Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Out Of The Mouths Of Brats...

I envy authors of children's books. They have at their disposal an endless assortment of characters they can count on to come out with one stupendously outrageous remark or observation after another.

To hear my parents tell it, my stutter never stopped me from opening my mouth when I should've kept it severely shut. My father was a professor at a teachers' college in New Jersey, and one day, before the president and his wife arrived for dinner, he warned me to speak only when spoken to, and then, to be very polite about it. It went well till the president got to talking about the vegetables he'd been growing in his Victory Garden, and bemoaned the fact he'd been unable to grow cucumbers because the soil was too sandy. "No," I piped up. "You can grow cucumbers in sandy soil. Would you like to see?" Then I led him out back, where I'd buried some cucumber seeds in the sandiest soil you'd ever see away from a beach. The patch was covered with vines and vegetables. I compounded my felony by telling the president if he'd water his plants a lot, I was sure he'd get cucumbers too.

Then there was the time my family was taking a vacation in Asbury Park. I was minding my business, rocking in a wicker chair on the veranda of our hotel when an elderly woman came up and asked my name.
I told her, and asked hers. She replied, then asked me my age.
"I'm four," I said. "How old are you?"
"How old do you think I am?" she said.
I took a minute to look her up and down. "I don't know," I said. "But you look old enough to be dead."


Bernadette said...

You little Dickens! Four years old and you already knew how to get an emotional reaction from dialogue. You've given me a great idea -- if I'm stuck for a really good verbal reaction from a character, I'll ask myself, "what would a child say here?" Something honest, I bet, that packs a punch!

Larry said...

Thanks, Bernadette. We all have our strong points...which usually are also our weak points. You're making me think - maybe I don't have to leave all the kids and their good lines to the childrens' authors. I've had lots of teenagers in my books, but no little kids. May be time to think about that.