Birth of a Daredevil

“There is danger, destruction, torment- what more do we need to make merry?” –Bernard Shaw

**********

There was only one activity that could satisfy Arnold.  Across the grassy lawn, he saw the object that he had heard so much about.  Breaking away from his mother’s secure grip, he ran across the playground at full speed.

Other children Arnold’s age were eager to try out the newest video game.  He had peers that thrilled at each baseball game that their families took them to.  There was Ralph; the boy who had been to seven different countries before third grade.  But in that one moment, the only thing at the end of Arnold’s tunnel-vision was the merry-go-round.

Uncle Barry had told Arnold about the wondrous contraption.  To some kids, going in repeated circles could come across as being rather boring.  Arnold was fascinated by the idea.  He would travel quickly on the limited path.  His rate of acceleration would climb greater and greater.  There had to be some sort of perfect speed waiting for him, and Arnold was going to attain it.

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

With his mother following at a distance, Arnold hurried past the swing-set and the jungle gym.  He saw the disc-shaped attraction up ahead.  It was just as Uncle Barry had described it.  It looked like a giant metal coffee table fastened to the ground by one single table leg right in the middle.  Instead of boring old vegetables or some new casserole, the top was decorated with six or eight metal rungs that were welded in place.  As he got even closer, he saw that it was topped with a bumpy surface to assist with grip and traction.  Encompassing this grand piece of excitement and engineering was a thin pile of wood chips that was joined by patches of grass.

Three older boys were playing on the merry-go-round and Arnold looked at them with hesitation.  He wanted to try out this technological treat, but he also wanted to avoid being pummeled by these much older; and far bigger boys.  He turned back to his mother who nodded him on.

“I’ll be right here if you need me”, she called out.

Hearing the dreaded voice of parental authority, the three strangers put a stop to their adventure.  There was Arnold’s mother, keeping watch.  Seeing his opportunity, Arnold dashed up to the others.

“Can I play?”

The three boys glanced at each other.  Mischievous expressions were exchanged and heads were eagerly nodded.  They waved to Arnold, cheering and motioning the small boy closer.  That was all the prompting that he needed.

Safety and security were soon abandoned as Arnold saw his dream coming true.  He plowed through the grass and leapt onto the circle.  It groaned ever so slightly under Arnold’s Velcro tennis shoes.  The other boys rubbed their hands together and took their positions around the merry-go-round.  Arnold noticed what they were doing and hopped onto the ground.  He held onto a vacant bar and started to run.

The four boys began their first ring around.  Next came a second, and then a third.  The thrill was already growing in Arnold.  Faster and faster he went.  The other boys’ skill began to overpower him.  He had to scurry more than run in order to control his feet.  With each move he made it became less of a step and more of a leap.  Within a few more seconds, Arnold’s feet came off the wood chips entirely.

The elation that came upon Arnold was like nothing he had ever gone through before.  Half of the boy was terrified, knowing there was nothing he could do but hang on for dear life.  The other part, the side Arnold had never experienced before, was delighted beyond belief.  The force of being lifted off the ground was exhilarating.  The air rushed through his hair and t-shirt.   His fingers cried out for relief.  Arnold’s brain begged for safety while his adrenaline demanded more.  Suddenly his hands slipped free from their handhold and Arnold felt himself flying through the air.  He screamed in panic and delight.  Then, as the force of colliding with the earth kicked in, the world went black.

In the years that followed, Arnold would often think back to that day.  His mother remembered it well too; for it was the first time she had rushed her son to the emergency room.  Arnold got his first scar that day.  A thin line comprised of seven stitches adorned the middle of his forehead.  As he grew older, the bumps and war-wounds would only multiply.  The BMX bike would add a broken leg and three scars on his arms.  The ski trip in the winter break of senior year would throw in a concussion and a broken foot.  The rock climbing, the sky-diving, the high-dive into the waterfall that was surrounded by signs decreeing, “No swimming”; they all were influenced and inspired by that event early in Arnold’s life.  For as his mother sat there thanking God that he was okay, Arnold had only one question.

“When can I do that again?”

The Petty Loss

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Petty Loss

The size of a misfortune is not determinable by an outsider’s measurement of it, but only by the measurement applied to it by the person specially affected by it. The king’s lost crown is a vast matter to the king, but of no consequence to the child.  The lost toy is a great matter to the child, but in the king’s eyes it is not a thing to break the heart about.” –Mark Twain

The small boy was instantly struck with fright
When his eyes were met by the tragic sight.
Warren came home and saw the door ajar
And worried his cat could be rather far.

His precious pet was the curious type
Its need for adventure was always ripe.
The family tried to keep the door shut
So the cat would be safe from any mutt.

Often Warren looked at the furry face,
Warning the feline of the outside place.
He liked the fluff ball to stay at his side,
Who knew what could happen to it outside?

Hours of searching with no cat around,
No paw prints to follow on the hard ground.
Calling out and searching were all in vain,
The parents called it with the start of rain.

So Warren went to bed, the time was late
He couldn’t believe his best friend’s new fate.
Tears flowed as he thought of his pet with dread,
Then he heard a meow from under his bed.

Pic from Best of Web

The boy sat up quickly, hearing the noise,
He cleared away all the mess and the toys.
And there, in a heap, just as sure as that,
Was the confused, still sleepy, pussycat.

Noah the No-Good

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Noah the No-Good

You go for a man hard enough and fast enough, he don’t have time to think about how many’s with him; he thinks about himself, and how he might get clear of that wrath that’s about to set down on him.” –True Grit

Noah the No-Good was the cruelest outlaw to ever roam the country.  People from all across the prairie would cower at the mere mention of his name.  It was said that the troublemaking hombre once let an entire herd of cattle out of their field just so that he could watch them trip over each other and fall flat on their brown chins.  Noah the No-Good had that sick kind of humor.

