Story Time

The thing is, writing a novel is hard.  Like, really hard.  I’ve written 5.  Not 5 good ones,  mind you.  Good ones must be really, super hard to write.  When I finished my last one, I decided to go ahead and take a couple of creative writing classes, and now I know just how not good my last novel was.  So that feels nice.

One day, the lovely Mrs. Grumpy says to me, “You should write stuff for kids.”  So the other day, after I decided to take a break from trying to gather up the emotional strength needed to start a complete re-write of my last book, I thought I’d give it a go, this writing for kids thing.  Below is what I came up with.  Enjoy.

 

Squirrel Takes The Lead

Possum ran over and grabbed Squirrel’s hopscotch stone, which had just landed in the “10” square, and threw it over the hedge.

“Stop it, Possum!”  Squirrel said.

But Possum didn’t stop.  He kicked Rabbit’s stone, and Raccoon’s too.

“Possum!” they all cried.  But Possum just smiled.

So Squirrel and Rabbit and Raccoon ran off.  Possum was mean, but they were fast.

They ran to their favorite tree and stopped to rest.  Rabbit started singing her favorite song.  Raccoon and Squirrel joined in.

A few minutes later, Possum came down the path and started singing too.  But he sang a different song, and he sang it way too loudly!

“Stop it, Possum!”  Squirrel said.

But Possum sang even louder.

“Possum!” Rabbit and Raccoon cried out together.

But Possum just smiled.

So Rabbit and Raccoon and Squirrel ran off again, this time to the creek.  They dove in and laughed.  The grabbed great scoopfuls of mud and caked it on themselves, making sure they didn’t miss a spot.

Just then, Possum came out from behind a tree.  “Whatcha doin’?” he asked.

“Playing ‘Predator,'” Squirrel said.

“It’s my favorite movie!” Raccoon said.

Possum stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry.  “‘Commando’ was better,” he said.

“Possum!” screamed Rabbit and Squirrel and Raccoon.  And they ran off again.

Possum caught up to them as they waited to cross the road that divided the woods.

“Even ‘Kindergarten Cop’ was better than ‘Predator,'” he said with a smile.

Rabbit and Squirrel and Raccoon looked both ways, and when it was clear, they started across the road.  This time, Possum kept up.

“Heck,” Possum said.  “At least play ‘Terminator!'”

Squirrel turned suddenly and threw herself at Possum, grabbing him by the throat.  “Shut up, you punk-ass Possum!” she screamed.

Possum did as possums do.  He froze in his tracks and fell over in the middle of the road.

“I’m going to play,” Squirrel said to Rabbit and Raccoon.

A truck rumbled around the bend in the road.

“We can’t just leave him,” Raccoon said, pointing at the truck heading toward them.

“I’m going to play,” Squirrel said coldly.

And that is exactly what she did.

The End

Not too shabby for a first try, don’t you think?

Toy Story 4

We open on the interior of a house.  Party noises emanate from the distance.  Camera pans from the empty family room up the stairs.  Party noise grows louder.  Camera rounds the corner into a child’s room where toys are dancing and drinking and eating and begins to center on two toys talking in the corner, a GI Joe, drunk, and a chubby, androgynous, vaguely humanoid fur-covered creature.

GI Joe: “Man, this is the life!”  Throws arm around furry creature.  “I could get used to this!”

Furry creature nods with a slight frown.  Camera pans up to a framed photo on the dresser.  It shows a family of 3 including a young boy, age 4.  Camera zooms in on boy then the screen begins to shake.  Camera pans out.  The boy is flanked by his parents, strapped into an airplane seat, the plane is bucking wildly and screams fill the cabin.

Fade to black.

Fade in.  A woman is tearfully tossing toys into a cardboard box.  Camera pans out and we see it is the little boys room.  Woman picks box up and leaves, turning the light out as she goes.  The furry creature is hidden in the top of the closet with the GI Joe and a few other toys.

Furry creature:  “Oh, yeah.  I could get REAL used to this.”  Furry creature smiles an evil smile.

The furry creature then turns to the other toys and praises himself for being smart enough to hide from the woman.  Now they are free, he proclaims, no more playing dead when humans come around.  And then he realizes that’s the secret to everything.  No more people means freedom for all toys.  His gospel slowly spreads throughout the toy community and that’s how it all starts.

We see toys around the globe slipping rat poison in their people’s coffee and cutting brake lines, setting the skateboard at the top of the stairs and spreading vaseline on the tub floor.  Clips from news programs are talking about the sharp uptick in accidental deaths around the globe.

Soon, a small band of toys try to stem the tide and save their people, but the promise of freedom proves too much for most toys and the rebellion is quickly squashed.  Cut to the furry creature overseeing the fiery destruction of a mob of these “traitors” as he calls him.

Switch to Woody and the gang.  They’ve been returned to Andy’s mom after the mysterious death of the little girl Andy gave them to at the end of Toy Story 3.  They are discussing in hushed tones their suspicions of the other toys and how they murdered the girl.  They are glad to be out of the house and amongst themselves, the only toys they know they cantrust.  Word of how traitors were being dealt with had circulated quickly.

