I gave you a list of places where my ideas for fiction come from, and in the end, I failed to explain the thing about the bottle imp. Yes, I do get ideas from the bottle imp. He’s an angry blue boggart with limited spell powers. But he’s also more than 700 years old and has only been trapped in the bottle since 1805. So, he has about 500 years of magical life experience to draw from and answer my idea questions. Admittedly it would be more helpful if he were a smarter imp. His name is Bruce, and his IQ in human terms would only be about 75. But, then, I don’t have to worry about misfired magic. If I asked him to, “Make me a hamburger,” he wouldn’t immediately change me into a fried, ground-beef patty because he is not smart enough to do that high of a level of magic spell.
But he is just barely intelligent enough to tell me a truthful answer if I asked him a question like, “What would happen if I put an alligator’s egg in a robin’s nest as a joke, and the robin family decided it was their own weird-looking egg and then tried to hatch it?” The answer would be truthful according to his vast knowledge of swamp pranks. And it would also be funny because he’s too dumb to know better. In fact, he told me about a mother robin who worked so diligently at hatching an alligator egg that a baby alligator was hatched. She convinced it that it was actually a bird. And when it came time for the baby birds to learn to fly, the baby alligator couldn’t do it… until she talked it into flapping madly with all four legs. Then, a mother’s love and faith in her child got an alligator airborne.
Yeah, that hasn’t proved to be a very useful story idea. I put it into a story I was writing during my seven years in high school, and then lost the manuscript. (I was a teacher, not a hard-to-graduate student.) But it was proof that you can get your writing ideas from a bottle imp.
So, if you decide to use bottle imps as an idea source for fiction, the next step is to find and acquire the right sort of bottle imp. I got mine from Smellbone, the rat-faced necromancer. I bought it for an American quarter and three Canadian loonies more than a dozen years ago. I found it at his Arcana and Horse-Radish Burger Emporium in Montreal. But I am not sure how that information helps you. Smellbone died in a firey magical-transformation accident involving an angry Wall-Street financier and a dill pickle. The whole Emporium went to cinders in an hour.
If you are going to try to capture the bottle imp yourself, which I strongly do not recommend, you are going to need a magical spell-resistant butterfly net, a solid glass jar, bottle, or brass urn. A garlic-soaked cork to fit the bottle. A spell scroll ready to cast containing at least one fairy-shrink spell. And an extremely limited amount of time to actually think about what you are doing.
Now I have told you how I get writing ideas from a bottle imp. Aren’t you glad I did not include this idea in the post about where ideas come from? After all, I am a fiction writer. I get my jollies from telling lies in story form. And bottle imps, especially angry blue bottle imps named Bruce, or Charlie, or Bill, are more trouble than they are worth. They can curse you with magical spells of infinite silliness and undercut your serious nature for a lifetime.
I am diabetic. I am not supposed to have donuts for breakfast any more. Hence the obsession with donuts. I am only guessing here, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that the very name of donuts tells you what to do.
“What?!” you say. “What goofiness are you talking about now, Mickey?”
Well, I’ll tell you. I had a donut for breakfast this morning… with nuts.
The name “donuts” is literally a command. It tells you to “Do nuts”. So I had nuts with my donut this morning. Peanuts to be precise. Of course that’s what is wrong with the whole scenario. It doesn’t mean “peanuts”. It is commanding you to do something nutty. Maybe more like eating a donut when you have diabetes. No matter how good that particular donut tastes when you eat it, an hour later you are going to suffer.
So here’s the result of my being nuts this morning. I have come to the conclusion that the root of all evils in the modern world is “donuts”. Especially when it is pronounced “doo nutz”. Yes, eating a donut subjects you to the command, “Do nuts!”
And we all know how bad Trump’s diet is. Could he be imbibing donuts? Horrors! That explains Twitter, cabinet firings, tariffs for the fun of it, random protestations of “No collusion!”, and even “Covfefe”. Although Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an evil beyond even the power of donuts.
And how did Trump even get elected? Do people in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan glory in eating donuts before voting? How about disgruntled Bernie Bros? And one also suspects that middle-aged white women can’t resist a good donut… or an evil one either.
Could it be that I am down on donuts because I ate one and now I am writing this with a pounding high-blood-sugar headache? Well, yes. Eating one inspired this post. It was a chocolate donut with green, mint-flavored frosting. And it was evil. It is taking out its evil revenge on the blood vessels in my brain.
So, I implore you if you are reading this… no, I’m not going to tell you not to “Do nuts”… I am going to tell you, “Please, for the love of God, keep donuts away from me! Eat them yourself if you have to. But be warned! They have a secret meaning.”
See Sally…? Wait a minute! Why don’t I remember Sally?
Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?