This time, the desperado had picked a fight with the wrong lawman.  Marshall Henry Stronglad was tired of No-Good’s shenanigans.  The man with the silver-star pinned to his vest pulled his hat brim closer to his brows.  His gray eyes glared across the dusty town.  Noah the No-Good was without his posse.  He had never needed a group of nefarious tagalongs before now.  No-Good had just thought that they would get in the way.  Now, he realized some other fellas could have distracted the Marshall and his six deputies.  However, as with many realizations, it came too late.

Noah the No-Good felt the Swingin’ Saloon behind him and yearned for a happier ending.  He imagined all the wild times he had gone in there and downed a cool drink; usually milk.  The bandit thought of all the games he wouldn’t be able to play around a table lit only by squeaking lanterns.  No-Good wanted to hear his spurs clink on the wood as he stomped his feet and flakes of mud fell off when other men accused him of cheating.  It didn’t matter to No-Good that he was a cheat.  Truth be told, the fugitive cheated more times than he played fair.  His mama had always told him that it would get him in trouble.

The crook thought back to his mother.  She wasn’t any kind of perfect, but she was a right better companion than most cowboys that Noah the No-Good had ridden with in the past.  The only real complaint the young rogue had with the woman was her strict ways.  She was always telling him that he shouldn’t go out riding too long.  He was warned to watch his manners when in the presence of ladies.  And for some strange reason, she kept hounding the lad about how much candy he ate.

Noah hadn’t been able to stomach such fierce adherence to morality.  He was made to live by his rules, not others’.  He dismissed the Stenger surname and replaced it with No-Good.  With a pack on his back and his best horse, the maverick had sauntered away to find his own path.  Noah the No-Good didn’t cotton to any fancy book-learnin’.  He wasn’t about to take off his cowboy hat just because some smelly girl walked by him.  Noah was trouble and he didn’t need to wash up for supper.  Noah was a maverick.  Noah was too much to be controlled by anybody, even his mother.

Apparently Marshall Stronglad was in agreement with No-Good’s opinion.  From the moment that No-Good had come into town and started leaving flaming bags of cattle poo on establishments’ entry way, Stronglad had been No-Good’s fierce enemy.  “I’ll not have you causin’ a ruckus amongst the good folk here”, Stronglad had declared.  The man with the badge and the lad with a temper had stared each other down many times on the street.  Normally, No-Good would have skipped town after a week or two.  No single place could contain this legend on his way to becoming a mythical renegade.  But Stronglad’s threats had only tempted No-Good to stick around longer.  Noah the No-Good was going to show Marshall Stronglad who really ran this town.

The stick of dynamite on Marshall Stronglad’s saddle hadn’t scared the man off.  The nasty note calling Stronglad a “mean ol’ cuss who’s so stupid that he doesn’t know how stupid of a stupidhead he really is” failed to yield results.  And finally, in some strange twist of fates Marshall Stronglad and Noah No-Good had found themselves sitting across the other at a poker table.

As soon as the lawman had sat down in that chair, everyone else at the table had scattered.  They knew some harsh words were bound to be had between the bitter fellas.  Stronglad kept muttering that No-Good was rude and selfish, while the outlaw kept trying to kick Stronglad from underneath table, only to find that his legs were too short.

Then the trouble had really happened.  The Marshall played a full house.  He had two queens and three sevens.  No-Good had played a straight flush.  The only problem was that both hands had the queen of hearts.

Chairs flew back as both men jumped up and starting yelling at the other.  One called the other a cheater.  The other responded by doing the same.  Snarls were uttered.  Growls were heard.  Sides were soon chosen.  The town-folk, the deputies, and the keepers of the Swingin’ Saloon all joined their resident representative of order and justice.  Noah the No-Good stood alone.  He tugged at the red bandana around his neck and felt the room growing fierce.   Marshall Stronglad pushed No-Good outside and shouted that his reign of cruelty ended now.

Marshall Stronglad snatched a rope from a nearby wooden fence post.  He started twirling it expertly in the air.  His deputies pulled out their pistols.  A vengeful look took over the lawman’s face.  “You better run, boy”.

Noah the No-Good did exactly that.  He tore off as fast as he could.  He ran with his gun-belt slapping his leg with every stride that he took.  He reached up to his hat and pulled it down onto his head, determined not to lose his favorite accessory after his reputation had betrayed him.  He ran as quickly as he could, but it wasn’t fast enough.  Noah felt something wrap around his torso.  The more he pulled, the tighter the restraining force dug in.  He felt his legacy of terror slowly coming to an end.  A strange voice lectured him.  “You should have listened to your mom.”  Noah knew the end was here.  He could feel the scene growing darker as the pulling force continued to subdue him.

With that, Noah woke up.  From his cowboy nightlight, he could just barely make out his bedroom.  The rope that had been pulling on him was actually his sheets.  In his dreaming, he had twisted and turned so much that his own bed had turned against him.  He looked to his toy horse in the corner and wondered why it hadn’t helped him out in his dream.  Some noble steed you are, Noah thought to himself.

Maybe his mom had been right.  Maybe eating all that candy before bed had been a bad idea.  Noah began to consider the idea.  What if he had been wrong all this time?  What if his parents really did want the best for him?

Nah.  Noah laughed at the silly idea and settled back into bed.  Soon enough, he was back asleep.  Only a tiny glimmer of the idea remained that his parents might know a thing or two that he didn’t.

Letters from Camp

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Letters from Camp

Prisoners of Camp Gitchee Goommee Noonee Wa-Wa, you have been beaten, tortured, starved, maimed, und whipped. Und now… ze picnic is OVER!” –Get Smart

 

Week 1

Dear Mom,

You just dropped me off and already I’m eager to come home.  You were kidding about throwing away my boxes of comics, right.  That was a joke, right?  Ha ha?

