On Budding Talent

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 From The Vault: A Budding Writer Waiting To Bud

This post was originally published in the Wauneta Breeze (aka The Best Small Town Newspaper In The World) on August 22, 2002. I don’t remember writing it, but recently rediscovered it in the stack of old newspapers my sister gave me. I worked for The Breeze from 2000-2002, and still consider it to be one of my fave jobs ev. BTW, this was written approximately four months after Amy and I met and a month before I started coaching volleyball. This sucker actually contains a shout-out to Ben Affleck and Jen Lopez so you know it’s the genuine article from dos-aught-aught-dos. Enjoy.

Some of us were ready to bud before the world was prepared for our beauty.

It was in elementary school that I learned I was a genius.

Given a writing assignment, any required length or topic, I could turn what was once a mundane idea into something that moved people.

Like literary Ex-Lax.

I could write summer vacation stories that would make Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck green with envy.

My classmates’ lives were often turned upside-down by tales that stimulated their minds and touched them spiritually.

Granted, the only thing I had to do to stimulate those little trolls back then was sneak the word ‘poop’ into the assignment, but stimulated they were, thankyouverymuch.

My teachers thought of me as the Boy Genius Of The School. They’ll deny it, but I heard it through the grapevine that I was the topic du jour on many different occasions.

At any rate, I knew I was smart and that’s probably all that matters in this world.

On my most modest day, I thought myself to be a budding writer–a person who could and would one day do great things with his God-granted talents.

That very day would come in 1984 when I put together the greatest story ever told in the history of the world. I was of the tender age of seven and the brilliance you’re each and every one accustomed to seeing every week on these pages flowed through me like…um…cold water…through…um…a spigot…or…um…a faucet-type thingy that sounds more posh than a spigot…

At first, I believed it to be diarrhea or heartburn, but later discovered it to be a story inside my heart just waiting to be told. (Now you know what I go through every week.)

I didn’t have a muse other than my genius self. In fact, I don’t know what exactly inspired me to do such a great thing with my seven-year life–probably just the boy in the mirror. Heck, folks, I didn’t even have legible penmanship.

But do you know what I did? I sat my wee little hiney down and placed a pen in my right hand, mainly because writing with my left hand would have been pretentiously austentatious, and–more importantly–impossible.

Anyhootie, I wrote a story that day–and not just any story, Maurie. It was the story of a boy who awoke one dark night to a noise that originated in the kitchen of his home. Thinking it was his parents, he went to investigate the sound.

Lo and behold, Arnold, when he passed his parents’ room, they were fast asleep. Suspense set into the house. Fear set into the boy. Boredom set into my readers.

As the boy approached the kitchen, he discovered the source of the sleep-rattling sound: his cat was doing the dishes. The boy went back to bed, Fred.

Now, I only gave you a quick synopsis of the story, but as you can see it was innovative and gripping–especially when jotted on a piece of scrap paper by a second-grade boy with barely-decipherable handwriting.

Reading it aloud and seeing how quickly I lost the interest and respect of everyone within earshot, I decided this work of literary genius HAD to be published.

That very day, I mailed my masterpiece to “Highlights” magazine for children. I was so sure it would be published that I didn’t even make copies of it. I figured I’d have plenty of copies of the actual printed story enclosed in the countless cards of congratulations I would inevitably receive.

I kicked back and waited. The suspense was enough to kill me. I nearly flunked out of grade school because of it. (It was either that or the whole monkey bar incident. I’ll let you make that call.)

Then, one day, to my delight, the mailbox contained a letter from “Highlights” mag. It read:

“Mary, I need you to do me a huge favor. I need you to let this idiot kid down easy. Write him a quick letter explaining that while we appreciate his submission, we will not be publishing his story. I know you’ve never had to do this before, but this is too childish and rank even for US to publish. I mean, Mary, this kid is a moron, and that’s putting it nicely. Hopefully, he’ll still subscribe, but will be so devastated he won’t ever submit anything ever again. I mean, this story is awful, Mary. I’ll save you the anguish of reading it. It’s been shredded, needless to say. Only after reading it to the content board and us all having quite a laugh!

Hey, let me know if you’re going with me to Joe Mama’s tomorrow night. I hear there’s a cute barkeep there now!

P.S.– Whatever you do, don’t send this piece of paper with the actual letter, okay? Thanks, Mary. I owe you one. I didn’t have the energy after reading it to actually compose a letter of my own. It was THAT bad!”

They just didn’t understand that I was but a bud, which would one day bloom to beauty.

I’m budding now, baby.

Take a whiff.

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