his head to the side, considering. “I suppose it has a nice ring to it. But maybe we should think about it for a while. You remember our disappointment after Billy was born..."
Mrs. Duck shook her head. "No. Definitely Webby. I have a good feeling about it."
Mrs. Duck sat on the egg day and night for an entire month. At last, the egg began to quiver. From within came a tapping noise. Mr. and Mrs. Duck crowded together to watch, and Billy ran to tell all of her friends that, at last, her new baby sister was hatching.
The two parents gently helped the chick peck away the shell. And, at last, the baby duck lay before them, a little fuzzy ball of happiness. A perfect face, a perfect bill, a perfect round little body, and beneath…
“What’s wrong with her feet?” asked Mr. Duck.
Mrs. Duck stared. Where there should have been two webbed feet, Webby Duck had ten little, fully formed toes. 
Dr. Quackers took a long look. “Yes,” he said at last. “Those are definitely human toes.”
“Oh my god,” her mother cried. “What can we do?!”
“Well, not much. She’s just a baby duck; too young to have surgery. Her toes might grow together crooked and she’d swim in circles all the time. But this is truly nothing to worry about. It shouldn’t hinder her swimming abilities much, if at all.”
“There has to be something we can do!” said Mr. Duck. “All the other ducklings will laugh at her.” Webby looked down at her feet sadly.
“And what if her feet end up attracting the attention of duck-eating dinosaurs?” asked Mrs. Duck.
“Well…” Dr. Quakers rubbed his bill thoughtfully. “I could build a pair of artificially webbed feet. She’d look normal, at least.”
Mr. Duck sighed heavily. “I hoped we wouldn’t have to go through this again.”
“Will they be as expensive as Billy’s synthetic beak?” asked Mrs. Duck.
“I’m afraid so,” said Dr. Quackers.
Mr. Duck shook his head in surrender. “Just put it on our bill.”
And so Webby, only a week old, was given prosthetic webbed feet. Dr. Quackers was a genius; they looked just like the real thing. When Webby went to school, none of the other ducklings had any idea that her feet really had ten perfectly formed human toes. Just as no one knew that underneath Billy’s cute, upturned prosthetic bill was an enormous penguin-like nose. There was only one problem: Webby hated her false feet.
The flippers itched. No matter how careful she was to dry them out every night, little droplets of water managed to work their way between her toes, and she always had athletes’ foot. The plastic smelled like the tires she occasionally saw floating in the lake. She could swim faster without the artificial webbed feet. And they never quite fit; her real toes grew so fast that no matter how often Dr. Quackers altered her so-called shoes, they were always just a bit too tight. “Once you’re fully grown, then I can make you a permanent pair that should fit the rest of your life,” he promised. But that didn’t cheer Webby up.
She wanted to throw them away at least three times a week. Only one thing stopped her: she didn’t want the other ducklings to laugh at her. They would. Some of the ducklings were mean.
“Bullies aren’t the worst of your concerns,” said her mother. “If you don’t wear those feet, the duck-eating dinosaurs might get you.”
“What are dinosaurs?”
“Enormous, duck-eating lizards. They lurk around ponds like this looking for weak, helpless ducks. If they knew you didn’t have real webbed toes, you’d be their number one target.”
“I haven’t seen any dinosaurs before,” said Webby.
“Exactly,” her mother said firmly. And that was that. Webby would wear the feet, no matter how uncomfortable they were. End of discussion.
When Webby was six months old, her parents threw her a surprise party. “You’re a grown-up duck now,” said Mr. Duck proudly, handing her a box filled with gourmet watercress and chocolate-covered ladybugs.
“That doesn’t mean you have to leave the nest,” said Mrs. Duck. “You know that you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like. Your sister’s still here, and she’s nearly a year old!”
Billy made a face, and Mrs. Duck shuddered. “Billy, why aren’t you wearing your little beak?”
“Because it’s dirty. I’m tired of smelling dirty plastic all day.”
“But if you don’t wear it, you’ll never attract a handsome mate. You remember what happened to little Caroline. She ended up marrying one of those big honking geese. Now she’s laying Cadbury eggs somewhere in California.”
“Cadbury eggs? How is that even possible?” asked Webby.
“It just is,” her mother said firmly. Billy sulkily went to get her prosthetic bill.
Mrs. Duck took out another box. “I have another gift for you, Webby,” she said.
Webby opened it to find a very, very fancy set of prosthetic webbed feet. “Oh, thanks,” she said wearily.
“Now that you’re an adult, Dr. Quackers made you an extra special pair. These should last you for years and years.”
Webby put on the webbed feet, which still seemed a little too tight. “They’re great,” she sighed.
 Late at night, after everyone had gone to bed, Billy sneaked into Webby’s room. “It’s too late,” said Webby. “I already ate all the ladybugs.”
