The Book

Ring a Dinga Dana
Ring a Dinga Dong
Ring a Dinga Dana
With his housecoat on!

My little brother wrote his first book the winter before he turned eight. He talked about it for a week with everyone who’d listen, before he wrote a single word. He never exactly told us what he was writing about, though.

He paced the house, his long, unconscious strides keeping time with the saga unfolding in his intensely focused little brain.

Fascinating.

I loved his energy.

As the book became itself, sentence fragments stacattoed from his room. I listened entranced as he played with word flow and depth of content in his passionate, fresh-hearted eight-year-old way. I heard bits like, ‘Oh, Yeah! I gotta have a part in there about this!’ But I never heard a word about subject matter. He had us all wondering and waiting expectantly for the final product to appear.

He did heavy research for an eight-year old kid. He interviewed all the men in the family and the older neighborhood boys. And he read books, lots of books. He’d come home from the library in the cold each afternoon, walk the mile uphill from where the bus let him off and climb the tiers of stone stairs to our house with an armload of fresh books. He’d bang the back door open with a whoosh of frosty air and push himself and his books into the mudroom with two rosy cheeks and a HUGE smile. He also collected sticks, strings, boxes and rocks.

Then, late one night the book coalesced from the depths of his fact-soaked brain. He raced downstairs to his room and hit his desk about ten o’clock and the force of the thing poured itself out through his fingers. He made drawings and diagrams with arrows and descriptive text on thin, white sheets of dime-store paper, hastily folded twice across the middle making four pages.

The finished sheaves fell lazily to the floor, slightly crumpled from his distracted hand already reaching to steady the new page now well underway.

I know all this because I watched him through the peep-hole he’d carved through the wall between our bedrooms. He did this the previous summer so his little buddies could peek through from his room and watch me dressing in mine. I kept that hole stuffed with toothpaste that he’d remove from time to time. But this time, I watched him.

Next morning he ran into the kitchen, manuscript in hand. The glorious morning sun through the window behind him paled in contrast with his exhausted, excited, shining little face.

Weese! It’s done! I did it! Look, see?
I finished it, I finished my book!
Here! You just gotta read it!
Look at those drawings, Weese!
Aren’t they great!
It really tells everything about it!

I fought a lump in my throat as I reached for the hand-written and illustrated, First Edition Copy of Dana Alan Cameron’s, Traps I Have Known, and Others and began to read.

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