My new short story, Jolly Rogers: A Story About Boyhood is now available at bardandbook.com (free coupon code WD89Z valid until October 26) as well as Kindle and Smashwords. I suspect it will be available on Nook soon. I began writing this story as a simple Halloween tale. At one point I seriously considered turning the story dark, where an old man captures three hoodlum boys vandalizing his home on Halloween and then tortures them in retribution. I decided against that, but so did the story. The story chose to go a different, sweeter direction.
Writers will tell you that most stories tell themselves, and as this story unfolded it became clear that what it wanted was for the boys and the old man to become friends. The way I decided to do this was a bit of time travel.
The major theme of the story is the innocence of childhood. I take all four of the characters to that magical age of 10. I remember that age fondly. It is before the onset of adolescents and all of its problems, but at 10 a person is old enough to know what is going on, so there is freedom and independence. As I write in the story:
A 10 year old boy is old enough to read, write, think, and plan but young enough to avoid responsibility or long range troubles. At the wonderful age of 10 a boy is all motion with very little emotion to get in the way. He still hates girls so there are no worries about appearances yet he loves bugs, guts and mud. He can play all day in the world of make-believe but then leave that world knowing it is only make-believe as he reluctantly obeys his mom to come in for dinner, a bath, and bedtime. He has no fear of the future; he has only optimistic assurance of the great and mighty things he will accomplish on the battlefield, in the laboratory, on the ball field, in outer space, or in the cockpit.
Once I learned that the story was about boys, I had to imagine what would boys play? There are so many attractive options. My characters could play games like baseball or football, or they could play army, or space adventurers. When I was a little boy we played “forts.” We would spend weeks and weeks building elaborate forts in the woods out of sticks, mud, cardboard and any other substance we could find. Then we would “defend” these forts against pretend enemies, or we would lay siege against them. Usually we would each build our own fort complete with flags and ramparts which would result in a particularly violent version of capture the flag. I decided in the end though, I would use the pirate theme from beginnning (Halloween) to end (play).
It was great fun, and Jolly Rogers is in part a remembrance of my past, a past which I am afraid no longer exists because boys just don’t seem to play the way we used to.