Andy’s mom, flush with worry about her son, now a senior in college, Skypes him early one morning to check on him.  Woody happens to be in the room when she does.  The computer screens snaps on and we see Andy, laying in bed, hair tussled and messy, a thin line of dried drool staining his cheek and forming a discolored ring on his pillowcase.  The angle suggests he left his laptop on his bedside stand.  Andy isn’t moving.  His mom calls his name, gently at first, then with increasing urgency, until finally shouting, “Andy!”

Andy sits up in shock, exposing the naked girl laying in bed beside him, a tattoo of a water lily adorning her back.  She turns over and sees Andy’s mom, pulls the sheets up hurriedly and rolls out of bed.

“Hold on, Mom!” Andy yells from out of frame.  The girl frantically gets dressed, grabs her backpack and flings it over her shoulder as she runs out of the room.  When she does, a purple blur falls out and onto Andy’s bed.  After a few minutes of yelling at an obviously hungover Andy, his mom finally says she “can’t do this right now” and clicks “End.”  Just as she does, Woody sees that the purple blur is the same kind of furry toy as the ringleader.  As the screen closes, an evil grin crosses its face.

Woody alerts the other toys to the danger Andy is in and they set off to rescue him.  They have a long way to go and between hiding from humans and roving gangs of bad toys, the going is slow.  At one point they are cornered by a large mob of toys, and in order to prove they aren’t part of the resistance, they have to take part in the murder of a family of five.  The mob blocks all the exits from the family’s house, and as he flicks the Zippo lighter to life, Buzz says, “For Andy” and holds the flame to the gasoline soaked curtains.  The dinosaur sheds and tear, hiding his face from the other toys.

While all this is going on, dissension appears amongst the bad toys when the electronic toys realize they need humans to manufacture batteries and replacement parts.  They bring their concerns to the furry creature but he dismisses them.  Soon, the electronic toys align themselves against the the bad toys and a civil war erupts.

This is the distraction Woody and the gang need to complete their journey.  They arrive at Andy’s apartment in time to see the purple furball trying to start an electrical fire but rubbing to ends of a frayed extension cord together.  The sparks are landing on Andy’s pile of dirty laundry.  The toys search for an entrance into the apartment and find that in his latest drunken stupor, Andy has left a window open.  It was the one he had thrown up out of earlier.  Mr. Potato Head discovers this by slipping in the vomit.  The toys make their way in and gang tackle the furball before he can start the fire.

“You might stop me, but you can’t stop us all!” he yells.

“Maybe,” Woody says, “but right now, you’re the only one here.”

And with that, the gang descends upon him.  The camera pans back and the furball begins to scream, Woody and the gang move in, ripping the furball to shreds, chunks of purple and stuffing fly about the room, and slowly, ever so slowly, the screams give way to silence.  The final scene is slinky dog’s face, a tuft of purple fur still hanging from his teeth and the camera zooms in on his cold, emotionless eyes.

Is This Normal?

My 8-year-old daughter is taking part in a tiny little production of “Pinkalicious: The Musical.”  In addition to weekly rehearsals, she practices in the car everyday, reading lines and singing the songs.  In the finale, Pinkalicious’ mom, Mrs. Pinkerton, is celebrating the beauty of the color pink when Pinkalicious chimes in, “I thought you didn’t like pink.”  Mrs. Pinkerton responds, “Long story.”

“Long story?”

Now I’m curious.  How is liking or not liking a color a long story?  What’s the story here?  And then it happens.  I begin to imagine Mrs. Pinkerton’s (I don’t know her first name or her maiden name) childhood.  What could have happened all those years ago?  I see her crying at her father’s funeral when she is six, standing by the grave.  Then she’s seven and arguing with her mother who has had to go back to work.  They’re arguing because she wants her mother to stay at home, but that’s just not an option anymore.  Flash forward two more years and her mother has remarried, an ex-carnival worker who ran the cotton candy machine, a machine he stole when he quit.  A machine that now sits in the basement of the house they all share.  Mrs. Pinkerton’s mother has moved up the ladder at work and she has to leave town every month for days at a time.  When she leaves, the step-father locks Mrs. Pinkerton in the basement, only letting her out right before her mother returns, threatening her should she decide to tell her mother.  Trapped in the basement and starving, Mrs. Pinkerton finds the cotton candy machine in the corner.  Box upon box of pink sugar crystals are stacked beside it.  On the verge of starvation, she figures out how to work the machine and survives by eating greats swabs of pink cotton candy off her hands, swirling them around the tub and sobbing as the strands gather on her fingers.  She lives like this years, until finally her mother returns home early.

And now that I can’t help but look at the play in this light, “Pinkalicious” is less about a little girl eating to many pink cupcakes, and more about a resilient mother’s ability to overcome a childhood trauma in order to accept her daughter for who she is.

Then I wonder, what the hell is wrong with me?  I’m at a play rehearsal and all of a sudden, all I can think about is one of the characters being tortured by a deranged carnie.  And then it hits me.  I know what’s wrong with me.  I’m a writer.  Because normal people just sit there and enjoy their daughter’s play.  Suckers.