short stories

I’ve been taking turns the past couple weeks with Adam, reading short stories by Philip Dick. He picks one to work on before bedtime and usually I take my shift super-early the next morning before Oliver gets up and at some point later we’ll discuss the story’s merits, twists and whatnot. Plenty of weird ones in the large volume we’re sampling, like this old lady who keeps baking cookies for a neighborhood whippersnapper so she can steal his life essence.  A tad depressing at times, stumbling across some of the more dystopian older stories, especially considering they were a little ahead of the curve back in the day and trickier yet explaining undercurrents to a ten year old in terms he can grasp (truth be told he’s gotten used to plenty of dystopia the past eight months if you know what I mean but maybe you don’t).  At any rate, Adam’s definition of science fiction has expanded. So has mine, really.  For a voracious reader, I’m not very literate.  For years I needed a dictionary at the ready to make it from one page to the next let alone understand sort of deep things.  Right now I’m struggling with Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four but not because it’s hard reading. An indisputable classic and luckily I’m enough of a baseball nerd for enjoying half the name-dropping but……….. it’s dated. Not exactly in the same way but it brings to mind last year when I finally took down from a dusty shelf and slogged through my yard sale copy of Lake Wobegon and by the end had chuckled a fair amount but speaking strictly for myself I don’t find Garrison Keillor’s writing much cleverer than his old radio show.

It was yesterday I was gardening and wouldn’t you know it the sky turned black coming down over the hill and there was a patch of thunder. Oliver Fern was sensible and heeded my warnings to run to the house and stay there until the weather blew over but I decided to take my chances engaged such that I was in a heartless renovation of rockrose (only ever meant to serve as placeholder).  Adam was going to be shouldering his forty pound book-bag up the hill from the bus stop at any moment between sometime-and-midnight (on his fourth bus driver because the trainees keep flunking at the hands of Humorless Bus Supervisor who sits behind with the kids) and figuring I may as well distract lightning bolts from an innocent schoolboy lost in daydreams, toiled away.  No lightning problems but a handful of cloudbursty downpours had me mildly hypothermic for several hours and while I was trying to remember the President’s name (you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me) Adam took care of dinner for himself and Oliver as he’s pretty good at fixing hot dogs but he did tear the buns all to hell as they were these fluffy brioche numbers I picked up to allay the boys’ mother’s concerns I’ve been feeding them hot dogs five days a week since school started.

Speaking of which, Adam’s loose tooth had fallen out during social studies. The school nurse gave him a hinged, plastic tooth-holder molded into the shape of a back molar for bringing home the nasty little prize.  On the International Scale of Weirdly Revolting Things, a fallen-out tooth ranks highly but when Adam showed it off (reddish pulp still attached) I did my best to hide any trace of revulsion, nodding with pretend admiration at what may as well have been moldy dentures. We were standing in front of the house in the pouring rain and I was shivering uncontrollably but as he was clearly blinded by the beam of pride it’s apparent Adam mistook hypothermia for excitement. Loving him dearly as I do…… all for the better, I must say!

postscript: I wrote this a couple days ago but then the earthquake in Mexico City happened and frivolity went out the window. I’ve been worried terribly sick about friends who live in the city. It was no small miracle to me this morning I received confirmation they’re okay and doing what they can to help others.

7 thoughts on “short stories

  1. Philip K Dick seems to be doing really well right now, especially for a guy dead 35 years. Blade Runner sequel, Man in the High Castle, etc. and I’m really impressed by a 10-yr-old reading his stuff.
    It seems like if you’re going to use fancy “fluffy brioche numbers” you can maybe call the contents “Frankfurter Würstchen” or “Coney Island Dogs,” to kind of balance things out?

    • Yes, I think you’re right that P.D.’s work is being spotlighted a bit more- certainly all the better for another generation (or two) of readers. I thought short stories would be a neat place to begin and my son has had a knack for picking out some of the more accessible stuff so it has been a good experiment.

      And I do like your suggestion on the wiener-front, haha!!! Two boys in the house, we’re prone to exactly that sort of nonsense so to the drawing board we’ll go….

  2. I have never read Philip Dick (tho I have watched Blade Runner several times) but you and Adam have inspired me to give him a try. I just added Counter-Clock World to my To Read list. Thank you!

    And glad to hear that your friends in Mexico are safe. I went through a similar anxious period waiting on word that my elderly aunt and cousins were ok following the Fukushima quake. The time of not knowing is stressful.

    • Hi Louise. Counter Clock World sounds fascinating and a little strange. If it turns out to be a dud at all, I think I’ll feel responsible, lol! Last summer, I picked up The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? so I could read at least one of them this winter. Those were wholly predictable, easy choices I suppose one could say. Whereas it sounds like you’re rolling the dice a little more….. although that’s a matter of opinion and exposure.

      I hope your aunt and cousins are doing all right, these days. Your mentioning of Fukushima lead me to inquire more in depth of it than I was familiar.

  3. I haven’t read Philip Dick either, but dystopian sci-fi is a tough genre for me to digest. I think it’s a girl thing, hehe.
    Geez it’s been nice having that rain, even though I had the same kind of soaking the other day outside and forgot how cold wet clothes can be. Now we are back to some very enjoyable weather. I hope you and the family get to indulge in some great outdoor activities before we are all forced indoors for the winter rains they are predicting. Glad your Mexico City folk are safe TF. I was a little worried for my Tampa people for a while, seeing as how the most mobile and agile younguns left the state and the older ones who would struggle to make it up on the roof were staying behind, but everyone is safe.
    Have fun sharing dystopian themes with Adam. I am not well read in classics and usually struggle with them too. I guess I’m lazy and don’t want to work too hard when I read!

    • I hope you got a little sunshine in your system while you were up north, Ilona. Sometimes on a warm day the fog has a tendency to cling right to Port Townsend!

      And I’m glad your Tampa people were ok. Obviously there were some terrible reports from Florida and yet some residents in harm’s way managed to emerge practically unscathed. Another friend on WordPress has family in Miami and they turned out to be just fine (they evacuated themselves).

  4. Like your other commenters I haven’t read Philip Dick either. Do you think adding him to my reading list will help me better cope with the real-life dystopian nightmares — or call them more starkly into relief? Either way, I’m really impressed that you and Adam are tackling such hefty material together. Just as I’m really impressed with your intestinal fortitude at faking admiration over that pulpy tooth! I don’t know how parents do it, honestly, when it comes to puke and poop and pulp …

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