A WRITER'S WIT
A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.
Born December 11, 1918
"The Best Mud," An Exercise
Cooper Mason—a mentally challenged man who lays brick for a living, within the sheltered egis of his elderly father’s home—injures his back and begins to seek help at a pain management clinic. Because I grew up with a Down Syndrome sister, I always have a soft spot for characters who appear weaker than the rest of us. And yet such a character creates a challenge for the writer, doesn’t he? How to make Cooper not a stereotype? How to create him with all his endearing features and faults, as well? How to write with a third-person point of view that doesn’t try too hard to get inside his head (because we can’t, now honestly, can we?). In Cooper’s case, I rely primarily on his actions and his own idiolect. My parents often turned to me to “translate” what my sister had said, because somehow I understood perfectly (we were two years apart). I wanted to do the same with Coop, create an idiolect that would show the reader what he was all about.
Coop’s construction boss, proclaims that Coop makes the “best mud,” his mixture of concrete mortar, in all of Texas. But in addition to laying brick, Coop also delivers bunches of balloons in a clown costume to mostly children’s birthday parties. In this case, his "balloon" boss can’t make a particular delivery to the school district on the opening day convocation with 2,000 educators present, so she asks Coop to do the job for her. He breathes in some helium from an extra balloon to make his voice sound funny.
A PASSAGE FROM THE STORY:
“On stage Coop grabbed the mic. To the accompaniment of ‘America,’ Coop serenaded the superintendent of schools with ‘Happy Birthday,’ sounding like Alvin the Chipmunk” (53).
The editor of Cooweescoowee, the literary magazine at Rogers State University in Oklahoma, accepted two of my stories over the years. Due to a long drawn-out affair with her printing situation there, "The Best Mud" almost never came to fruition!
Click here to buy a copy of My Long-Playing Records and Other Stories, where it is available at Amazon.
NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction 2014
NEXT THURSDAY: Behind the Book—MLPR, "Handy to Some"
CATCH UP WITH EARLIER POSTS OF BEHIND THE BOOK:
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
12/04/14 — "Ghost Riders"