Apparently the kid that shows up the latest gets last pick of the bunks.  There’s something weird on the bed here.  I don’t know what it is, but remember the time that Rover knocked my birthday cake on the kitchen floor and you chased him around while he plodded through the cake until it was just one ugly smear?  It kinda looks like that.  Except purpler.

My counselor’s name is Mr. Coo.  I don’t know if that’s supposed to be like a bird noise or like people who say cool and leave off the last letter because they think it sounds better that way.  I heard him once admit that his first name’s Horace.  I’d probably go by Coo too if that was my first name.

Thanks for naming me Bill, and thanks for not throwing out my comics (pleasepleaseplease)

-Your Son

 

Week 2

Dear Mom,

I don’t suppose you’re going to mail me any cookies, are you?  The food here is kinda lame.  I used to like hot dogs, but they’ve fed them to us every meal.  Some nights they give us ketchup and a condiment, and sometimes they give us mustard.  Oh, and for breakfast we have oatmeal.  But for both snacks, lunch, and dinner, hot dogs are all we get.  We’re all starting to smell funny.  I don’t know if that’s because the showers don’t work or because of all the hot dogs.  Some kids are starting to sweat a lot too.  It was cool, but now it’s just gross.

The guy on the bunk on top of mine won’t stop snoring.  At first I thought it was a cougar.  Nope, it’s some kid that snores.  Remember how grandpa sounded when gargling water and then he’d cough because he was choking on it?  It’s like that but slower.  And backwards.  I don’t like bunking underneath him but Mr. Coo says that he is special just like me and that we have to respect each other’s differences.  I just think Mr. Coo is scared of him because the kid’s even bigger than he is.

We were supposed to go kayaking but there’s a hole in the kayak.  There’s only one kayak and fifty kids.  Plus there’s only one paddle.  Mr. Coo thought he had it fixed with duct tape.  He put two kids in the boat (one was supposed to act as a lookout?), and they both ended up soaking wet as the boat sank.  At least the lunches that they were supposed to be rowing to the island didn’t get wet.  I’m not sure those hot dogs would’ve tasted any better in lake water.

Y’know what would make this summer more fun?  Comics.  I wasn’t kidding about those in last week’s letter.  If you can’t send me any new ones, I’d sure like to read the old ones when I come home in a month and a half.  Please?

-Your Son who’s a little sleepy from the snoring

 

Week 3

Dear Dad,

Help.  I don’t know if Mom has gotten my letters that I sent over the last two weeks, but I’m dying out here.  I was having trouble sleeping, but now I’m having trouble not sleeping.  At the end of the day, the heat, the hot dogs, and the smelly campers around me are too much.  Most of the campers start passing out around three in the afternoon.  I heard some other guys asking Mr. Coo if we had some sort of fan or air conditioning system.  He just laughed at them and said something about a “truly authentic outdoor experience”.  Mr. Coo wanted them to do FDR proud, or something like that.  What does that mean?

Please make sure Mom hasn’t thrown out my comics.  You like comics, right?  I mean, we went to see all those movies that Mom didn’t want to.  You understand, right?  Mom’s a girl.  If she were here with no showers and no cookies, she’d want to go home too.  Did I do something wrong?  Is that why I’m being punished like this?  I know you said something about developing caricature before I left.  Mr. Coo says that’s some sort of a weird, mutated drawing.  Why do I need more caricature?  I don’t get it.

Speaking of mutating, Mr. Coo keeps waking up every morning and looking really hairy.  I mean, really hairy.  Remember that time that I found a dead raccoon and put it on my face and pretended I was a furr-monster?  He looks like that.  His face is all scratched up and he has dirt all over.  Then he spends an hour shaving.  Plus he has weird teeth.  Is that part of puberty?  I didn’t know you get fangs with puberty.  That’ll be neat.  But I don’t wanna be that hairy.  I don’t remember you being that hairy.  It has been three weeks though.  Maybe if you let me come home we can talk about it in person.  Mom isn’t being reasonable.  Help?

-Your Son who fears for his life

 

Week 4

Dear Mom,

Okay, so it’s been a month now and I’m still stuck here.  Dad says that there’s nothing to worry about and that if I try to adjust to the great outdoors that I’ll be a character.  Or, get a character.  Something.  Does this mean I get to watch cartoons when I get back?  Those are characters, right?

Also, Dad says I should be more respectful to you.  He says that girls are just as tough as boys and that if I’d spent seventeen hours in labor then I’d appreciate what you go through.  He didn’t tell me what labor was, though.  Is that something mom’s do in early September?  How does a seventeen hour chore get celebrated with a long weekend before school?  Dad doesn’t explain stuff so good.

Dad also said I shouldn’t make fun of hairy people.  He says there are some very funny comedians that make enough money to buy our house with their paychecks and that I should only wish I was that funny.  I think Dad’s a little grouchy because he doesn’t have much hair left up top.  Is that mean?  I’m still a little loopy.

The hot dogs have been replaced by sloppy joes.  We were all really excited about it until we realized that the sloppy joes are just the hot dogs cut up really small.  They ran out of buns and the bread was cheaper in hamburger shape?  I dunno.

Henry stuck a flaming bag of poo on Mr. Coo’s door step.  He even wrote on it, “Here’s some POO for You Coo!”  I thought it was pretty funny.  Mr. Coo stepped on it with his bare foot.  Well, it wasn’t that bare because he has all that furr and hair on them.  Plus his toes are getting gross.  Remember when we saw that fossil of a T-Rex and the museum?  And then I talked about how it’d be so cool if we could have those for fingers?  Well Mr. Coo is growing those for toes.  It’s weird.  I don’t like it.

Y’know, after all this weirdness at camp, I’m not sure I want to read comics anymore.  I think there’re enough mutants here already.  And if you’d been eating radioactive, gamma-infused sloppy joes, you’d be worried about mutating too.  Come get me soon, okay?  Or if you can’t do that for some reason?  If they have blackmail about you because you’re undercover agents that are really protecting government secrets?  Can you send me some sort of weapon to defend myself?  Maybe a python with an extra strong grip?  Or a LASER?

