Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cheryl-Anne Millsap inspired prose...

Thanks to the contributor who sent me this pitch that he had made to the Spokesman-Review a year and a half ago. Apparently, it went nowhere. Maybe that's for the best!

Dear Editor - Mr. Smith, if that really is your name,

The same thing happens to me time and time again. I open the S-R, and it’s like looking into a reflection of my own heart.

The debris of personal memories from one of your writers is often an emotional-beachcomber’s delight! The commonplace becomes a rare gem, and a spiritual touchstone.

Some favorites:

Us moms are protective of our kids, much like a mother bear.
I had a crazy uncle that drank too much.
Clothes smell better when washed.
Cheese and me.
I wish I had stuck with French in college.

I think there is one thing missing from this emotive oracle. How about letting a male have a shot, once in a while, in sorting out the self-reflective silage?

I humbly submit my first column. I have some good working names for this endeavor. In the past, I've made a living as a professional writer. I have never missed a deadline!

Please, let me know what you think!

Column follows….

Yes, something was wrong with the lunchbox. Maybe there was something wrong with me, too. I gently dabbed the pieces of milk-sogged salami. Their white wetness reminded me of the tears I was now fighting back.

The first day of school, so many years ago. My oldest son, Kurtz, had been gifted with a lunchbox that I had made as a woodworking project. It was, according to my counselor, a project that would help me with my anger and abandonment issues. However, this labor inadvertently caused me to pass these issues on to my son, via ¾ inch plywood, one hinge and still-sticky varnish. It was this varnish that held his lunch fast within the box. As he told me later, most of his classmates enjoyed the chips in their lunches, while he had to chip his entire lunch out of the therapy-project-lunch-container.

He later said that what I had actually built was a coffin for his self-esteem. The next year was to be different.

The cartoon show “Transformers” was very “in” then. So, I knew Kurtz, now in 8th Grade, would appreciate the new lunchbox I had just crafted for him. It was metal - a silent protector I could send with my son, as he faced the perils of middle school. And like a cartoon Transformer, a twist here and a push there transformed the steel lunchbox into a metallic robot crab - complete with ersatz gun barrels where the claws should be.

It took a few times for Kurtz to get the hang of transforming the box into the crab. When I was satisfied with his performance, I bequeathed him with the lunchbox, along with the knowledge of what it was, and an assurance that it truly was his!

He seemed worried. But, wasn’t there just a glint of joyful pride in those soulful blue eyes of his? “Yes, MY dad made this… For ME!”

I didn’t know about the strict code of “no firearms” in middle school. And apparently, the crab claw gun barrels fit the description.

Kurtz was waiting for me, in the principal’s office. As we walked to the car, I couldn’t help but notice a stream of milk pouring out of the now-bent and irreversibly-stuck crab claw barrels. Apparently, a student panicked at the sight of the transformed crab gun and instinctively disarmed it with a container of milk. And with a pack mentality, other students joined the milky shelling of the metal crab. Kids can be cruel - even more so, when frightened.

That night, after I dried the lunchbox and my eyes, Kurtz and I had a very good heart-to-heart. I was to pack his lunches in a brown paper bag, from now on. As Kurtz pointed out, a neat lunchbox is nice - but lunch is even better.

He had given me food for thought.

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