No… I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them. And Spot never killed anyone. But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable. If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.
But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas. Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom. Dr. Seuss taught me to read. Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud. And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes. And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny. There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me. But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.” High praise indeed!
I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically. You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it. And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.
Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh. For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak? I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about. Of course, I am not betting money on it. I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.
But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand. It takes intelligence to get the joke. Joking makes you smarter. And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.
Yes, she was a real car. My dad bought her in the 60’s as a used car. But she was a hardtop, not a convertible. She was the car he drove to work every day in Belmond. We called it the “Pink and White Pumpkin”, my sisters and I, referring to the pumpkin in Cinderella which the fairy godmother changes into a coach. But it would only later become the car of my dreams.
You see, she was killed in the Belmond Tornado of 1966. Her windows were all broken out and her frame was twisted. So the pictures of her, though they look exactly like my memories of her, minus the rust spots, are not actual pictures of the car in question. Our next door neighbor, Stan the Truck Man, was a mechanic always on the lookout for salvage parts. He took her apart piece by piece while she sat in our driveway. We continued to sit in her and play in her until all that was left was the bare frame. My friend Werner told me for the first time about the facts of life and where babies really came from in the back seat while she was being gradually dismantled. Of course, I was nine at the time and didn’t really believe him. How could that grossness actually be true?
But she still lives, that old dream car… She is the reason that I objectify my imagination as a ship with pink sails. My daydreams, my creative fantasies, and those long, lingering plays in the theater of my imagination as I am drifting off to sleep all start in the three-masted sailing ship with pink sails. And that dream image was born from the Pink and White Pumpkin. I have sailed in her to many an exotic place… even other planets. And when I die, she will take me home again.
Being a child of the ’60s and also being fifty percent raised by the television set, it was my privilege to witness and learn from the master comedian of self-deprecating humor and ultimate humiliation. And there is no better preparation for becoming a Texas public school teacher than to learn how to be laughed at from Don Knotts.
I have spent a goodly number of hours during our recent COVID quarantine watching old DVDs of Don Knotts movies. The last four nights I viewed, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Love God. If you have never seen them, they come with the highest of Mickian recommendations, “They made me laugh so hard I cried.”
Of course, my favorite Don Knotts movie of all time is The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
Knotts always seems to play a character put upon by life in general, yet always believing that he has the inner something to make himself into a huge success. Every time he gets knocked down he quivers with frustration and throws a punch at his tormentors that invariably hits nothing unless he hits himself. In Mr. Limpet, we find a man so frustrated in his inability to help in the war effort that he throws himself into the sea, turning himself into a fish… a fish that helps defeat German U-boats. He makes himself into a hero, He even finds love among the fishes.
Knotts found the perfect comic partner in Tim Conway as they made The Apple Dumpling Gang and its sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Slapstick antics and serious battles against the laws of physics somehow manage to win out over real bad guys with real guns and horses.
I guess the thing that makes Don Knotts such an important part of my television-sourced education is how much I identify with him. Life is a never-ending parade of humbling defeats and blush-inducing humiliations. I have spent most of my life being one with the little-guy within me, the put-upon fellow who has never quite overcome all the little hurts incurred by a desire to overcome the gravity holding me down.
And in a Don-Knotts world, based on a Don-Knotts movie script, things eventually turn out all right in the end. Mr. Chicken is proved right. Abner Peacock ends up marrying the beautiful girl who is the perfect one for him. The dentist who is mistaken for a gun-fighter still gets to be the hero in the end. So, there are worse things than living a Don Knotts sort of life.
Rest in peace, Don Knotts. For though you are no longer with us, you will always live on in my heart… and the hearts of many other Don Knotts wannabes.
Once I was finally able to scan pictures again, I did some scanning of old pictures that only got the camera treatment before on my blog.
But why stop a drawing at just the pen and ink, when there is potential for so much more?
So, I took the Microsoft generic paint program and my generic photo editor to not only this pen and ink of the Jungle Princess, but a few other pictures as well.
This is what she looks like after being attacked with color by my arthritic old hands. (There was a day when I could have handled intricate details more cleverly, but that was many, many days ago.
Anyway, I have added new dimensions to Leopard Girrrl with color.
Now I need to add more complications to the basic story of the picture.
Here is an older pen and ink.
This is Dorin Dobbs, one of the dueling plotlines’ protagonists from the novel Catch a Falling Star.
But, of course, Dorin is a more complex character than this old black and white.
So, color needs to be added.
I had this one actually already painted in…
But in order to use it in this project, I needed to enlarge it to make it fit into the other picture.
Making this unlikely pair work together in a story is one of the challenges of doing surrealist stories. They have to be grounded in realism, but also bring jarringly different things together. Like the Jungle Princess going on an adventure with Norwall’s Lying King.