“Don’t be a jerk. That’s not what I was going to ask,” said Billy.  “This summer, I’m planning to visit Pyramid Pond. Do you want to come with me?” Pyramid Pond was a famous pond many, many miles away. Wilma and John Mallard, friends of their parents, had once brought them an entire slice of sourdough bread they’d scrounged on a vacation. Webby had never tasted anything so good, and she was already salivating at the thought of more. Still…
“I don’t know,” said Webby. “I’ve never left our nest before.”
“Don’t worry,” said Billy. “I’ll take care of you, little sis.”
Mr. and Mrs. Duck weren’t happy that their daughters were going on vacation alone. Still, they understood that their girls were growing up. With heavy hearts, Mr. and Mrs. Duck flapped goodbye.
It was a long journey, and not very exciting. Billy and Webby flew over mucky swamps, small towns, and busy highways for many, many hours. At last, they saw a triangle-shaped body of water below and descended. The two ducks landed in an empty corner of the pond. “Hooray!” cried Billy, popping off her fake beak.
“What are you doing?” cried Webby.
“Letting loose. I don’t need this thing.”
“But mom said…”
“Mom’s not here, is she? We’re on vacation, miles and miles away from home. We can do whatever we want!”
Webby shrugged nervously.
Billy’s head whipped around. “Oh, my. Canadian geese. I’ve heard about them! I have to go check them out. I’ll meet you back here tonight!” And with a flap, Billy flew away.
Webby’s heart sank. So it was going to be that kind of holiday. Billy would flit around until she was ready to go home while Webby would sit around, bored. At least I brought a book, she thought, pulling a copy of "The Trumpet of the Swan" from under her wing.
She was right in the middle of a good part (Louis was attacking a particularly annoying boy named Sam Beaver) when someone said, “That’s my favorite book.”
She looked up. The duck in front of her looked like nothing she’d ever seen. He was tall and had a tuft of hair just below his beak. He was incredibly attractive, in a strange way. She opened her mouth, flabbergasted, and realized that she had no idea what to say.
“Second favorite,” he amended. “I like 'Duckleberry Finn' even better.”
“I’ve read that,” said Webby. “My favorite is the 'Drakes of Wrath'.”
“You know, there’s this little place around the corner that has fantastic millet. Sometimes, even sourdough crumbs. You want to go?”
“Okay,” said Webby.
The moustached duck’s name was Wobblert. “Because my egg wasn’t perfectly round,” he told her.
“My name is Webby,” she said.
“I guess I know why they named you that,” said Wobblert.
Oh no, thought Webby. Her parents had warned her about bad ducks like this. Now, he would try to ogle her legs. 
 “Because they’re really into Spider-Duck, right?” Wobblert said with a smile. Webby grinned.
Webby and Wobblert spent the whole day together. They splashed in the pond and played hide-and-go-seek in the reeds. They ducked underwater and snarfed minnows. They explored all of Pyramid Pond together.
Webby squinted at the shore. “There’s something really big over there.”
“Oh, boy! A bunch of humans,” said Wobblert. “Want to go see if they have any bread?”
“Okay,” said Webby. She followed Wobblert onto the shore and up to a crowd of enthusiastic third graders. They wolfed down the wheat crusts that the children tossed.
When they finished eating their fill, they climbed back into the water. Wobblert was very quiet.
“I’m having a really good time,” said Webby.
“Me too,” said Wobblert.
“I guess my sister’s probably looking for me,” said Webby.
“Can I ask you something?”
Webby shrugged.
“Is something wrong with your feet?”
Webby froze. “What? Why do you want to know?”
“For a minute, it looked like you were kind of waddling funny.”
“Oh. Uh…”
“Sorry,” Wobblert said. “That was probably rude of me.”
“No. I guess I should have mentioned it before. These… these aren’t my real feet. They’re made of plastic.”
Wobblert smiled. “That’s why they look kind of… shiny.”
“They’re a little tight. That’s why I limp.”
“Why don’t you take them off?”
“I don’t know,” Webby said uneasily. “What about the duck-eating dinosaurs?”
“Dinosaurs?” Wobblert laughed. “All of the dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago!”
Webby took off the fake feet. It was the first time anyone outside of her family (besides Dr. Quackers) had seen her toes.
Wobblert’s eyes widened. “Those are so cool,” he said. “They aren’t all connected like mine. I bet you could do all sorts of things that I can’t! You could pick up little bugs or cook tasty pancakes…”
Webby blushed. “No, I couldn’t. My parents said that I have to wear these plastic feet all the time.”
“But why?”
“Well…my real toes look weird.”
“I think they’re adorable,” said Wobblert.
Webby heard an enormous flapping, and then Billy landed in the lake. She was wearing her prosthetic nose again. Webby quickly hid her toes in the water. “What a vacation! I’m exhausted.”
“Billy, this is my new friend Wobblert,” said Webby.
“Cool,” said Billy. “Are you ready to go home?”
“Not yet.”
“Well, too bad. It’s time to go.”
Wobblert piped up. “Excuse me. I’ve always wanted to go on vacation. Would you mind if I came with you?”
Billy shrugged. “Entirely up to you.”
“Then I think I will.”
Webby smiled a big smile.
Mr. and Mrs. Duck were not very impressed with Wobblert. For one thing, they’d never seen a duck with a moustache before. For another, he didn’t seem to respect the idea of duck-eating dinosaurs.
