Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Submitted for your consideration…

It's Sunny's Birthday today, and with money being so tight again, I decided to do something for her that she'd really appreciate. After she went to be bed this morning, I decided to completely straighten up the kitchen.

So I'd just finished up my second sinkful of dishes when my mind drifted back to a school assembly I'd attended back in my primary-school days. I don't think I was much older than eight or nine.

The memory plays like a faded old movie. I think it was near Christmas, but it could also have been the middle of Summer. The memory is like a tiny remote island. I don't remember anything else about that day, what I was doing five minutes before the assembly or five minutes after it ended. If all my memories are a jigsaw puzzle, this piece's edges don't match up to anything else. The only thing I do remember is sitting on the hard wooden floor of my school's assembly hall/gym and getting completely swept away by the story my teacher was telling. I remember thinking how awesome it was that she was half-reading, half acting it out.

I couldn't tell you the day, month or even what year this memory is from, but I remember the story as clearly as if I'd heard it yesterday.

I suddenly felt something hairy brush past my feet as Buddy buried his head in the trash bag and before I knew it, Webcomics Weekly flooded back into my ears as I became aware of my iPod again. Kris Straub said something that made me chuckle out loud, proving to me again he's one of the funniest (and most under-rated) people in webcomics. I give Buddy a disapproving look and tell him to get out of the kitchen. He does, happily… he's already snagged the half-eaten sandwich from the top of the bag.

I shake my head. It's strange. That memory has been plaguing me for three whole days for absolutely no reason. I can be watching TV, sitting at my drawing desk, cooking dinner or playing the Xbox and suddenly that memory comes back so vividly I can almost smell that weird mix of poster-paints, wood polish and crayons that all primary schools seem to share. I've no idea where it's coming from or why.

I empty the sink and throw in the cups and glasses that I always leave to the end because I hate doing them, and turn on the hot tap to find the water is only luke warm…one of the downsides of letting the dishes pile up and only having a twenty gallon hot water heater. I decide to leave it for twenty minutes or so, pick up my cup of British tea, and my eyes fall on a box on the dining table.

It's filled with a bunch of bric-a-brac that Sunny got from her mother for her Birthday yesterday morning. A few bits and pieces and, Sunny's favorite, a whole stack of books from the local goodwill store. Taking a sip of tea, I reach in and pull out the top one. All the books are hardbacks and are missing dust jackets. I examine the spine of the one in my hand and see 'Reader's Digest Condensed Books' embossed in gold. I flip it open and one of the titles catches my eye.

There's just no fucking way…it couldn't be.

I open the book to page 198 and start skimming the story.


Sure, it seemed a little more sophisticated, and I didn't recognize the main character's name, but there was just no getting away from it. It was exactly the same story Mrs. Critchely had read and acted out in that assembly all those years ago. The story she told wasn't exactly the same as it was in the book…but it was exactly the story you'd end up with if you took the original and simplified it for an eight year old audience.

Three days ago, for no discernable reason, I found myself thinking of a story I was told two decades ago. I don't know why the memory popped back up after all this time and nothing specifically reminded me of it in the way a smell or sight or sound can stir up old memories. I'd never heard that story before or since.

Exactly what are the chances of that story turning up in a book Sunny got for her birthday?

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