Well, the plumbing leaks a little bit, but it hasn’t exploded and gushed water all over the bathroom in over a week.
The Cardinals are leading their division by three games in the final weeks of the season. True, the Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers are both close on their heels and both having winning streaks that prove they are capable of overtaking the Cards. The division is within reach, but not yet won.
I have been invited to substitute teacher orientation next month, so the possibility of returning to classrooms is also within reach for me. That will solve some money troubles and give me a chance to do something I love once again.
Nothing is ever guaranteed in life. Not working plumbing. Not having a winning team to root for. Not being well enough to earn money for the thing I was born to do.
But bad things are not the only things that happen in life. Sometimes you get a chance to cheer. A chance to celebrate. Sometimes life is good. So, we keep living and hoping, and enjoying what we can when we can… sometimes with a can of Gatorade.
Yep, I have now finished writing and publishing twelve books. I have reached a dozen. And the fascinating thing to me about my stories is that, even though they are pure fiction, they are about my life, especially my inner creative life.
All of the books have a connection to my home town. Rowan, Iowa, is portrayed in the books as Norwall (Rowan with the letters remixed and two L’s added for Love and Laughter). The two science fiction books are connected not so much by place as by characters. Stardusters and Space Lizards begins with aliens and humans fleeing the failed invasion of Earth from the site of the defeat with Norwall residents now a part of the alien space-ship crew. AeroQuest 1 has an ancestral connection through Orben Wallace, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. His descendant is Googol Marou, the story-teller of the AeroQuest saga.
So, here’s a picture of the 12 books in time order (more or less).
And just to make matters a bit clearer, here’s the time-ordered books with approximate times indicated;
I do have more novels to write if I am given enough time and life to do them, but they will be fit into this timeline after 1974 C.E. and before 5541 C.E. That’s only a space of about 3,400 years to fill, so I will have to work hard to squeeze it all in.
He was the “Fox” that no authorities could ever catch or unmask. In Spanish, Zorro, the fox.
He was the intrepid pirate/adventurer Captain Sinbad, in the 1963 movie of that title.
He was Professor John Robinson in the 60’s TV series, Lost in Space.
And he was briefly Cartwright nephew Will on Bonanza.
All of those were shows I adored as a boy in the 60’s (Though I really only saw Zorro as an after-school syndicated show in the early 70’s.)
Guy Williams was, in many ways, the character I myself truly wanted to be.
He was the swashbuckling hero, never afraid to take the leap into danger, to face any monster, or take any risk to save his town, his family, his people, or his crew.
His character led from the front and took a bullet or a sword wound now and then to protect the weak. And he got the chance, as Disney’s Zorro, to romance Annette Funicello in a few episodes.
And I particularly wanted to be the kind of explorer he was as the head of the Space Family Robinson in the Lost in Space TV series. Those were still the days of my astronaut-and-rocket-ship daydreams.
But my hero worship was never about the actor, Armand Catalano, whose screen name was Guy Williams. He was a TV and film actor who started out as a fashion model. He made himself famous with good looks and acting ability. He was, I suppose, a decent hardworking fellow with dreams of being a movie star, a goal he came close to, but never quite reached. It was not him I wanted to be. I wanted to be the real-life embodiment of the characters themselves that he played.
I could probably end this essay by saying something sappy, that by becoming a public school teacher, I became the swashbuckling hero I always wanted to be. Sure, teachers do have to be swashbucklers to do the job right. But that claim is an argument for another day… another post. My point for this essay is that this is what constitutes a hero in my book; a brave person who can smile in the middle of a sword fight, even if he is losing, a man or woman willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, and a hero for whom the chance to be a hero is the real reward. And I learned that romantic, idyllic crap from TV in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was but a boy.
After a week of bathroom trips to Walmart, exploding toilets shooting water across the bathroom, and cuss words from me each time the antique fossilized pipes spring a new and different leak, we finally have the water back on in the house, relatively dry bathrooms, and a useable toilet (provided the cutoff valve is shut when the toilet refills).
