On Feb. 15, 2012 I put up my first post here on EMU’s Debuts: The Call. In the almost nine months since that post went up it has been a tremendous pleasure and honor to be associated with this website and the other wonderful authors who post here. It has been such a joy to help launch such wonderful books into the world as ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (a book that had me crying for pretty much the entire time I spent reading it) and FLYING THE DRAGON (a book that broke my heart and actually encouraged me to go fly a kite with my children) and KATERINA’S WISH (a book that not only made me cry but it made me believe, truly believe. And that’s just wonderful) and NERVE (a book that kept me on the edge of the seat, flipping pages like mad) and LEAGUE OF STRAYS (one of those rare books that is both timely and timeless and a must-read for anyone who cares about bullying) and, finally, last but definitely not least, GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES (a book that never fails to make me smile…just seeing the cover again makes me smile).
And, now, with a bittersweet joy, it’s over. I have been a published author now for almost two months. So much has changed with the actual release of HENRY FRANKS. So much has stayed the same. The same waiting to hear back from my agent and publishing houses and, then, more waiting.
But it’s not really the same, this being a published author. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and happiness and joy and I have loved sharing all of that with all of you.
Today is Halloween. As an author of Young Adult Horror I asked to say goodbye today and, really, now that I think about it I can’t think of a better way to do so then with a short little ‘creepy’ story.
But not just any story (what’s the fun in that, after all?). It needed to be special. It needed to be perfect.
Then I realized…it wasn’t the story that needed to be perfect. It was the characters. I needed a cast! I needed all of you…
ONCE UPON A TIME, the runt of the litter was a small, yellowish sort of duck. Not that the other ducks were big, they were, after all, just babies, but this one was the smallest of the small. And as the runt, the other ducks were, well not so much mean as just ambivalent. And ambivalence can be cruel, as anyone who has ever attended middle school knows all too well.
So, that little yellowish sort of duck grew up, always following behind and, sometimes, actually left behind. Sure, he had a name, but no one ever used it. He was ignored so often that there was little use for a name. In case you’re wondering, it was Mike. But even Mike didn’t pay much attention to his name. The other ducks, Jeannie and Jeanne, Tara and Tara, Natalie, Cynthia, Jillian, L.B., and Lynda, Melanie and Pat, Michelle, Laurie and Laurie (duck parents really aren’t very creative in picking names out) and, of course, Joshua, didn’t pay much attention to Mike.
So Mike was left all alone, while his brothers and sisters played their duck games (much like reindeer games but slightly wetter, actually). He wandered through the marshes and the swamps, this little yellowish duck with no friends and wanted nothing more than for someone to know his name. To be his friend.
One day, one hot miserable lonely day, Mike the little yellowish duck was wandering farther than he’d ever wandered before. He wandered so far that he eventually found himself close to the side of the road that he’d always been told to stay away from. He watched the big metal cars drive by and wondered what it would be like to just hop on and leave his family behind. Sure, he’d be sad. But there was so much to explore, so much to see.
Still, he was just a little yellowish duck and there was no way to really get on board one of those cars flying by. It was fun to dream though, fun to wonder. So he took to wandering there every day. And as time went by the little yellowish duck started collecting all the trash and other odds and ends that the cars would discard along the side of the road.
There were a few buttons and some string. A red ribbon that fit perfectly around his little yellowish duck neck and a green and blue taggy thing made out of cardboard that he had no clue what to do with. The seasons changed and when winter came he found a little red hat that kept his little yellowish duck head warm when it snowed and, best of all, actually matched the red ribbon he’d taken to wearing. By the time spring rolled around, he’d collected a fair amount of stuff. All sorts of stuff, just piled up in his little spot at the side of the road.
Mike, the little yellowish duck, might not have found a friend but he’d collected a great deal of greyish fabric, and black string, and he added more to his pile every day.
Until the storm came, thunder and rain and wind and, scariest of all to a little yellowish duck, lightning. Splitting the sky with electric light, the lightning hit all around Mike and he was so scared, trying to keep his pile of stuff from blowing away in the wind by throwing his body on top of it. The little yellowish duck squeezed his eyes closed and wished, more than anything, that he had a friend to help him survive the storm, to help him hold down his precious collection, to make him not feel so scared as the thunder boomed and the rain pounded and the wind blew and the lightning struck.
Even with his eyes closed he could see the flashes of lightning and he held on to his pile of stuff even harder, just wishing it would be over.
And then, with a giant roar of thunder, a single bolt of lightning sliced through the sky and shot right through the pile of fabric and string and ribbons and Mike the little yellowish duck was sent flying through the air, landing at the side of the road in a big puddle with a big splash.
Mike could barely hear over the ringing in his ears, could barely see through the blinking after-images of the lightning strike, as he scrambled out of the puddle and ran back to see what was left of his great big pile of stuff.
But there was nothing there, just a black burnt circle from where the lightning had struck. Of Mike’s pile there was nothing left, not even a shred of a piece of string. Mike sank to the ground, his little red hat listing to the side of his head as he cried.
Then, as the sun came out after the storm, a ray of light broke through the clouds and shone down. Not on Mike, but on a small pile of fabric a little ways away. Mike, the little yellowish duck, went running over to his last remaining piece of stuff but even before he got there, the fabric moved.
The little yellowish duck just stood there, staring down at what remained of his pile of stuff as the grey fabric sat up, looked around and smiled at Mike.
And Mike, the little yellowish duck in the goofy red hat, named his reanimated friend Peter, for no reason whatsoever. But they would go on to be the best of pals, spending a strange amount of time performing for an imaginary audience that they called ‘Youtube.’ Not that Youtube ever actually responded much but Santa Duck and Zombie Buddy had a blast, pretending to be actors and, mostly, just being friends.
Happy Halloween…and farewell.
Thank you, to everyone, for letting me be a part of this adventure!!