My youngest son S has been working on a novel for his 6th grade English class, since November was National Novel Writing Month. It’s really good. It’s an imaginative, post-apocalyptic, violent, fast-paced story about a band of brave warriors whose lives are constantly threatened by relentless, cunning and diabolical bad guys who pursue them 24/7. There are a lot of explosions, gun battles, sword battles and supernatural phenomena, and it actually has a plot.
He didn’t like using the voice to text app on his computer, so every night he would dictate a few pages and I would dutifully type them. Before we started, he said I couldn’t talk or interrupt him, or ask “any weird questions like you always do.” It was to be solely his work, and I was just there to type silently. I was allowed to ask him to repeat himself if I’d missed something, or to clarify if I wasn’t sure what he said. Otherwise, I was to be seen and not heard.
When we finally got to the end of November and the end of the story, I asked if it would be OK if I asked him a few questions about it. Grudgingly, he said yes, and here’s how what I’ll call “A Conversation to Nowhere” went:
Me: Thanks for letting me ask you some questions.
S: [suspiciously] I’m not changing anything, Mom.
Me: I’m not asking you to. It’s really, really good. The questions are just to satisfy my own curiosity.
Me: The part where they ran inside the abandoned warehouse and the power went out, you said they saw Chainsaw and Penelope [not their real names in the story] fighting. How could they see them fighting if the lights were out and it was totally dark?
Me: It’s a reasonable question. You said the place was “plunged into darkness.”
S: They could see a little.
Me: Like was it one of those emergency lights like in stairways, or were they under a skylight?
S: Um, I guess emergency lights.
Me: I wasn’t sure why an abandoned warehouse would have the electricity hooked up anyway.
S: It’s not real, Mom. No one would care about that except lawyers, like you. [I’m a recovering lawyer.]
Me: Well, it didn’t change that I enjoyed the story – just sometimes those little loose ends stick in the back of my mind.
S: Do not even think of asking me when they go to the toilet.
Me: I hadn’t thought of that, but now that you mention it…
S: No one cares, Mom! It’s NOT INTERESTING!
Me: I’m joking, I’m joking! Do they ever go to the dentist?
S: Ugh! That’s like asking if they ever go to the proctologist! That’s never going to be part of any story – EVER! Like Captain America would say to Thor, “Why are you late to this battle?” and Thor says, “Oh, I was having my anus checked.”
Me: I didn’t say anything about anyone’s anus.
S: You’re worrying about details that are so small and stupid.
Me: I’m really not worrying. And I didn’t want to know about the proctologist.
S: I know what you’re going to ask next. It’ll be like, “Oh, when do they eat? Do they go to Subway? Why don’t you have them go to Subway and sit around and talk about their feelings?”
Me: I thought I was the one who was supposed to be asking the questions here.
S: Go ahead. But only a couple more.
Me: Do they ever go to the Sbarro at the food court at the mall?
S: I’m leaving, Mom.
Me: No! Don’t go – I’m just kidding. I’m sorry.
S: Was that your last question?
Me: No, but just a couple more. In the story, Malware [bad guy – not his real name] wears a cloak with a hood that covers his whole face. How does he see to attack all those people?
S: Who gives a crap, Mom? You cannot tell me you possibly care about that. Obviously he can see – it doesn’t have to explain how. He just can.
Me: OK, OK. Again, it was just one of those loose ends.
S: You’re torturing me. Can I leave, or do you have any more stupid questions, like “Do they go to Wal-Mart?” or “What are their hobbies?” or “Oh, do they clean out the lint trap on their dryer?”
Me: They have a dryer?
S: Ugggggggghhhhhh! I’m out of here.
Me: No, no! I get at least one more question.
S: OK but that’s IT! Go ahead. [Melodramatic sigh.]
Me: After Leatherneck [also not his real name] dies [due to being impaled by a bad guy with a magic sword], why do they just leave him there in the street?
S: Because they have to get away from the guy who killed him. They never go back there. And no one cleans up his blood off the street!
Me: Leatherneck was a major character. Did they have a funeral for him?
Me: No funeral?
S: It’s an ACTION story! No one cares about the funeral or the food they serve after the funeral or where the bathroom is at the funeral home!
Me: If I was Leatherneck’s mom, I would want him to have a decent funeral.
S: Mom, your questions suck so much that it makes me want to jump off a bridge. We are DONE!
Me: You could have Sbarro cater the funeral reception!
S: Stop it, Mom! You’re crazy! [Stomps away in a huff.]
Sure, it went nowhere, but in a way, it showed that I’ve succeeded as a parent: I am the voice in his head.