Illustration by Lars Leetaru
My daughter is a little young for the bus, so my job in the morning is to get her to school on time. Most mornings I succeed at that job, but some mornings, like this morning, I fail. (Sorry, Nola.) Still, we make the most of our time in the car. For the last couple of years, I’ve been doing my best to keep the oral tradition of storytelling alive by delivering spontaneous, rambling monologues on The Further Adventures of Fluffy and Ruckus to my very demanding audience of one in the back seat. It would take a lot more space than I have here to fill you in on this dynamic duo’s escapades, but suffice it to say they are the smartest cat and dog to have ever befriended the town drunk and given him a new lease on life; fought off a host of ghosts, ghouls, and hags with the help of a gruff but lovable shaman; learned to read Harry Potter and write in English; and dined in style at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal.
This all started a few years ago when she was about 4 and starting to read on her own. One day in the car she demanded I tell her a story, so I cooked up a vivid tale about a girl named Louise and a leprechaun named Jerry who went through a series of trials that rivaled The Lord of the Rings in otherworldly mayhem, if not lyrical depth and arcane mythological sagacity. I’m no J.R.R. Tolkien, but I was pretty impressed with how far I was able to take that story; it lasted nearly a whole school year. But there are only so many times you can pull a rabbit out of a hat, and after about the 15th appearance of a hairy shambling mound of a creature I called Googly Eyes, I knew I was running out of steam. That’s when I switched to parodies of Arnold Lobel’s wonderful Frog and Toad stories. In my versions, Frog and Toad were gourmands who always overdid it. Every feast involved heaps of lobster thermidor and crates of excellent Riesling and always ended in a shower of projectile vomiting. The barf was her idea, by the way. (Their cruise to Bermuda ended spectacularly badly, as I recall.) No matter. The uncontrollable laughter from the backseat confirmed we were on to something good. Sometimes a good story is all a kid needs, barf or no barf.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue.