First for this commercial message, Countdown to Kianna. Twenty-nine days to delivery, Feb. 19, exactly one week before Kishia’s 27th birthday. Not sure which makes me feel older: 29 days away from changing my name to Grandpa or having a 27-year-old daughter. Sunday is set aside for baking cookies for Kishia’s baby shower next Saturday. I’m also told that planning for the mother of all baby shower cakes (a la my esteemed editor and consummate cake-baker Lora Wegman) occurs tomorrow/Sunday.
Now … what about “The Fleas”?
Channel 13 in Jefferson City (KRCG) showed scary movies at 10:30 p.m. every Friday back in the day (early to mid-1970s). My buddies and I especially enjoyed Frogs, Night of the Lepus, Mothra, The Black Scorpion … it was a long list of mostly really awful and not-all-that-scary movies. (However, “Frogs” was downright creepy and basically established the standard for the revenge-of-nature genre. And Sam Elliott is in the movie).
Somewhere along the way, a little light bulb went off in my cranium and the first writing prompt that I can remember became an epiphany to try my hand at science fiction writing. And I knew just the person who would give me an honest, objective critique of my work. On March 14, 1974, I handed my 15-page, handwritten manuscript, “The Fleas,” to my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Elrod.
I’m looking at that manuscript now, almost 38 years after Mrs. Elrod permanently stoked the fire of the budding writer within me. Her single comment, “Exciting story,” has almost completely faded from the top left corner of the page, but the comment that made 10-year-old Jodie think, “Hey, maybe I can be a writer?” continues to resonate in the 48-year-old Jodie.
I’m not sure I ever told Mrs. Elrod “thanks” for her encouragement and for fostering a love of words and reading. She died in 2005.
What did she see in “The Fleas”? I think the real question was, “What did she see in me?” I can guarantee there wasn’t much to see in “The Fleas,” a story about the first manned space flight to Mars. My three astronauts took along a jar of 25 fleas, a fly and a rat. Don’t ask me why those were the chosen specimens. It was top secret. I don’t know why. But the fleas are exposed to radiation or some sort of Martian germ, and when the crew returns to Earth, the surviving fleas become gigantic and cause all kinds of mayhem. And, by the way, they ate 500,000 people
To prove it was an awful story, here are two brief excerpts:
“Only the captain had been in outer space before. Jones went over to check on the rat and in surprise the rat had died! He went to see the fly and it was dead, too! He went over to check on the fleas and out of the 25, there were only 3 alive! What was happening!? There was a very small hole in the spaceship over by the animals. They weren’t getting enough air.”
Later, after landing on Mars:
“The fleas were still alive. (These kind of fleas were found in caves on bats. No one knew anything about these kind of fleas).”
Very clever foreshadowing there, wouldn’t you say? But I won’t inflict more of the story on you. Eventually the last of the giant fleas was killed and Earth was saved.
It was an “exciting story.” Take Mrs. Elrod’s word for it.
Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #9
Your Grammy (Mrs. Grandpa) and I have been married just about 30 years now, but you know what’s really cool? Today we did some grocery shopping, visited with a couple we’re fond of, and just hung out together. By the time we were headed home, we were both tired. We’d both been pretty chatty (Grandpa is almost always chatty), but then we simply enjoyed silence together.
That’s when Grammy told me something that’s still making me smile. She said, “You’re my buddy.” Out of nowhere, I get, “You’re my buddy.”
My single greatest joy in life is being your Grammy’s buddy — being married to my best-ever friend.
We can’t wait to see YOU!