“I don’t know,” said Mr. Duck. “The boy seems nice enough, but he seems to think that tuft of hair gives him license to do whatever he likes. It’s the kind of behavior that attracts the duck-eating dinosaurs.”
“Maybe once he goes home he could be your pen-pal. By the way, have you noticed how much Victor McDuck’s grown since you left?” asked Mrs. Duck. “He’s such a nice duck, and his uncle is so wealthy, and he has such a crush on you.”
But Victor was gross; he was the kind of duck who ate the kelp that collected between his toes after he swam. Webby was not impressed. “I like Wobblert,” said Webby.
 “Some duck,” sniffed Mrs. Duck. “He’ll make a fine meal for the dinosaurs, and then where will you be?”
“When’s the last time anyone saw one of these dinosaurs?” asked Webby.
Mrs. Duck shook her head and pursed her bill. “A very, very long time. We’ve been lucky.”
But Webby didn’t think it was just luck. Lately, when she and Wobblert played together, she’d started taking off her prosthetic feet. And no matter how long she left them off, they still hadn’t seen any duck-eating dinosaurs.
Wobblert insisted that the dinosaurs didn’t even exist. “Even if they did,” he said, “Why would wearing these weird fake feet keep them away? Wouldn’t they want to eat you no matter what?”
“I don’t know,” said Webby. “Maybe we just don’t understand. We could ask my parents…”
“Look, if you don’t like those feet, you should throw them away. They’re cramping your style.”
“But…” Webby didn’t know where to begin. Her parents had spent a lot on the fake feet, and she’d worn them since she was just a chick. It seemed like it was better to not rock the boat.
“You can do what you want,” said Wobblert. “I just think they’re a little ridiculous.”
Webby didn’t say whether or not she agreed, but as time went by, Wobblert noticed that she wore the feet less and less.
One night, Webby tried talking to Billy about everything. “I mean, maybe we could both tell Mom and Dad that we don’t want to wear this junk any longer. And we could explain to them about how there aren’t any duck-eating dinosaurs…”
Billy shook her head. “No way. We’re totally not having that conversation.”
“But aren’t you tired of wearing that smelly beak?”
“Of course I am. But imagine how mom and dad would feel. You know how much they gave up to buy it for me?”
“But you didn’t wear it when we went on vacation…”
“Exactly. And the next time we go on vacation, I’ll take it off again.”
Webby didn’t understand.
Wobblert and Webby played together all the time. They baked watercress pies together. They listened to Swan Lake. Every week, they visited a duck market two ponds away and stocked up on cheese and brown bread. They were wild about crusty bread. After a long while, Wobblert and Webby decided to get married. It seemed like a good idea. Webby proudly told her parents the good news.
Mr. and Mrs. Duck were shocked. “What kind of father is he going to be?” demanded Mrs. Duck. “He doesn’t even think you should wear those feet. I’ve seen you splashing around without them. Can you imagine how he’d take care of a baby duck? The dinosaurs would eat it up in two seconds flat! Snap, snap, snap!”
“Your mother is right,” said Mr. Duck.
 “I already talked to Wobblert about it,” said Webby. “He said that if you’re so afraid of duck-eating dinosaurs, we should all go to Pyramid Pond. There’s never been a dinosaur attack at Pyramid Pond.”
Mrs. Duck opened and closed her mouth, flummoxed. “But… but…”
Webby waited patiently.
“But… if you’re going to marry him, then who’s going to make sure you wear your prosthetic feet?”
“Nobody,” said Webby. “I’m tired of wearing them. From today on, I’ll feel the water between my toes!”
“But your name is Webby. If you don’t wear your webbed feet, then...”
“That’s not my fault,” said Webby.
A week later, they were wed on the roof of a nearby chapel. Webby wore a beautiful blue dress, and – though the groom threatened to wear his Donald Duck outfit – Wobblert wore a nice suit. Webby didn’t say anything, but she secretly thought it made him look like a penguin. Mrs. and Mr. Duck attended, though both wore an air of distaste.
Wobblert and Webby didn’t end up moving to Pyramid Pond. They stayed in the lake where Webby was born. She never wore her prosthetic feet again, except during fancy dinner parties, and they were never attacked by the duck-eating dinosaurs. Eventually, Billy married Victor’s brother Huey, and she ended up taking off her artificial bill. Mr. and Mrs. Duck were disappointed, but they eventually stopped complaining. Still, every Ducksgiving, Mrs. Duck gave her daughters boxes of Dino Repellant.
One day, several months after they were married, Webby laid an egg. A symmetrical, ovoid, perfectly beautiful blue egg.
“What do you want to name it?” asked Wobblert.
“I think we’ll wait until she’s born and see,” said Webby.
“We have to call her something,” said Wobblert. “I can’t spend a whole month referring to our future chick as ‘the egg.’ Maybe we could call her Eggy. Or Shelly.”
“Absolutely not. I don’t want to give her a name that she can’t grow into.”
“Then what?”
Webby thought a while. “How about something simple… like Audrey?”
“That,” said Wobblert, “is why we’re best friends.”

