My librarian told me a story recently as I checked out books (two of which I would read all the way through with sustained interest, one that I would happily be engrossed with and the fourth I would end up returning after reading ten pages). One of the books I checked out (the one I said I especially liked) was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. It’s not horror, it’s drama/suspense and it IS suspenseful. You will turn those last few pages even if you have to pee. You’ll take the book into the bathroom to finish the story. I wish I could tell you what I liked best about the book, but that would give away the plot. Let’s just say an unexpected well developed character evolved throughout the book, a woman obviously of the Aspergers persuasion! Well done, Steve!
On the subject of King’s books, before I tell you the librarian’s story, I want to mention another little book by King that I read a while back. It was a small unassuming paperback; a quick satisfying read. It’s called Joyland which is the name of a fictional amusement park. This little gem of a book about murder and carnies was an honest to goodness page turner. I highly recommend it. It didn’t receive much acclaim. I don’t know why.
In King’s recent book Revival, one of Stephen King’s carnie workers from Joyland resurfaces as a main character. King makes references to Mary Shelly too (the book revolves around electricity). But-
back to the librarian’s story:
“There was this woman a few years ago;” he said, “and she had a habit of checking books out on her boyfriend’s card; we aren’t really supposed to do that… Anyway she checked out the maximum; 30 books! She didn’t choose any new releases and she didn’t go around looking for ones she was interested in. She went around collecting the biggest most impressive books, she was selective. Very methodical. You know, not one book was valued at under 30 dollars,” he went on. “We never got one book back! Turns out she’d had a bad break-up with her boyfriend and he got hit with one hefty fine. What she did was she drove to Florida and all along the way she was chucking the books out the window!”
I do like to read fiction. But time and again I end up thinking,
truth really is stranger than fiction.
For example, what if I told you there are groups of men out there who collect My Little Pony toys? They call themselves Bronies. Brony is of course a mash-up of the words brother (bro) and pony. Urban dictionary defines BRONY like this:
A name typically given to the male viewers/fans (whether they are straight, gay, bisexual, etc.) of the My Little Pony show or franchise. They typically do not give in to the hype that males aren’t allowed to enjoy things that may be intended for females.
(Picture of Physics Brony by Sephisto http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/06/physics-brony-gets-pile-of-free-pony.html )
Perhaps you knew about that. It’s not so strange really. It’s just something not mainstream and so it’s perceived as strange. Here is a strange truth that truly is strange: Danie du Toit, a South African astronomer, gave a lecture with the theme:
“Death can come at any moment.”
As he finished the lecture, he popped a peppermint candy into his mouth and promptly choked to death at the age of 49. That’s irony. It surely hammered home the point of his speech. In a most dramatic way.
Adam Duritz has a way of peppering his music with truths. His live performances are known for his improvisational placing of lyrics from such bands as Oasis or Bruce Springsteen into the bodies of his songs. Or he’ll take pieces of his own songs and insert them into his newer ones and vice versa. An example of this is in Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow; a 2013 live album I play a lot. In one song he borrows lyrics from the Elbow‘s song “Lippy Kids“:
Lippy kids on the corner again
Lippy kids on the corner begin
Settling like crows
And I never perfected my Simian stroll
Do they know those days are golden?
Build a rocket boys
Build a rocket boys!
There is a truth to that song. When my son was about 8 years old, (his Aspergers was as yet undiagnosed) his class was asked to draw a family portrait. I’ve searched all over for it, because I saved it, but could not find it to post here. I’ll describe it to you. Know this: my son’s colorful portrayal of himself, his father and me, elicited a home visit from the guidance counselor! He’d portrayed us (his parents) with fangs, claws, spiky clubs and whips! Hmmm, this from the boy who once declared excitedly from the backseat of the car as we drove through rural side roads in Connecticut:
“I see a giraffe! There, in the woods! I saw one Mommy! I really did!”
My point is that everyone takes their own truths away from a story. I empathize with those discarded books that lay moldering by the roadside on the route to Florida; whereas someone else may empathize with the jilted woman who threw them there or the man who was hit with the hefty fine. The guidance counselor thought he was empathizing with an abused child!
