Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mind-Boggle and Hiatus

Today is the 200th post I've put on DawnReader since the first, "I Am Born," on 6 January 2012.  And so, to celebrate, I'm going to take a week off--maybe.  Who knows?  I might break this resolution as I've resolutely broken about every other resolution I've made in my long and sorry life.  (That last was ironic ... please.)

Also, I want to announce that I've have just published my fifth book directly to Kindle--just today.  (It's not visible on the site yet--in a few hours it should be.)  It's called Mind-Boggle, and it's a darkish YA novel that I started writing back in 1984.  See below for (1) a description of the book and how/why I wrote it; (2) the opening section.  It'll cost you $2.99 to read the rest of it!

I'll put a note on FB when it's visible on Amazon.


Little note about the book ...

On Friday, August 31, 1984, 6th period, I am sitting in my classroom with my eighth grade students.  It’s the first week of school, a short week.  Our first class was on Wednesday, which we spent going over plans for the year, the marking period … you know.  Today, Friday, is the first of our “Free Writing” days, the one day each week when all of us—students, teacher—sit for thirty minutes or so and write whatever we want.  The last ten-fifteen minutes we read aloud, those of us who want to.  I often want to.  I’ve been doing this since 1972, and it is a favorite time of the week for many of us. 

This particular August day I am starting a YA novel I’m calling MIND-BOGGLE, the weird story of a brain transplant.  The brain of a 15-year-old boy goes into the body of a 15-year-old girl.  (How?  You’ll see …)  And this boy/girl then goes off to his junior year of high school where he … well … you’ll see. 

I spent two entire school years writing that story on those Fridays, then spent more time revising and editing.  I tried once to get it published, years ago.  Didn’t happen.  So I put it on a shelf.  Forgot about it.

But the last few months I’ve been working on it again—and now it is available in Kindle format directly from Amazon.  I’ve left the time the same (1982)—too complicated to add so much that’s happened since (I really didn't want to get into texting and FBing and all the other complications of our own day).  But the basic story is pretty much the way I wrote it back at Harmon Middle School, Aurora, Ohio—with some of you current FB friends sitting in the room, doing your own writing—between 1982–1984.



Dedication: For those eighth graders (our son, Steve, among them) at Harmon Middle School, 1984–1986, who were my first audience for these pages, which I wrote in our classroom while they were crafting their own stories on our “free writing” days.

The events that follow happened in 1982—my junior year in high school.  I wrote the story over the next two years but have not published it until now for a simple reason: parents.  My parents were involved in the story—deeply involved—and I did not want to do anything that would hurt them.  Would cause them pain of any kind.  They’d already had enough of that.
I have also changed names and locations, for good reasons—as you’ll see.  I like my life now.  (I’m getting close to fifty years of age.)  And I don’t want anyone finding me.  Changing things.  I’ve had enough change for one lifetime—for more than one lifetime.
So why am I publishing this now?  Because of the safety the past thirty years has given me.  My parents are gone now—all four of them (yes, four, as you’ll see)—and my words can no longer hurt them.  My little brother … no one’s seen him in years.  Recently, I Googled him.  Nothing.  And so, perhaps, it’s time to tell the story.  Perhaps there’s something to learn from it?
1982.  A very, very different time from now.  Ronald Reagan was president.  Personal computers were just beginning to arrive and take over homes and offices.  (Time magazine that year would name the computer its “Man of the Year.”)  The Internet was in its infancy.  There were no cell phones.  Texting and Twitter and Facebook and GPS and iPods and apps and Caller ID were decades in the future.  People watched television.  Went to the movies.  Listened to audio tapes.  Big hits that year were “Ebony and Ivory,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  There was a war in the Falkland Islands, another in Lebanon.  The Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass.  The Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated.  Michael Jackson released Thriller.
This is the world I’m writing about, the world I lived in when I was a junior in high school.  It was a year when many amazing things happened.
And one of them happened to me …
            — “Billie North,” August 2012 
I died the dumbest way you can imagine.  It wasn’t my fault, though.  As usual, Beeb was to blame.  Beeb.  My little brother.  Four years younger.
His real name is Squirrel.  That’s right.  Squirrel.  My dad said that he and Mom couldn’t agree on what to call their second son when he was born (they were all set for “Gussie” if he’d been a girl), so they decided to name him after the first thing they saw when they left the hospital.  Sort of a dumb idea, I know, but that’s the way my parents are.  Or were.
Are?  Were?  I’m still a little unsure how to talk about things now that I’m dead … well, now that one of me is dead.  But I should finish what I started saying about Beeb first.  There’s plenty of time to hear about the day one of my lives ended.
So … Mom and Dad and Baby No-Name were leaving the hospital, Dad pushing Mom in a wheelchair in front of him.  (Nothing was wrong with her; it’s just a hospital rule: Everybody has to leave in a wheelchair.)
Just as the front door opened and they were rolling down the ramp, a black squirrel raced toward them, closely pursued by a stampeding Great Dane as big as a calf.  In about a second there would have been the strangest collision and weirdest tangle of bodies and hospital equipment you ever saw.  But Dad saved the day.
“Hey, dog!” he yelled.
And the dumb thing suddenly skidded to a stop—like some kind of cartoon character—and sat up and begged, its tongue hanging out like a thick strip of bacon, its eyes all sad and hungry-looking.  (Dad swore this is true.  Mom only shook her head, made a clucking sound, and said, “Mostly true.”)
Meanwhile, the squirrel ran up my mom’s legs, body, and face, and sat right on her head, like a living gargoyle, chattering and scolding, while Mom, too terrified to move, clutched Baby No-Name so tight he let loose with a scream that sounded like a jetliner.  This startled the Great Dane so much he jumped backwards about six feet, tripped over a railing, smacked his head on the concrete, and lay there, half-unconscious, whimpering and drooling, his eyes swirling around in their sockets like ping-pong balls being sucked down a storm sewer.
Squirrels are no dummies.  And this one, sensing safety, left my mom’s head with a soaring leap and streaked for the nearest tree.
Dads are no dummies, either.  So mine grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and sprinted for the parking lot before the Great Dane came to and decided to eat the first protein it saw.  The ride was so bumpy my mom nearly sailed out of her seat.  But she held tight to her baby.  My little brother.  Who now had a name.  Squirrel.

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