I read and loved these stories 30 years ago, so read again for tips on story-telling. I admire his way of taking tiny concrete every-day things or situations, and relating them to life-size big-picture humanity themes.
That which is essential to a flourishing life is elemental and near by in daily life.
Car’s tank with super deluxe high-octane go-juice. My old hoopy couldn’t handle it and got the willies - kept sputtering out at intersections and belching going downhill. I understood. My mind and my spirit get like that from time to time. Too much high-content information, and I get the existential willies. I keep sputtering out at intersections where life choices must be made.
I already know most of what’s necessary to live a meaningful life - that it isn’t all that complicated. I know it. And have known it for a long, long time. Living it - well, that’s another matter, yes?
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear.
Think what a better world it would be if we governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
He said, “I’ve just come from the doctor and he told me I have a only a limited time to live.”
I was tempted to shout, “What? You didn’t know? You had to pay a doctor to tell you - at your age?
Both pieces of music are about the same thing: the capacity of life to triumph over adversity - about perseverance in adventure, for spiders and people.
Puddles are there as a test about staying young as long as you can.
The shoe repair guy returned with my shoes in a stapled brown bag. For carrying, I thought. When I opened the bag at home that evening, I found two gifts and a note. In each shoe, a chocolate-chip cookie wrapped in waxed paper. And these words in the note: “Anything not worth doing is worth not doing well. Think about it. Elias Schwartz.”
Hide-and-seek: a kid in your neighborhood who always hid so good, nobody could find him?
There is a kid under a pile of leaves in the yard just under my window. He has been there a long time now.
Finally, I just yelled, “GET FOUND, KID!” out the window. And scared him so bad he probably wet his pants.
It’s real hard to know how to be helpful sometimes. A man I know found out last year he had terminal cancer. He kept his secret. And died. His family and friends said how angry they were that he didn’t need them, didn’t trust their strength. And it hurt that he didn’t say good-bye. He hid too well. Getting found would have kept him in the game.
Hide-and-seek, grown-up style.
Wanting to hide. Needing to be sought. Confused about being found. “I don’t want anyone to know.” “What will people think?” “I don’t want to bother anyone.”
Larry Walters are busy tying balloons to their chairs, directed by dreams and imagination to do their thing. The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that the human situation is hopeless. Meanwhile, people like Larry Walters soar upward knowing anything is possible, sending back the message from eleven thousand feet: “I did it, I really did it. I’m FLYING!”
He says he finds most bathrooms are about the same, and it gives him a sense of the wondrous unity of the human race.
“Ignorance and power and pride are a deadly mixture, you know.” English teachers talk like that.
“Sure are,” I said. “Like matches in the hands of a three-year-old. Or automobiles in the hands of a sixteen-year-old. Or faith in God in the mind of a saint or a maniac. Or a nuclear arsenal in the hands of a movie character. Or even jumper cables and batteries in the hands of fools.”
Tangle-free jumper cables. Complete with instructions.
We could all use a device like that between us and power.
I yelled out: “You have to decide now which you are - a GIANT, a WIZARD, or a DWARF!”
While the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered consultation, a tug came at my pants leg. A small child stands there looking up, and asks in a small, concerned voice, “Where do the Mermaids stand?”
Without giving up dignity or identity. She took it for granted that there was a place for Mermaids and that I would know just where. Well, where do the Mermaids stand? All the “Mermaids” - all those who are different, who do not fit the norm and who do not accept the available boxes and pigeonholes?
It is not true, by the way, that mermaids do not exist. I know at least one personally. I have held her hand.
She should have left New York a long time ago and was too slow to go.
“How come you don’t leave?”
“Ain’t you got a list of things you shoulda done a long time ago?”
“Well, there’s your why, my man, and all the why there is. Who knows?”
The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific some villagers practice a unique form of logging. Woodsmen with special powers creep up on a tree just at dawn and suddenly scream at it at the top of their lungs. They continue this for thirty days. The tree dies and falls over. The theory is that the hollering kills the spirit of the tree.
Me? I yell at my wife. And yell at the telephone and the lawn mower. And yell at the TV and the newspaper and my children.
Solomon Islanders may have a point. Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them.
Big sign. Black and white, with stripes and reflectors and all. DEAD END.
People just drove on down the street anyway.
Once they got turned around, they never drove away slow and thoughtful - as if they’d learned something. No, they tore away at full throttle, as if fleeing evil.
The unbelievers still drive all the way down to the sign, turn around, and flee. Life is still a dead end. And we still have a hard time believing it.
“Don’t you wish you knew back then what you know now?”
Charlie stares blank-eyed for a while, and then asks, “What do I know now?”
Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”
If one should look at moths without prejudice and with grace, one may be forced to reconsider small boys in a somewhat more generous light.
Some moths can make silk. Some small boys can make sense.
Writers aren’t exactly people. They’re a whole lot of people trying to be one person.