Once upon A TIME

When I was a kid, maybe 6 or 7, I found a cheap sci-fi paperback in a store called Mott’s 5-and-Dime. That makes me sound like, really old, starting a post off at a 5-and-Dime, but I think it was the 5-and-Dime that was old, not me. Anyhoo, we used to go there for school supplies, or the occasional artsy-crafty stuff for projects. But the little book rack they had was more interesting than the school supplies or artsy-crafty stuff. And on the book rack one time was a book with this really cool cover:


It was a long time ago, and I was 6 or 7, so yes this WAS cool. But 95 cents?! I’m older than I thought.

As you can see, there were some big names in this one — Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Jack Finney — and I remember thinking, after I finally read it many years later, that every story was engaging and good. Funny how a book will wait until you’re ready, find you at the right time. Anyhoo… (oops I already used that, didn’t I?)

Way before I ever actually read the thing, the title of one story jumped out at me: “The Martian Crown Jewels.” Such a great title that I wanted to use it for my own story (nevermind someone else had already used it for theirs and I could just read that one. That’s not how kids think.)

I’d never written a story, just thought that was a cool title that made me want to write. So I sat down on my bed with a notepad, crossed my legs, probably had on white tube sucks that came up to the knees and ended with two stripes at the top, and started to write.

I started with a countdown, a ship about to blast off. I wrote ‘ten…’ and then I wrote some dumb stuff. Then I wrote ‘nine…’ and some more dumb stuff.

Then I gave up. That’s as far as I got. Never wrote anything else that wasn’t a school assignment until college.

And the only reason I say any of that is to say this: My daughter, who will be 7 next month, wrote her first short story today. I didn’t even know she was writing it. She called up from downstairs, asking “How do you spell [this], how do you spell [that] — which she does sometimes when she’s writing. But what she usually writes are lists of favorite things, or sweet notes to mommy (even daddy sometimes), things like that. A couple of times she copied stories out of books. One time she wrote about something that happened at school.

What I didn’t know was that today she had embarked on her first foray into fiction. Which of course I must now reproduce in full:

Once upon A TIME

There was bad guy who loved gold and one nigh he broke in to a bank and stole the gold money that was in the bank he burst out of the bank and in to the rainy night he jumped in to his van and drove away mean while at the bank the people called the police and told them about the problem the police got in to there car and drove after bad guy the bad was near town hall and the police had cot up to him but before the police cod rest him the bad guy got struck by a bolt of lightening The end.

Her first attempt at original fiction is much better than mine. I like how the guy ‘bursts’ out of the bank into the ‘rainy night.’ There’s even a beginning, middle, and end. And I just wanted to… well, gush a little about this for a minute.


~ Walt


the author with her opus




42 thoughts on “Once upon A TIME

  1. That ending is certainly a shocker!
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently too. When I was a kid, it was very hard to get hold of sci-fi, comics, or books about your favourite TV-shows. I lived out in the sticks so it was a very exciting moment when I came across a new comic or Doctor Who book, and of course, I never knew when they were coming out. It was exciting, a discovery.
    Now with the Internet we can get almost anything we want at a click of a mouse, and whereas we can actually find all this stuff, there isn’t the same sense of achievement that there was in the past. Back then, we could still feel like hunter gatherers in a way and that sense of ‘wow’ has disappeared a little.


    • Yes, quite a jolt, the ending. I hear what you are saying, Alastair about the joy of discovery in the past versus the easy one-click shopping of today. I was looking for that book online, though, and I couldn’t find it. Or rather, I found it, but not with that cover. I don’t remember what I did with that book, but I know it’s long gone and I would like to find another one with that same cover, and at least in this case, my prey eludes me.


  2. What a fantastic story and satisfying ending. Kids love justice. My daughter around the same age does the thing where she asks how to spell this or that. This is the age where their style comes through.


    • She is definitely starting to develop her own style, in lots of ways. The influence of the other kids at school, too, is showing, and not always for the best! Mine is just finishing up first grade (and her sister pre-k).


  3. Glad you took the time to share her story and yours, I think you’ll both be happy for that some day. Gush on…this was very nice. Bill


    • We often “talk about a story” at bedtime. That means she gives me a couple of characters and a setting and I make up the rest. Last night it was a hippo in a china shop. The hippo knocked over a rack of China, started a domino effect and broke everything in the store. The owner told him he had to pay for everything, the hippo said he had no money and started to cry. So the owner loaned the hippo cash, which the hippo then handed right back, then left. And the owner realized too late he’d just bought his own plates. That’s where my story ended. Then she asked if she could add something. She said as the hippo turned to go, he crunched the last unbroken plate under his foot!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Walt
    Your daughter is pure genius. Did you know that?
    How, oh how, did I not see it coming? The genius and modern novelty of writing a short story in one continuous sentence. I was on the edge of my seat until finally, finally, I saw that period at the end.
    Does she tutor? How much?
    (Seriously – I loved your post.)


    • Perhaps she’s so genius that she’s turned the the whole “you’ve got to know what the rules are before you break them” thing on its head… Because she doesn’t even know about rules yet, or periods, I guess. The future of writing just changed, maybe. Probably not though, but thanks for reading, Mike!


    • I don’t think I’ve ever written anything on a bathroom wall, but I’ve never been too terribly prolific either. So my absence from the medium is more due to want of anything to say, I’d guess.


  5. I like how passionate Bad was to actually go for the gold in the first place. That’s a gutsy move to just bust into a bank. But clearly your daughter, like my 7-year-old daughter, believes in justice, hence the lightening. A genius way to tidy things up nicely at the end.


  6. It is pretty gutsy to rob a bank these days, not many people go that route much anymore, especially considering you can’t ran very fast carrying gold. It’s the weight, you see. And then there’s the justice from on high, which apparently Bad had not banked on.


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