-Your Son, who fears for his life, his health, and his comics

 

Week 5

Dear Mom,

I figured it out.  Mr. Coo is a werewolf.  Can’t write more now.  He might see this and eat me.

-Your Son who is in big danger.  (Seriously, what kind of parents are you?)

 

Week 6

Dear Mom,

I was totally right.  Mr. Coo is a werewolf.  But he claims he wasn’t hiding anything.  He says he made jokes about his “condition” and shaved his hair all the time because he didn’t want us to be scared.  But it turns out that the hot dogs were made up of werewolf grower.  He says he added some sort fertilizer to make us lupine-creatures because he didn’t want to get in trouble for biting us.  He wants us to be his cubs, or something like that.  A club of cubs?  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it sounds like the kind of lame-o name he’d come up with.  Remember when our pastor told us that when we pray, “We’d better look down or we would see a frown?”  That kind stupid phrase?  That’s what Mr. Coo’s sayings are like.  Except now he growls when he says them.

I think you will be relieved to know that I have not turned into a werewolf.  Don’t tell Mr. Coo, but I have been sleeping in a tree down by the lake.  Mr. Coo has been taking the campers on more and more “night treks”, which really just means they run around camp during the dark instead of when the light is out.  He claims it heightens their senses.  I just took my superhero bedsheets and sleeping bag and snuck out one night.  One of the kids who were only partially a werewolf said he would mail these letters for me.  He says he doesn’t know how much long Mr. Coo will keep mailing these things, but supposedly he wants to keep up appearances.  I know I’m not supposed to make fun of people, but Mr. Coo is a freak.  You’d believe me if you saw.  But no.  You won’t come see.

I figured out what you’re doing.  You’re reading my comics, aren’t you?  I keep telling you how they’re really good.  You finally wanted them all to yourself and that’s why you won’t let me come home.  I told you it takes a long time to read them all.  Don’t bend the corners.  If I ever make it out of here alive, I don’t want my comics ruined.

I’ve been living off of fish and berries.  I found out that some berries really don’t taste good.  I threw up.  It was gross.  But I’m getting really good at catching fish.  I know I’m better than dad is.  I’d show him… if you let me come home!

-Your Son the wilderness expert

 

Week 7

Dear Mom,

It’s official.  The entire camp except for me is now made up of werewolves.  I’m doomed.  They’re gonna eat me for sure.

I know I’m smarter than them because they spend half of their stupid “night treks” chasing their tails.  Literally.  I know you always tell dad not to get any ideas about chasing tail, and now I know why.  It’s just stupid.  They run in little circles and yip.  Do you remember all those little girls that lived next door and liked to play tea?  It’s like that.  They just act all smiley and happy when they aren’t even doing anything.  They aren’t playing cowboys, they aren’t reading comics; they’re just being lame.  I’m not friends with them anymore.  I don’t want any of the cub clubs to hang out with me.  They have fleas.  I haven’t actually seen their fleas, but the way they smell like old garbage and dead meat, they have to have fleas.  You don’t want me to eat any diseased fleas, do you?  Then you should really really really really really let me come home.  This time I really mean it.

Do you want your only son, who really hasn’t done anything all that bad, to be turned into a monster that you can never really love?  Do you want me to be mauled by all these other guys?  You shouldn’t, and therefore you should let me come home.

They’ve found my fishing hole and have taken to swimming in it.  Every once in a great while they might catch a fish, but they’re mostly scaring them away so I can’t have any.  At least they’re too stupid to look up and find me in this tree.  So I’m still alive for now.  (Be sure to thank dad for buying me a sleeping bag that is bright orange.  I really appreciate the way it’s easy to see from far away.  I’m not at all terrified for my life because I have to keep throwing mud and tree branches on my sleeping bag to keep it camouflaged.  No, I mean it. Thanks Dad.  Thanks heaps.)

I’m going to leave this in the camp’s mailbox and see if anybody picks it up.  I hope they haven’t gotten the mailman.  Not only is he my only hope of this letter getting out, but he’s the only one I could still talk to.  It gets kinda lonely when everyone else is howling and biting each other.  I don’t have the vocal cords to howl, and their teeth are sharper.  They would totally beat me at a biting match.  Jerks.

Y’know, if I had my comics with me I could at least entertain them until they fell asleep so I could run away.  But no.  You wouldn’t let me bring any comics because you’re probably reading them instead of this letter.  All I have are my wits.  Wits only keep you alive for so long, y’know.

-Your Son who is really starting to wonder how much you love him if you still haven’t rescued him

 

Week 8

Dear Mom and Dad,

That’s it, I’m outta here.  I know you’re supposed to come get me in like three days, but I’m going to risk it on the road and walk home.  I think I know which direction to go.  I made a mad dash for Mr. Coo’s car and stole his roadmap when they were all sleeping off a big raccoon they caught.  I know, a raccoon doesn’t sound like it would be a meal for a bunch of werewolves.  But man, you shoulda seen this guy.  He must have been living off of every scrap of garbage the camp has ever thrown out.  That racoon was huge.  I would say it’s the second creepiest thing I’ve come across here, taking a back seat to, well, every other thing that has happened so far.

I wish getting the bottom bunk was still the worst of my problems.  Hey Mom, remember that time you thought I should go camping?  Hey Dad, remember how you said it would build caricature?  Well I got caricature growing out my ears now, which if you had your way, would be sharp and fury.  When I get home, if you find me in time, I expect a raise in my allowance.  A big one.  Dad told me about this thing called, “hazard pay”.  I want that.  Lots of it.  In comics.

The thought of coming home to a big stack of comics and cookies will be what gets me through my walk home.  Don’t worry; I’ve got the one kayak paddle for protection.  And besides, after what I’ve lived through I really don’t think there’s anything too scary out there in the world.