The End

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is Rugby?

I guess they all can't be winners. This is one of the first stories I ever wrote. I was twenty, and I had no idea what rugby was. Back then, simply not knowing the definition of a word was enough to make me write a story.
"Boy!" shouted Henry's father, "to-day, you shall be a rugby player. You will be the finest rugby player the world has ever known, and you will play rugby with a concentration and skill that no one else has. You will learn to love and hate rugby, and you will play rugby viciously. You will be a rugby God!"

Henry listened to this speech with, at first, surprise and delight, and then dull boredom. He stared blankly at his father's yammering mouth and wondered to himself, "What is Rugby, now?" After the long speech, he excused himself from the breakfast table and got ready for school. He slowly walked to the bathroom and snatched up his toothbrush. He put some toothpaste on the toothbrush and then rubbed his teeth with the toothbrush. He washed his face and hands and put on a lovely perfume. He did these things exactly three times each, because he had obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Henry went to the bedroom, opened his window, and jumped out, landing two stories below. He then walked to school. He did not like to use the front door, because his father said that the front door was for girls and sissies. He was neither. "I wonder if rugby is like dancing," he thought to himself.

Henry trudged to school and pulled his backpack on the ground, scraping it all up. His backpack was going to wear out soon if he kept this nonsense up. Maybe he should stop it, because he was going through something like three backpacks a year and how would his poor mother keep up with all of it? Meanwhile, something snapped and growled at the back of his mind, trying to tell him something. What was it? Oh. He remembered. Then he forgot again, and kept walking."Err... Rugby," his mind went on. "What is it? Rugby. Isn't that a horrid looking person? Er, no. That's ugly. Duckling?" He continued in the same manner for a while, and anyone who was trapped inside his mind would have screamed in anguish long before.