I like older homes because they tend to be well-built, stately, and relatively free of the breakdowns attendant to plasticized and computerized new-fangledness. But when age mandates rust-repairs to the plumbing, it causes no end of expenses and hassles due to antique pipes needing to be replaced in a modern, PVC world.
I suppose the root of the problem has really been that I, as a do-it-yourself-er, am well past my own prime and now somewhat out-dated and probably past my expiration date.
But now, as the crisis winds down, we have a dry place in the house for relieving ourselves again. We have a renewed appreciation for the importance of the same in the over-all arc of our lives as a family. Peeing and pooping has to be dealt with as a part of life.
One never knows where the next family crisis will occur. We now know the bathroom is one possible location of life-impacting disasters.
While the family dog was watching me intently as I was cooking the breakfast sausages, she decided to strike up a conversation with me.
“You know, beloved father and giver of people food, a lot of other dogs tell me that they get table scraps at meal time.”
“That’s a self-serving comment. And when do you ever talk to other dogs? You’re a house dog that stays inside all the time.”
“I listen to news on the nightly howl, and it’s been a fool moon lately.”
“You mean full moon, not fool moon.”
“That’s not what other dogs call it. It makes their people act like fools.”
“It doesn’t take a phase of the moon to make that happen.”
“So, you will give me table scraps more often?”
“Dogs who eat table scraps get fat and unhealthy and die of heart attacks.”
“Sausages would be worth it.”
“You get enough fat and cholesterol in your diet from eating the burglars that come into the house at night.”
“No burglars came in last night, or any other night that I can remember.”
“Well, that’s probably because in Texas, we elect our burglars to office, especially in the Senate.”
“Euw! I could never eat Cruz or Cornyn. I don’t like the taste of oil mixed with hairspray and arthritis cream. But I could eat Trump, probably. Of all the politicians, he’s probably the only one that looks like he’s made of cheddar cheese.”
“You’d never survive the fat content in the head. Instant myocardial infarction. “
“Well, I don’t know what those last two words mean, but I’ll bet I could survive it. So, when are you gonna start substitute teaching? You get rushed when you have stuff like that to do, and you drop more food on the floor.”
“Well, the school districts are in no hurry to hire me. They seem to have enough subs for the start of this semester, so I have to wait for them to schedule another sub orientation. We could be facing some tough economic times.”
“Oh, that’s not good. No money for even dog food?”
“If things get really bad, we may have to eat table scraps from the floor. And when those are gone, we might even have to eat the family dog.”
“What?! Even if she’s a talking dog and a valuable member of the family?”
“Dogs get eaten before the children do.”
“Oh, I get it. That’s supposed to be black humor. Not funny!”
“It got you to stop thinking about table scraps while I finished cooking the sausages.”
“We’ll see who gets what. I can still give the Princess the beg-eye and make her pity me enough to give me some.”
Last night I watched the movie version of Jersey Boys the musical. It touched me deeply. And the band was asked to each answer the question, “What was your best year as a member of the Four Seasons, your peak year?” Frankie Valli’s answer got me thinking about the answer to that question as it applies to who I am and what was the peak year of my career.
Now, I can’t deny that, having been a successful public school teacher who loved teaching for more than 30 years, there were a number of very successful years I could point to. But scoring well on State writing tests and reading tests despite teaching in a poor rural school district in South Texas, nor competing in the Odyssey of the Mind creativity contest with my gifted students were really what I would call my peak year. That honor has to go to the year I was twelve (for most of the year), 1969,
That was the year that men walked on the moon. I had followed the whole thing for several years, since Mom and Dad had gotten me excited about space by trying to spot John Glenn in his Mercury capsule crossing the blue sky in our back yard. I had watched religiously as Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra told us on CBS about Mercury and Gemini and finally Apollo.