Oh, and in case you think I should hide at the camp or try to stick around?  Yeah, they set the cabin on fire last night.  I guess they were tired of raw meat and felt like a big ol’ barbeque would really bring out the flavor.  Werewolves apparently don’t chop wood into small pieces of firewood, they just go right to the big pile of wood that’s already there and set that sucker on fire.  I’ll bet you didn’t learn that on the nature channel while I was away.

If you find this letter before you see me, turn back.  I was that ratty looking kid with the red t-shirt tied over his hair like a hat.  I’m gonna make it home and then I’m never going to another camp ever again.

Wait.  Do they still have Space Camp?  ‘cause you guys owe me.  Like, a lot.  Yeah, on top of the extra comics and cookies, I want to go to Space Camp next year.  Unless they have alien werewolves.  I don’t think they do.  I sure hope not.  I’ll double check my comics for information when I get back.

-Your Son who has learned much more than he ever wanted to from this stupid place

The Astounding Meeting of Albert & Play-So

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

(Once again, kiradault was kind enough to give us schlubs something to write about.  I’ll wait while you go check out her site.  Done?  Amused?  Neat.  This time folks are invited to write about inspiration.  When I was a kid, nothing inspired me to be creative quite like Roald Dahl did, so that’s what we’re shooting for today.)

The Astounding Meeting of Albert & Play-So

A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” -Roald Dahl

Albert was a quite sort of a boy.  He often strolled up and down the lake looking for interesting things.  He wanted to do fun activities that typical boys enjoy.  He liked watching fish flop around in the water, picking up slugs with sticks, and of course; swimming.

It was on a nice summer day that Albert had taken off like a shot out the door.  His mother had work to do in the village and therefore he was allowed to have free run of the neighborhood.  The only exceptions were Snow Blanket and Mr. Frumplestick.

Every town has their troublesome dog, and Snow Blanket more than fit that description.  Word had it that he had once glumped down a baby in one swoop just because it cried too loud for him.  His owner, Ol’ Mr. Frumplestick, ignored all the complaints that the citizens and the city had filed against Snow Blanket.  He maintained that if the children would mind their manners and if pesky solicitors would keep off his lawn, then his precious little greyhound wouldn’t harm a soul.

Mr. Frumplestick had such a frightening figure that few had the courage to stand up to him.  He towered at least a head over everyone else, even though he was a third as skinny as any other person.  It was if he had been lashed to a telephone pole as a child and the only way he knew how to grow was up and up.  He lashed out at visitors with surprising speed.  The only signs of his age were his raspy voice and the countless wrinkles that obscured his face.  Children claimed to have lost buttons and marbles in the folds of Mr. Frumplestick’s burlap face, but none dared to get close enough to look.  (This isn’t to say that all old people are mean, or that all tall people have wrinkles; far from it.  There are plenty of grandparents with soft wrinkles in their hands and plenty of dog owners who like small children.  Mr. Fumplestick, however, was an unfortunate gathering of all the worst traits imaginable.)

Mr. Frumplestick liked to take long walks with Snow Blanket along the lake.  Albert tried to avoid them, but he always seemed to bump into the gruesome pair quite often.  Every time the three met, the result was the same.  Albert would freeze in terror.  Snow Blanket would growl and tense his muscles as if ready to pounce.  Mr. Frumplestick would take a swig of the vinegar and beet juice that he kept in a flask that resided in a pouch on his belt.  The children around town all assumed it was what helped preserve his lanky frame and wrinkly face.    Albert had tried to ignore them and go swimming, but each time he did that he returned to find Snow Blanket had eaten his shoes and Mr. Frumplestick had used his shirt to wipe his shoes off.  Albert knew the only way to escape trouble was to hide in the bushes when he saw the pair approach.

Albert would have preferred to enjoy this nice summer day, but as soon as he heard familiar feet plodding towards him, he knew what he had to do.  He climbed up the nearest tree and waited.  A few moments later, along came Mr. Frumplestick.  Sniffling, scarfling, and snarfling behind him, Snow Blanket obviously had something stuck in his nose.  If Albert had ever been scared of the greyhound before he was now terrified of it.  There was something extra eerie about the dog.  Albert clung to the tree branch and waited for what seemed like forever.  Finally, the two went off the same way they came, Mr. Frumplestick mumbling and the canine emanating all sorts of freakish noises.

Albert breathed a sigh of relief and slowly climbed down the tree.  He had seen something from his perch that he wanted to investigate.  He tossed his shirt and shoes in a pile at the base of the tree and swam out to the right bank.  There was a gathering of tall weeds over there which obscured a large section of the lake.  Albert, being a fellow who didn’t like getting stuck in plants, had always tried to steer clear of the area.  But Albert had seen something movie.  He couldn’t explain it, but Albert knew that he was supposed to take a look.

He reached his toes out as he got closer, expecting there to be ground reaching up to meet him.  Albert was in the heart of the weeds, how deep could their roots be?  He kicked and kicked but only water and branches replied.  Albert was confused.  He dove under the water and was met only by plants.  There were more plants than he expected.  Tall leafs and wavy growths gestured towards him.  He lunged to the surface, took a deep breath, and dove back down.

Swimming as fast as he could, Albert made his way through the lake and the foliage.  Ten seconds passed then twenty and then thirty.  Albert was an excellent breath-holder, but he knew he’d have to return soon.  Suddenly, an opening appeared up ahead.  Albert didn’t have time to second guess himself; he swam forward.  A grotto was in his path and cool air met his face as he gasped it in.  Algae on the walls gave a creepy light to the area.  He could see around him, though not as well as he would have liked.

Out of nowhere, Albert heard a sound.  Something was in the grotto with him.  He froze.  An undefined shape was moving about.  It was too big to be a fish.  No cats or dogs could have possibly gotten in here, could they?  Pictures of Snow Blanket wearing scuba masks hopped into Albert’s head and refused to leave.