When he got to his school, he sat next to his best pal Edmund. "Edmund," he leaned over and asked, "what is rugby?"
"Quiet," snapped the teacher. "No talking during class."
"Rugby," explained Edmund, "is when one salmon likes another salmon, and they go off to the mating grounds."
"No," replied Henry, "I think that's spawning. Dad says he wants me to take up rugby."
"Does it have anything to do with tubas?" asked Edmund, a spark appearing in his eye. Edmund was wild for anything having to do with tubas.
"No," admitted Henry. "I don't think so."
"Please, Henry and Edmund, hush!" exclaimed the teacher.

Henry stopped at the bakery on the way home and bought a donut. He tried to ask the local bakery shop owner what rugby was, but he was too busy counting his money exactly three times before handing it over. He ate the donut rather quickly and had a tummy ache.

Finally, Henry got home. His dad was in the easy chair, passed out, a bottle of whiskey in one hand. "Dad, dad, wake up," said Henry. He shook his father. "Wake up, dad." "Whaadyya want," mumbled Henry's dad. "I toljda I DIDN'T FINISH THE REPORTS BOB, SO Y'CAN SHOVE IT."
"Aren't I supposed to play rugby, father?" asked Henry. "Aren't I supposed to be a rugby hero?"
At this, his father woke up, glaring angrily at his son. "Yes, you are! Where did you hear that?"
"From you!" yelped Henry.
"Oh, that's right," said his father.
"Well," asked Henry, "can I ask you what rugby is?"
"Son, I don't know," admitted his father. "Let's play cards!" And they did.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Regrets and Snippets

Without the looming expectations of a large readership, I should feel free to post whatever I want.

So why don't I? I need to man up and post something stupid, because Should is a word for losers. Will is a word for winners. I probably should wait until I finish my coffee before writing this blog post, because I might regret how ridiculous it is later. But I'm a winner, so I will go ahead and finish this before the baby wakes up.

TWO STORIES. Two very short stories written in my late teens / early 20s. Just as an object lesson in how far I've come.

Oswald was a brave, cheerful teacup whose only real flaw was his ambition. He wished to be more than a simple, chipped teacup: maybe, he dreamed, a teapot.
Unfortunately, his dream failed because he simply could not hold 5-10 cups of water.

As Julie sat at the breakfast table, she smiled at her new husband. He was certainly handsome and charming. His teeth were straight and pearly white. Still, there was something about him - something that unnerved her. Her hand shook briefly as she reached across the table for the salt. Dan smiled at his new wife, picked up the pancake syrup, and poured himself a tall glass. Julie stared at him for some time. She cleared her throat several times. He kept staring at her - that same blank, mindless grin on his face. Her heart began to thump. Thump. Thump. As if it would break in two.

"Did you...?" she asked, and then shook her head, clearing her throat again. "Why did you pour  yourself a glass of pancake syrup?"

Dan stared at her for several seconds, his smile fading into a curious frown. "Pour myself what?"

"Pancake syrup."

"This..." he shook his head, confused. "This isn't pancake syrup. This is rum and coke."

"Rum and coke," Julie repeated.

"Yes," said Dan. He didn't like the way the conversation was going. Maybe he should divorce her  immediately, he thought.

"I saw you pour that syrup in your glass," said Julie.

"Jesus Christ jumped up on a pony," shouted Dan. "TRY it. I'm just having a rum and coke!"

"I'm not drinking syrup," Julie told him. "And why the hell would you drink a rum and coke at 7:30 in the morning?"

"Because I like it," Dan shouted. "What the hell business is it of yours?"

"I'm just wondering," seethed Julie, "why exactly you poured yourself a tall glass of syrup."

Dan glared at her for a long, long moment. Finally, he grabbed the glass, still staring at her, and chugged it down. Immediately, he coughed and retched, his last mouthful of the syrup covering their brand-new tablecloth.

"Jesus Christ," he sputtered, "that's SYRUP."

Both stared at each other in silence, unsure of what to say. Julie felt a tear slide down her cheek. Finally, she picked up the breakfast dishes and took them to the sink, where she began to wash the plates.

It was going to be a beautiful day.