Friday, October 28, 2011

Today is my son Paul's fourteenth birthday, and in honor of his birth I will give you a glimpse into our shared comic storytelling. My mother and I had a similar riff when I was young: in that case our central character was our cat Twerp, whose mother (Mrs. Erp) lived on Pointyhead Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, where she worshipped at the Church of the Trap Door (if you didn't donate during collection, you got dropped into the basement), and whose ne'er-do-well father (Wyatt Erp) had last been seen in Wacko, Texas.

The story that Paul and I share came into being thanks to his fourth- and fifth-grade spelling homework. Over breakfast, as I fed him words to spell aloud, I developed the habit of using each word in a ridiculous sentence. The words accrued into unexpectedly comic combinations, we morphed into math-homework word problems without answers, and voila: we had a setting and a cast of characters.

One thing you should know is that the fourth- and fifth-grade teacher chooses his spelling words from the kids' journals, so the lists are particularly rich for ridiculous invention.

The town is Jinx. The central character is Mr. Tacklebox, a hapless ninny. Mr. Tacklebox is the nephew of Great-Aunt Yolanda, owner of the world's most fearsome cat, Ulgy (yes, the spelling is correct). Ulgy hangs around with a lazy disreputable cousin-cat named Ratt. Great-Aunt Yolanda's next-door neighbor is Police Sergeant Kinkelhoffer, uncle of Jinx's leading citizen, Mayor Kinkelhoffer. Great-Aunt Yolanda's husband, Great-Uncle Bill, lives at the nursing home with his girlfriend, Nurse.

Important things to know about Jinx: It has a restaurant called the Happy Sibling that features not only Turf 'n' Turf but also (I'm sorry to say) the popular Tortured Chicken Sandwich and a drink special known as the Chattering Disaster. The restaurant is a watering hole for members of the local baseball team (the Jinx Cement), managed by the mysterious Mr. Velocipede, a team so starved for opponents that it's forced to play games against cats.

Important thing to know about Mr. Tacklebox: While he does like the 80s hair band Plaque, his overall favorite musician is Suspicious Junior, an old bluesman who crossed over into punk in an attempt to jumpstart his sagging career. SJ's most recent retrospective album is Suspicious Junior: The Rank Years.

Important thing to know about Great-Aunt Yolanda: Her life is entirely controlled by her fascist cat Ulgy, and she depends on a cleaning product known as Substitute Neighbor. Her relationship with Police Sergeant Kinkelhoffer is ambiguous.

Important thing to know about the nursing home: It serves a wholesome beverage known as Delicious System Action and permits Great-Uncle Bill to keep an assortment of power tools under his bed.

So there you have it: this is how Paul and I while away our foolish hours. And by the way, for his birthday, among other gifts, he received a badly counterfeited $14 bill from Ratt.


Mr. Hill said...

Oh, this is priceless. I think that "Turf 'n' Turf" would be a big seller in my town. You also make me think that my bedtime stories have been a little too tame, though last night's did detail the operations of our yard's squirrel newspaper. Still, you inspire.

Thank you for reminding me of Jesus' Son, too. I'd bought it and lost it in the school copy room and forgotten it but after your post the other day I got a new copy and was cringe-laughing all through my classes' silent reading yesterday and through the baseball game last night.

I hope Paul has a nice birthday.

Ruth said...

Happy Birthday, Paul! Your family has a richer and far more creative life than most of those I know. Congratulations!

Dawn Potter said...

The squirrels in our yard don't bother with yellow journalism. They wear army boots and toss grenades disguised as pinecones. They do, however, know how to read food labeling, as in b-i-r-d spells "squirrel."