It made me believe in myself and the power of people for the first time since the tornado and the sexual assault from 1966 had toppled my world.
I had numerous self-confidence issues after 1966. I really, deep down, blamed myself for what happened to me. I was convinced that I was worthless and evil. But watching Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon on that late July evening made me yearn to reshape the world the way he did, even if I could only do it in a much smaller way.
’69 was the “Summer of Love” in more than one way for me. I wasn’t really able to think about myself as a virgin in ’69 for… reasons. But it was the summer that I got to see a girl who wasn’t my sister naked because she wanted me to see her. We were not able to actually do what both of us wanted to do, and my double-clutching at the last moment destroyed any chance of her ever even talking to me again for the rest of my life, but it proved that I was at least desirable to girls. And music from that moment on began to underscore everything in my life. She had “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies playing in her bedroom. And the same song was playing again at the roller rink in Lake Cornelia the night she refused to do the couple’s skate with me, and I asked Leslie instead. Leslie accepted. I was not a monster made from the horror of ’66. i proved that to myself to the beat of “Sugar Sugar”.
And, of course, even though I was a Cardinals fan, the New York Mets proved to me that year that the impossible can happen. Of course, I rooted for the Orioles. You know, a team with a bird for a mascot.
But 1969 was also a year of big decision for me. I already knew at that point that I was destined to be a storyteller. But that was the year of the My Lai massacre. I remember looking at the photos in Life and Look magazines of the dead bodies of women and children, killed by American bullets. I could not, at that point, stomach the idea of going to war after turning 18, a possibility that became very real to me that year.
It was the year I made up my mind I would never kill anyone in my lifetime, never pick up a gun to harm others, or be a part of any such atrocity. I still have great respect for soldiers and what they do, but if I had been there, I would’ve been moved to lay down my weapon and stand with the victims in front of the machine guns. They would’ve had to kill me too. And I was determined to go to jail sooner than fight in the war. Luckily, that was never put to the test. The war ended in 1975, before I graduated high school.
The peak year was not for me a year of great personal success or wealth or accomplishment. 1969 was the year I chose who I was going to be in life. The year of decision. The year that brought me all the way through from there to now. It was 50 years ago. It was the year I was 12.
I am now actually pursuing a return to the classroom. Even worse news… I am seriously looking at returning to the campuses where they pursue calming of the hormones in the monkey years, grades 6 through 8.
Yes, I have foolishly applied to become a substitute teacher for Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District. So, in this essay, I intend to successfully talk myself into a final adventure in bunny wrangling.
It is fairly obvious, if you look at today’s Paffooney, that Reluctant Rabbit is me. I am the wackadoo with the big pencil, whether I am in full carrot-eating mode or not. Absolutely necessary now is earning extra money, since life is only going to get more expensive now that I am permanently on a fixed income. And Uber driving is only going to get me killed now that the fees have gone down and the expenses have gone up. Too much driving in heat and Dallas traffic is wearing away my limited health points indicated by the red bar that floats above my head. And yes, I know that only happens in video games, but driving is like a video game, except you only have one life to lose in collisions.
And teaching is what I know best. I know I do not get the chance to get to know the kids like I did as a regular classroom bunny wrangler. But I still get to work with kids. And I don’t have to do lesson plans or grade papers. I do not have to work on days when I am too ill to cope. And I can make better pocket change each month than I can driving for less than slave wages.
So, I found the one person from the Garland district that knew me as a teacher and is still not dead, fired, or retired to give me a letter of reference, the one required to be a sub. The application is in. And there is a way-better-than-even chance that they will hire me. I have a lifetime teaching certificate. And schools around here are so desperate for subs that they kidnap drunks in back alleys to have enough of them to cover all the classes.
Now I must prepare myself for spitball and booger flinging, bizarre insults about my supposed rabbit ancestry, and ugly-face standoffs between hate-filled little bunnies. The monkey years. And Reluctant Rabbit has been away from them for too long.