“Oh, I say.  Is there someone there?”

Albert was too scared to reply.  The shape that had spoken got closer.  It moved and splashed in front of a pungent patch of algae and the light glowed on its face.  Albert couldn’t believe his eyes.  He was staring right at a plesiosaurus!

“’pon my word, you couldn’t have announced yourself or something?  I certainly didn’t mean to give you such a fright.  But my boy, you really must wait for an invitation or some such before you enter any creature’s abode.  It’s simply good manners, don’t you think?”

Albert bobbed up and down, his gape offering no reply.  He had never been taught by his parents what to say when a plesiosaurus inquires as to one’s presence.

“I do fear I’ve frightened you dear boy.  Surely we can start afresh.  What, pray tell, is your name?”

“Al… Albert.”

“Well I wish you the greatest tidings and pleasant day to you, Albert.  It is day, isn’t it?  I must confess that I have yet to venture outside of my abode in quite some time.  Sort of took it ‘pon myself to have a little me-time, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re, you’re really a dinosaur!”

“That I am”, the creature replied.  “Do you know what kind?”

“Sure”, Albert replied.  Clever little boys often know about dinosaurs, and Albert was no exception.  “You’re a pleisaur, a pleasio, a… um…”

“Plesiosaur”, it corrected.  A sigh followed.  “I’ve often commented that the name is a bit long.  You may certainly call me Play-So, if you don’t find it too forward.”

“Hi Play-So.  Sorry to bother you, I didn’t think anyone was down here.”

“Well it’s my own little hide away”, Play-So said, beaming with pride.  “There are so many fish and vegetation cluttering up this lake that I like to have a spot where I can be myself.  I find it to be ever so relaxing, don’t you?”

“It certainly is rather neat”, Albert agreed.  “The air tastes weird, if you don’t mind me saying so.  Plus, my arms are getting tired from treading water.”

“Dear me, how right you are.  I’m being quite the terrible host.  I suppose we could continue this conversation by land.  Though, do try to keep up.  I’m not too fond of large groups of people, so I tend to pick the remote locations.  Is that all right with you?”

Albert nodded and reached out.  Play-So lowered its neck and let Albert grab onto it with both his hands.  As soon as Albert had secured his grip, the two were off.  They swam back down the opening, rushed through the thick cluster of plants, and found themselves on land.  Albert looked around and saw that he was surrounded by trees and no people were about.

Play-So lifted a flipper and put it on Albert’s forehead.  “Are you feeling, quite well, Albert?”  It was then that Albert got his first good look at Play-So.  The dinosaur was much smaller than he would have expected.  While still quite bigger than Albert, the animal couldn’t have been more than twelve feet long from tail to head.  Most surprisingly to Albert, Play-So had attire on his flipper.

“Are those spats?”

Play-So lifted his front right flipper and grinned, all his teeth shining happily.  “Yes they are.  Wonderful, don’t you think?  I know some folks think they’re out of style, but I’ve always been old-fashioned.  If you ask me, a flipper just doesn’t look right without a little decoration.  Anytime I venture out I have to have all four spats.  Splendid, aren’t they?”

Albert nodded.  A question had been building in his mind ever since he saw Play-So for the first time and he had to let it out.  “How have you kept hidden for so long?”

Public Domain in the United States. Click picture for information.

Play-So chuckled.   “It really isn’t as hard as you might think, my good fellow.   I can tell that you’ve noticed my size.  Something happened to mom’s side of the family a few generations ago.  We’re just a bit smaller than the rest.  I choose to believe that it makes us more adaptable.  Still, there are some who think it good sport to belittle this trait.”  Play-So’s smile faded at his last thought.

“You mean there are others of you?  How many?”  Albert was shocked at the idea that he had been swimming in a lake full of dinosaurs all this time.

“Oh, there’s not as many as you might think”, Play-So replied.  “However, I’d rather not say.  I don’t want to make any of them known that prefer their solitude.  You can understand that, can’t you Albert?”

“Sure”, he replied.  “I mean, me stumbling onto you doesn’t mean that your whole family wants to be bothered.”

“Quite right, though I think you’re rather pleasant”, Play-So offered.  “Although I probably am the most out-going out of all of us.”

“Do you mind if I ask another question?”

“Certainly not, go right ahead.”

“What do you find to eat?”  Albert couldn’t understand it.  “I’ve fished here plenty of times and come back empty handed.  Can you survive on the few fish here?”

“Goodness, no”, Play-So replied.  “First off, I’ve never had a taste for fish.  They have that scaly texture about them that my pallet simply doesn’t agree with.  I only eat wonzelberries.”

“Wahnzi… whatsa… what?”

“Wonzelberries; surely you’ve heard of them?”

Albert shook his head.

“Oh my dear boy!”  Play-So was indignant.  “Oh Albert, how you’ve been missing out!  You don’t understand!  Wonzelberries, why they’re like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.  Imagine the feeling you get when someone gives you ice cream cake and a shiny new toy on your birthday then gives you a hug.  Got it?  Well, that’s what wonzelberries taste like!  They make you all fluffy like a pair of pajamas straight out of the drier and fill you up like eight doughnuts fresh from the baker.  Why, wonzelberries are so deliciously perfect that it only takes one or two to fill me up.”  Play-So paused and looked at Albert.  “Hmm… I’m quite a bit bigger than you are.  Perhaps you shouldn’t try one.  Your stomach might explode.”

Albert’s eyes widened as his disbelief became visible.

“Oh you don’t have to believe me, dear friend.  I’ve seen it happen.  My brother thought I was crazy for swearing off fish and so he tried one of them.  Actually, he tried an entire plant.  I tried to warn him, I tried to stop him, but the ruddy fool simply wouldn’t listen.  Poof!  He puffed with so much satisfaction that he floated right up out of the water; shot up like a rocket he did.  Yes, that was the last time we ever saw him.  I suppose he’s broken through the stratosphere by now, if he hasn’t exploded entirely.  Well, I always said that greed would get a plesiosaurus in the end, and it was proven that day.”

