Two monsters, six nymphos and a coyote

It occurred to me the other day when our 3-year-old granddaughter said something cute and profound that hardly anyone was chronicling that stuff anymore.

Thumbnail image for al-martinez-photo.jpgI did it a lot when our two daughters and son were young but stopped when they suddenly became too old to be puppy dog cute. Walking around the house dragging a dirty diaper when you're 18 months old may possess a certain level of innocent charm, but it would be viewed with outrage and disgust if the child were 23. Or maybe it wouldn't if the kid was just wearing his ghetto jeans so low that his ass hung out.

Family columnist Chris Erskine still uses his kids in the newspaper that used to be the L.A. Times, even though the little ones must be in their 20s by now, which is, believe me, long past any kid's cute stage. A friend suggested that Chris must lock them in the garage a certain number of hours each day, thereby keeping them unaware of their real ages. I don't know that it's true, but it isn't a bad idea.

Back to my granddaughter Gracie. She loves to come into my home office and watch me work, wanting to know what I'm doing. I tell her I write stories and ask if she knew one. She hesitated not a minute and said, "Once up a time there were two monsters and one had a coyote on his butt." Then she laughed and danced away.

I stared in amazement. She had encapsulated with little effort one of the methods applied by adult writers to induce or seduce the reader into reading the rest of the story. The beginning she offered was a teaser that was both clever and useful. Gracie, I decided, was a natural.

I told her mother Lisa what her daughter had said, and she just nodded and said that she was always saying things like that. I have conducted the Topanga Writers Workshop since I was canned, I mean laid off, by the Times and only know one person who could snap a come-read-me lead like that. His name is Richard Hoops and he's a member of the Workshop. His lead was, "Six young women, some of them nymphos, all of them nude, were swimming in the mountain pond when the first crazed warthog emerged from the bush."

I can't write that way and I envy people who can. I kind of wander into a story by accident, maybe tripping over it, and spend the rest of the time trying to figure out exactly what it is. Mystery, romance, adventure, tragedy, comedy, what? It lies there like a sleeping dog and I nudge it a little to make sure it's alive and move on.

I'm going to work on Gracie to see if I can pull some complete story lines from her and maybe a few metaphors. Perhaps she and Richard could work together on one story and make it the two monsters, one with a coyote on its butt, pursuing the naked nymphos. That could work. I'm pretty good at endings, so maybe this one would do:

A naked nympho falls in love with a monster carrying a coyote on his ass, marries both of them, the monster and the coyote, and establishes a home in Topanga Canyon. No one even notices the coyote. It's not that unusual up here.

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