But, putting these two together is still not enough. Let’s try some other things.
The Jungle Princess together with Tomboy Dilsey Murphy is an unusual pairing.
Or what about the blue faun from Laughing Blue?
Or even Annette Funicello?
Ridiculous, I know. But don’t they look like satin sofa paintings?
The many hours of time separating the arrival of the Leaping Shadowcat and the much later arrival of the First Half-Century was something no one really wanted to probe too deeply for causes. Sometimes it is nice to be able to keep that one particularly “special” friend at more than arms’ length.
Trav “Goofy” Dalgoda was such a friend.
“First Officer Cole! Can you explain why it took us a whole extra day to reach this Outstation?”
“No, Captain Trav… Honeypot… I have no idea why.”
Dana Cole had been working overtime trying to keep the Goofy one’s mind on romance rather than that evil Ancient artifact, the Tesserah, that he had become so obsessed with. The device was constantly percolating with menacing alien sounds and radiating oddly unsettling colors while making everybody but Trav wonder what the evil thing was thinking about. Trav Dalgoda was much more concerned with what he could get the thing to do. Specifically, what he could get the thing to blow up or otherwise destroy.
“Ham, the old jester, will be wondering what happened to us. He arrived at least twenty-three hours ahead of us. You know I can’t leave my one truest friend alone for that long. What if he needs me to blow something or someone up?”
“You know, Trav… beloved… we could take another shower together… or have some wine to celebrate arriving here.”
“Nonsense. Who put you up to trying to slow me down with your evil ways? Was it Ged Aero? I know it wasn’t Ham. The robot T-Bop maybe?”
T-Bop was a maintenance Metalloid. Dana had no idea why Trav might have brought the thing up.
“Shall we take the recommended docking port?” asked a crewman on the bridge.
That was a good save by the nameless crewman in the red uniform. Dana did not know them all by name. After all, many of them were probably going to die in service to Goofy Dalgoda. But she did appreciate any effort anybody could make to distract Trav from the Tesserah.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go take that shower together?” Dana offered yet again.
“Do you know where all the waste water in the fresher goes?” Trav asked, switching his eyepatch from the right eye to the left eye, which made no sense, since there was nothing wrong with either eye.
“It goes back to the molecular processors for the ship’s main material synthesizer units.”
“Exactly. We use it to make the clothes we wear and the food we eat. Do you know what that means?”
“No. What does it mean?”
“It means our food is made from poo. And our clothes we put on every day are made from poop too. Isn’t that an icky thought?”
The Tesserah seemed to like that observation, changing its internal lighting to make it look more like a large, electrified turd.
“Oh, yuck,” said a crewman on the bridge. Dana briefly thought about gutting him with a knife for being unhelpful, but then remembered the red uniform and took pity on the doomed young man.
“Captain Dalgoda, as First Officer, I request we dock at the designated docking bay. We could all stand time away from the ship.”
“I am reluctant to leave my beautiful Tesserah. But I do need to see Ham Aero again, the old jester.”
“Crewmen, please make it so,” said Dana to the doomed.
Stuck in the house all day with no outside activities to distract me, and limited socialization with the other denizens imprisoned in the house with me is more-or-less the perfect thing for a fiction writer with cancer of the imagination glands.
I have plenty of people to talk to, since , in this situation, imaginary people count too. And there is no end to the things I can talk about since ideas keep welling up in my head, even if many of them are totally silly ideas, and the rest are probably evil.
It helps to have a talking dog. Though my kids would argue that Jade isn’t really talking, that I am, instead, merely interpreting things I think she should be saying as if it were real speech. She does talk an awful lot about different kinds of meat and the moral imperatives of allowing your dog to eat people food. But I think it is only proper to commit to writing those things she says when we’re alone together, because, after all… a possible talking dog?
But imagination is one of those things that sets people… I mean, human people, apart from all other life forms that we know. Imagination makes the man. What would we have made of ourselves and our world if we didn’t have it? Would we have invented the wheel? Fire? Term life insurance? I think not.
I may, in fact, be going a little stir crazy in the old hovel while trying like heck to avoid death by Coronavirus. I am easily as frayed around the edges as any hopeless hobo, with even my beard-trimming growing wildly erratic. Soon I may have to tell the imaginary people who surround me and question everything about me that it is not a beard any more. Rather, it is either a crocheted hippie neck-warmer rather than a beard, or maybe it has become a furred, frilly collar on my shirt like Shakespeare probably wore for the premiere of King Lear.
No, I am not going stir-crazy, or even a little bit insane. I am just letting the words unwind as they fill me up and demand to be unreeled in order to prevent an explosion in the brain.