From Cal to Cow–A Cautionary Tale

1) Muse’s directive: “Write about someone who is pretending to be someone or something that he is not.” 

My little brother Cal and I were best friends despite the fact that he was in the third grade, and I in the sixth. People were shyly jealous because Cal is cool. Not jock cool. Cal cool. He made his own genre, and kids were awestruck since most were just beginning to spell personality with an “I”.

The art museum is to blame for our schism. When Mom announced her plans that ill-fated Saturday morning over vegan pancakes, I stifled a groan and angled for a compromise.

“So can we go for ice cream after? Marble Slab’s right next door, I proffered casually, as if rebellion weren’t hinging on her answer.

I bit back the grin threatening to betray me when Mom’s face contorted into the grimace of one who’s just unwrapped a diaper to find dijon surprise. She thinks sugar is a gateway drug for cocaine. It turns out, drug addiction is a chance she’ll take if necessary to to impart a little culture in her children.

At the museum, I endured Cal’s meticulous analysis of every placard by imagining what the women with the pained expressions were saying to the exhibitionist cherubs. Mystery Science Theatre-style.

“Watch where you point that arrow. Have you seen him without that loincloth?” 

“Whatever it takes, Cupid. This chastity belt is ridin’ up.”

I left willingly, eager for my sugar coma. Cal had to be evicted from the premises on threat of grounding. He was never himself again. He became…artistic.

Our grades share recess, but that Monday he didn’t meet me at the seesaws. I was obliged to wander around looking for him. I knew he wasn’t in detention. Teachers aren’t immune to Cal cool. I found him by the jungle gym and immediately wondered how hard it is to divorce your brother. Cal was on all fours, hobbling around in the grass with his nose to it. He snorted and grunted and pawed at the turf with hands that were curled into fists. With a tight hitch in his upper lip, he stretched his neck way out toward a dandelion. He emitted a sound that was like the mooing of a cow, except with that unique Cal-flare, that I was sure all the doggies in hearing range would be imitating by Wednesday. His tongue shot out of his mouth and curled, pink and limber, around the unsuspecting dandelion. He wrenched his head back, decapitating the weed without remorse. He chewed sloppily, emitting the loudest slurp-smack ever recorded in the 4th grade at Harper Middle. The occasion was second only to the soundtrack of the whole lunchroom on Spaghetti day.

With my face in my hands, I turned from the scene, resolving to use this disaster to illustrate for my Mother, for once and for all,  the dangers of a diet free of dairy, and rich in culture.

My words fell on deaf ears, and so this story ends with my brother, fallen from grace and headed straight for drama club.

2) My current word count for my novel is: 13,646/30,000.

3) Muse’s next directive: “Write about a noise– or a silence– that won’t go away.”

3 thoughts on “From Cal to Cow–A Cautionary Tale

  1. Andrej Dukalev

    From the leading questions that were suggested.

    What did you like best, and, least about the post?
    I enjoyed all the actions that the reader is experiencing in the story, from the “my face in my hands” to “I bit back the grin…” The one thing I liked least was that since I got to know the two kids so well I didn’t know anything about the mother. I guess this is only an issue because I feel like I visualized the kids so well and there is a blank for the mother.

    How well did you feel you got to know the character(s) in the exercise?
    I feel like I got to know the characters quite well. I can imagine the characters quite well. Since the story is written from the girls point of view she never calls herself out. I feel like I have a name to put to a face with Cal and mom as “mom.” Maybe if the mother called out the girl by name and told her to get her coat on I would have a name to put to a face. Just an idea. The thing that made me remember the characters so well was their actions, good writing.

    One thing that I enjoyed about this writing is that most of us have probably done what these kids are doing in a museum or some other venue. It is easy to connect to the charters and see the story from their point of view.

    1. amusing1 Post author

      Andrej–I really appreciate the thoroughness of this review. The first thought I had after posting this one was “Why didn’t I name the narrator?”. Conversely, I (sorta) purposefully left the mother as ambiguous character–known only by the narrator’s opinions. Think of it as my take on a Charlie Brown adult conversation portrayal (wah-wahhh-wah wah). I did try to make this piece an approachable, visual and tactile experience. I’m glad that came across!

  2. bethy

    This story was fun to read, it was upbeat. Who doesn’t love quirky kids? No-one, except maybe the kids themselves….we’ll save that for later. The only part I couldn’t fully buy was the transition from the first paragraph to the second. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it didn’t flow as well as I would have liked, could just be me. It was thought provoking but slightly anti-climatic. I enjoyed hearing about the boys interactions but I was left feeling like something more was going to happen or should happen. Blah, I don’t know, I feel like I’m being to picky. It was a nice story…i guess i just wanted more…maybe another page worth would have satiated me. Charge on noble friend!


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