“I don’t think I want to try one”, Albert stammered.

“Probably for the best”, Play-So replied.  “Besides, they only grow at the bottom of plants on the bottom of a lake.  Rather hard to get through.  And you have to break through their stone-like shell.  But oh, how it’s worth the effort.”  Play-So looked at Albert then looked at the lake beneath him.  “I say, you don’t have a wagon or a few skateboards around, do you?”

“I have one skateboard at home”, Albert replied.

“Oh no, that won’t support me.  I should need four.”

“What would you ever do with four skateboards?”

“Why dear fellow”, Play-So said.  “How else would I get about on land?  I tried it once and found that my flipper muscles were very adept at navigating those boards on the ground.  I practiced it late at night.  However, the boys that owned the things must have remembered overnight that they had left them here for they reclaimed them in the morning.”  Play-So sighed wistfully.  “I did have such a wonderful time on those skateboards.  There was no place I couldn’t go with those sixteen wheels.”

“If you give me some time I’m sure I could save up and buy some.”

Play-So’s narrow eyes lit up.  “You would?  Oh, would you really?  Why Albert, that would be just terrific of you; I mean bravo!  Are you sure?”

“Isn’t that what friends do for each other?”

“Well said” Play-So declared.  “Couldn’t have put it better myself, dear boy.  Spot on.”

“It will take me a little time, I just have to…”  Albert stopped.

“Why what is it?”  Play-So turned around and saw what had surprised Albert.  There, having just come around the trees, stood Mr. Frumplestick and Snow Blanket.

“What… what is this?”  Mr. Frumplestick ran towards Play-So as Snow Blanket growled his teeth.  “I’ve never seen anything like it?”

“Is this a friend of yours, Albert?”

“Not exactly, Play-So.”

“And it talks!”  Mr. Frumplestick leapt in the air and let his feet tap together with glee.  “I’m rich!”

Play-So waved a flipper at Mr. Frumplestick and nodded to him.  “Good morning to you, Sir.”

Mr. Frumplestick shoved Albert aside and stared the creature in the face.

“I say”, Play-So replied.  “That’s no way to treat a friend of mine, nor any small child.  I think some sort of apology is in order.”

“Beast, I don’t care what you want.”  Mr. Frumplestick was already counting gold coins in his head.  “I can charge whatever I wish for admission.  Ten or twenty a head, maybe even fifty!  They’ll pay it!  They’ll have to!  I’m rich!”

“Pardon me sir, but I think I may take my leave of you.  I do wish to see Albert again, but I’m afraid you are a bit of a ruffian.  I bid you good day.”

“No!”  Mr. Frumplestick screamed as he saw his fortune slipping through his fingers.  “Snow Blanket!  Sick ‘em!”

The greyhound approached slowly, the growl that had been in his belly the whole time only growing louder.  Between the snarfling of his nose and the growl form his teeth; Snow Blanket was turned into a grotesque hunter.  With a start, the dog lunged at Play-So’s throat.

Play-So, stunned at such rude behavior, let his baser instincts kick in.  His head snapped forward and he gulped Snow Blanket down without so much as taking a bite.

“Snow Blanket!”  Mr. Frumplestick screamed in terror as he watched his dog disappear into Play-So’s belly.  “What did you do to my precious Snow Blanket?”

“Ugh”, Play-So replied.  “The foul mongrel doesn’t taste precious.  What have you been feeding this poor animal?  My tongue feels like it licked an oozing snail and then had a bucket of ashes spilled on it.  Clearly this dog was filled with all sorts of atrociousness.  But you’ll get him back, so long as you promise never to bother me or Alfred again.”

“I will!  I promise!”  Mr. Frumplestick’s face was extra wrinkly as he lamented losing his dog.  “Only don’t hurt my lovely Snow Blanket!  He never harmed you!”

“I’m sure he would if I had given him the opportunity; wretched beast.  Well Albert, what do you say?  Should we let the dog go?”

Albert looked to Mr. Frumplestick who he had long loathed.  He had never seen the old man so distraught or frightened.  Albert looked back to Play-So and nodded.

Play-So winced and then wiggled his belly.  He clapped his front two flippers, spats and all, in front of his chest.  He hacked.  He coughed.  He stuck out his tongue.  With an ill look on his face, Play-So managed to cough Snow Blanket up.  The dog landed, wet and terrified, as a defeated blob on the grass.  Mr. Frumplestick squealed with happiness and picked up the soggy animal.  He held the dog close, gave one last look at the dinosaur, and then ran off.

“That was amazing!”  Albert leapt about with elation.  “You were great!”  Albert stopped and looked Play-So in the eye.  “You… you wouldn’t really have eaten him.  Would you?”

“Don’t be absurd”, the creature replied.  “That would be cruel and make for poor nutrition.  I just thought the bloke needed to be taught a lesson.”

And that was how a long and happy friendship was formed between a boy his dinosaur.

Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero.  Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us.  Everybody loves a hero.” –Spider-Man 2

Stanley didn’t like change.  He didn’t like it when he was out of his favorite chocolate-crusted flaky cereal and had to settle with “boring ol’” puffed rice.  (The inclusion of freshly sliced strawberries wasn’t enough; Stanley’s breakfast needed chocolate.)    Stanley didn’t like it when his favorite rocket-ship pajamas were being washed.  Once upon a time he might have been okay with robot pajamas, but those could never be as cool as his rocket ship pajamas.  As he often pointed out to anyone who he thought might listen, the rocket ship ones has padded feet.  Stanley liked things how he liked them.  He was not a child who ran off with a backpack full of treasures to seek out far away perils.  He liked his own little world the way it was.