Quite the opposite was true. My son’s imagination knew no bounds and his sense of humor was profoundly morose. I explained this to the guidance counselor over a cup of coffee. I laughed at the weird rendering of myself and my husband. “He thought it was hilarious,” I told the guidance counselor “to portray us as evil! That’s his sense of humor!” Thankfully, I convinced him that this was the truth. I was not too indignant. I had to tell myself that at least we had a school who checked out such things with home visits. I spoke the truth to the guidance counselor and he realized it.
For some reason I have taken it upon myself to read all of Alice Hoffman’s books. I am not a serial reader in regard to following one author’s book list but when Alice writes well, she writes really really well so I found myself involved in a book she wrote in the late 1980’s. I found the book lacking, but when I got to the very last page, I saw the following words inscribed:
It took me a bit to decipher the hurried scrawl, and what it says is this:
Here on Earth 4/27/98.
That particular day fell on a Monday if you are not from Australia; that is to say I’m from the U.S. so it was a Monday. My life was far too busy to read a lot of books. I only averaged maybe one a month then, compared to my 3 or 4 a week that I read now! Here on my spot of Earth 4/27/98, my eldest son was 17 and received his Aspergers diagnosis just months earlier. I was a year away from receiving mine. My husband was a year away from receiving his diagnosis of a terminal illness. My daughter was three. My middle son was 8. In 1749 on April 27th, the first performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks occurred in Green Park, London. (Side fact that I find interesting: Both Handel the composer and Jimmy Hendrix lived in the very same house, albeit hundreds of years apart.) Anyway, on that particular day (4/27/98) noted in Alice Hoffman’s book by some unknown long ago borrower of library books, my daily routine was very different than it is now.
It most certainly went like this:
I stayed up writing early chapters of my book Under The Banana Moon and fell asleep probably at 3 a.m. that morning. I woke to the alarm at 6 a.m. Fed the kids. My 3 yr. old Kerry Annie and I walked my middle son to the bus stop. I schmoozed with other mothers. The neighborhood black cat Elliot appeared and walked me home as he always did. I then promptly napped, arose and did housework until the kids came home, made supper, etc. etc.
I look for Elliot sometimes today…
He was considered feral but was attracted to me. After the mothers finished chatting, and dispersed, I’d hang back, not wanting to walk with them because if I did I knew Elliot would not appear. He’d appear suddenly, darting out from his spot in the bushes, as if from nowhere and his feet would fall in step with mine. He didn’t like to be held but he tolerated petting and occasional five second cuddles. He would escort me along my dead end street, and stop abruptly, two houses from mine, always two houses from mine, then he’d turn tail and go back. We had a neighborhood cat lady who always put out food. He didn’t live at her house, but he ate there. He slept somewhere in the woods. One day I saw him limping…
I waited for my son to board the bus because Elliot would only appear when I was alone with my daughter. I watched the mothers drive off and along came Elliot, rushing over to me as fast as he could, considering he was favoring one foot. I saw wounds on it; punctures as if an animal (fox, coyote?) tried to grab him by the foot and pull him home to dinner. I hurried home for supplies. I brought along fresh gauze and peroxide, and a small warm thermos of fresh water every day for a week. He allowed me to clean the deep puncture holes on his very swollen foot.
Elliot went on to heal and live many more years. I ended up adopting Elliot’s nephew. You see, Elliot’s litter mate was a female who’d had kittens under the cat lady’s house. She knew the mother cat was Elliot’s sister because she kept an eye on all of them. Sometimes she captured them and had them neutered or spayed. Anyway, one cat in that litter was pure black. Elliot’s nephew Pepper shared my home for many years until his death a few years ago.
And so the little notation in Alice Hoffman’s so-so book led to my memory of Elliot. I have one picture of Elliot but alas, could not find that either. I suppose it’s hanging out somewhere in a box with my son’s family drawing. But I did find this picture of my Pepper;
What were you up to 4/27/98?
P.S. Exciting update: Wonderful news. What a lovely Christmas present for me. I’ve just heard that Spoke N Motion Dance, led by Brian Be, is going to do a live performance of Chapter 16 of my book Under The Banana Moon. I can’t wait to see their interpretation of my life and words! I will post the video when it becomes available! Please encourage friends to LIKE my blog and/or Under The banana Moon Facebook page. So moved by this. I will post the interpretive dance video when it becomes available, both on my blog, a link on my Twitter, and on my Author FB page. Feeling humble.