Thursday, October 11, 2012

So funny he peed in his pants and non-fiction


The other night I had dinner with a friend and her six-year old son, whom I've known since he was two --he was the child who was really sweet and gentle until his testosterone surge, since which time most of his games have centered around armies, weapons, and of course killing). After dinner, Jake  showed me his new books -- a pop-out one on the Coliseum with many details about gladiators; a Darth Vadar pop-out; daily life in Ancient Rome; some other war book I can't remember.

He asked what my next book was about, and when I said it wouldn't interest him, he suggested gladiators. I explained that non-fiction is really hard to sell to publishers ("in decline," as a group of authors report in the Gurardian),  a shame considering how many little boys love non-fiction.

He said eagerly,
"You could make up a story about gladiators!"

So I began plotting aloud: the gladiator who killed so many people (he nodded eagerly) that he was granted his freedom and became Emperor.

"That would be a good story," he said.

"Yes," I said, and then said something that made him laugh really, really hard -- for a long time. When he stopped laughing, he smiled and said,
"That was so funny I peed in my pants."

His mother, who had been reading a magazine, looked up, aghast.

"You didn't really," she said.

"Yes, I really did," he said, standing up and spreading his legs--sure enough, there were wet patches all down his blue jeans. He laughed a little more.

"Tell that to me again," he said.

But I don't think it was my imagination that his mother's face had paled when she saw his wet blue jeans, and I KNOW she wanted to get him into the bathtub.

"Okay, Jacobius Maximus," she said, good-naturedly, but firmly: she wasn't mad--just appalled, I think. "Upstairs."

So you may want to know what I said that elicited this reaction, and honestly, it wasn't that funny -- mildly amusing, I'd call it. Or maybe it wasn't the words, but  him, or the way I said it (the physical voice). It was just a sort of review/description of the book, given in that bright, singsong voice some adults use when they talk to children -- something like:

"Just a nice, sweet bedtime story for children, showing them how life ought to be lived." (or to that effect)

But now I DO want to write a picture book about Jacobius Maximus,who (in his imagination, which would be most of the story) is a gladiator in ancient Rome...but not until my novel is done! And maybe not even then, it may just be one of those tempting ideas that comes to distract you from finishing.


nelsong said...

In another part of the blogosphere another little boy dreams of gladiators:

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks, Nelson: what a great story! Do you know the author?

See you soon, :-)