Thus it should come as no surprise that Stanley’s parents were not looking forward to telling him about the move.  Stanley’s father had been transferred to Arizona, which meant leaving behind their New York lives.  They had some family out in California, but they knew it would be a challenge to adjust their son to a life without the friends and loved ones he’d known all his life.  Even at eight years old, Stanley had become very accustomed to the way things were.

Knowing that they couldn’t put it off any longer, the parents fed Stanley his favorite dinner of macaroni and cheese.  They hoped that the familiar taste and a gentle approach would help smooth things over.  Stanley, forgetting the table manners that had been instilled in him, played with his favorite action figure.  He kept putting down his fork and turning his thoughts to the super-hero in his hand that he was flying and vrooming over the plate.

“Stanley”, his mother said.  “We need you to put down your toy and listen to us for a minute.”

Stanley was perplexed.  He wasn’t sure what could possibly be more important than zooming over mountains to save people.  Still, he stopped moving the toy about and held it with both his hands in front of him.

“Stanley”, his father began, “we’re going to be moving to a new house.”  Immediately Stanley’s father could see the worry consume his son’s face.  “It’s going to be okay, though.”

“We’re just going to take everything and put it somewhere else”, Stanley’s mom offered.  “All your toys, your father and I; we’ll all be together.  We’re just going to it all in a different house.

“Where?”  It was all Stanley could say. 

“Do you remember Uncle Frank?” Stanley’s father asked.  “We went out to see him two years ago?”  Stanley looked back with the same confused expression.  “He had that horse he let you ride?”

Stanley nodded quietly.  He remembered the horse, but he couldn’t understand what it had to do with him.  The horse could come over and visit if it wanted, but he and his toys were quite happy here.  Stanley hugged his toy closer to his chest in case some of the bad news was meant for his favorite hero.

“We’re going to move out there and be close to him”, Stanley’s mother said.  “We’ll be able to see him more often.  And your father has a new job out there.  He’s going to learn how to do more things.  You know, like how your teacher shows you different things at different times of the day?”

Stanley only nodded.

“It’s just like that”, his mother continued.  “Let’s say that your dad has been learning to read all this time.  Well now we’re all going to a different place so he can learn how to do math.  And we don’t want your father to be lonely, so we’re going to go with him.”

“I like it here.”  Stanley put his head down and looked at his hero.  He could only see the lines that made up the hair on top of its blonde head and its broad shoulders.  He thought about lifting the muscular arms up in a defiant flight position, but he knew he would have to let go of the toy to do that.  Stanley wasn’t about to risk that for anything so he kept staring down, unmoving.

“We all like it here”, Stanley’s father replied.  “Y’know what, though?  We think we might like it out there.  We might have all kinds of fun there.  It’s a lot warmer out in Arizona.  You know how it gets dark and cold and snows out here?  Well they have lots more sun in the dessert.  You could be outside and talk to iguanas.”

“What’s an iggana?”

“It’s a lizard.  You know what lizards are, don’t you?  They’re like little dinosaurs”, Stanley’s mother offered. 

She had hit the magic word.  “Dinosaurs?”  Stanley’s eyes lit up.  “I get to live with dinosaurs?”

“They’re really small, but kind of.  They aren’t exactly dinosaurs, but they have green skin and they’re scaly, and they crawl around on tree branches.  Oh, and they have long tails too that they can sweep back and forth.”  Stanley’s mother could see her excitement was transferring over to her son.  He was no longer looking at the floor.  Now Stanley was staring off into space pondering the possibilities.

“Coooool.”

Image“Yeah, isn’t it?  Think about it”, Stanley’s father continued.  “Your little guy there could have all sorts of adventures.  He’s already saved New YorK City… I dunno… How many times Stanley?”

“A gabillion!”  Stanley was very proud of all the help he had provided his hero with in their never-ending mission.

“Don’t you think he might get a little bored of saving the same old buildings?”  Stanley’s father had shared his love of super-heroes with his son and knew exactly what approach to take.  “What if we take all your heroes to a new world?  They could have trips to alien worlds and see weird creatures.  Do you think they would like that?”

“Yeah”, Stanley answered.  “But when are we coming back?”

“Not for a long time, honey.”

“Oh.”  The reply Stanley got from his mother wasn’t the one he had hoped for.  “We can’t come back?”

“We might”, she answered.  “Don’t you think we should try out the new place first?  See how that goes?  We can’t give up too quick.  That wouldn’t be right.”

“I guess not.” 

Stanley’s father saw the sadness returning to his son’s face.  An idea hit him.  “Hey Stanley, you like your heroes, right?”

“Yeah”, he replied quietly.

“Well you like how brave they are, don’t you?  How they stand up for their friends and take on danger to help others?”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s what we need you to do.  We need you to be brave.” 

Stanley didn’t respond.

“Here’s what I think”, Stanley’s father continued.  “I think we should get you a mask.  And every time we start getting caught up in things that make you scared, you put on the mask.  That way you can be brave like your hero, there.”

“Can I have a belt too?”  Stanley’s voice held a hint of cautious hope. 

“I think that makes sense”, Stanley’s mother said.  “That way you could have pouches to put your toys in.  We wouldn’t want you to stare down trouble without your friends by your side.  Don’t forget though, we’ll both be there the whole time.”

“Do I get boots?”  Stanley was getting excited.

“Would I let you go stomping off into wonderful new worlds without boots?”  His father feigned injury at the suggestion.  What super-hero, or even sidekick, would go out without their boots?”

Stanley grinned.

“What do you say, Stanley”, his father asked.  “Can you be brave for us?”

Stanley nodded and vigorously shook his head up and down.  His parents looked on, quietly interlocking fingers and breathing a shared sigh of relief.  Stanley, back to his normal self, played with his toy in one hand and ate his macaroni with the other.  He could almost feel his belt and boots making him stronger already.

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