Thursday’s Children, 30 May 2013
Last week I had a short story published, The Cheese Man (read the full story here ). The story is about a man with a van, but instead of the ice cream van we all remember from our childhoods, the cheese man owns a cheese van. The story tells of his desire to become a cheese man, his studies and the work it took. The story was originally a joke email about my own childhood, basically I was clowning around with friends when I should have been working all those years ago.
Many years ago when I was still living in England I worked as a data manager on a trading floor. It was open plan, noisy (about 500 traders, desk assistants and researchers), messy, crowded and the perfect environment to crush any creativity that might be waiting to break free. I had 4 monitors on my desk, each one ‘tuned’ to a specific financial website. One had a constant news feed scrolling across the bottom and was supposed to keep me informed of financial news. I, being me, changed the settings so that I only saw the ‘odd’ news. Quirky scientific discoveries, funny people doing silly things, nothing remotely market related. I used to email some of these stories to my friends around the world, because everyone needs an amusing story to keep them going. One, about a woman who had hoarded 157 Chihuahuas (this was before ‘Hoarders’ hit both the boob tube and public consciousness), led me to a short story about feral Chihuahuas attacking a city. Anyway. It was fun and kept me sane.
My friends had gotten used to the silliness that arrived daily from my email address so I guess it was a shock when, during a discussion of our favourite childhood memories, I started talking seriously but fondly about my own childhood: growing up in a new housing neighbourhood, getting to know the other kids, playing cherished childhood games like Kick the Can and Red Rover. The joy of hearing the sound of the van, off in the distance, that created so much excitement. Everywhere, kids ran to parents for pocket change, and we all waited on the corner for the van to appear. Except in my email the van was the cheese van, not the ice cream van.
It was silly enough for my friends to praise the joke, which of course only made things worse because after that I was determined to bring the cheese man fully to life. For no other reason than the potential adulation of friends. Ahh, the fragile ego of the writer, what won’t we do (on paper! keep it clean, people!) to get more of that magic elixir, praise?
I’m sure I still do it, write to get myself noticed. Just never managed to grow out of that ‘look at me! look at what I did!’ stage that kids go through. It seems that once we’re all grown up, the occasions for getting pats on the back become fewer and farther between. Sure, a raise at the office kind of counts, but it’s just not the same as someone saying to your face, ‘I really liked that story you wrote.’ THAT feeling, the glow, the pride, the ‘I can do anything’ mood that lasts for at least ten minutes, there’s nothing like it.
Ooh, just got an email from my friend, she loved a story I wrote. Awesome, I’m off to sort out the situation in the Middle East, end world hunger and arrange world peace.
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