Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Calvin and Hobbes - A Writing Exercise

How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Six.  One to change the bulb, and five to say they could have done it better.

I want to make perfectly clear that the following idea, and some of the writing, is not mine.  I hope
that’s clear.  I’m not taking any credit here.  This was purely an exercise in seeing a flaw in a story and working through it.

This, in many ways, is exactly how I got into writing.  I remember reading Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance, and being struck by some wonderful opportunities that, to me, seemed missed.  To my young mind, I thought I could rewrite some of the passages and create a “better” book.  I was wrong, but the concept of inspiration from another’s work is a very real thing.  A twist on a common tale is exactly how many authors get started.

At the bottom of this exercise, I will share the link to the original post.  You can then decide if I’ve succeeded or failed in this endeavor.

“Calvin?  Calvin, sweetheart?”

In the darkness, Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years.  Calvin struggled to open his eyes.  God, he was so tired and it took so much strength.  Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed.  At the foot of his bed stood his wife. 

Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, “Did . . . did you . . . find him?”

“Yes, dear,” Susie said, smiling sadly.  “He was in the attic.”

Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll.  Calvin couldn’t help but laugh.  It had been so long.  Too long.

“I washed him for you,” Susie said.  Her voice cracked a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.

“Thank you,” Calvin replied.  He reached up his hand, weathered and shrunk with age, and gently stroked Susie’s face.  “Would you mind leaving me with Hobbes for a bit?  I’d like to catch up with him.”

“Of course,” Susie said.  “I’ll go eat something in the cafeteria and be back soon.”

With a sudden but gentle strength, Calvin stopped her.  Lovingly, he pulled his wife into him and gave her a passionate kiss.

“I love you,” he told her.

“And I love you,” Susie replied.  She turned and left, but not before Calvin saw the tears stream from her face.

Calvin smiled, turned to face his oldest and dearest friend.

“Hello Hobbes.  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll, but the big, furry, old tiger Calvin had always remembered.

“It sure has, Calvin,” Hobbes said.  His grin was as wide and playful as always.

“You . . . haven’t changed a bit.  Calvin smiled.

Calvin laughed.  “Tigers are known for their common sense.”  

Hobbes gave Calvin a poke.  “You married Susie Derkins.  I knew you liked her!”

“Shut up!” Calvin told him, but his smile grew bigger.

“Tell me everything I missed.  I want to know what you’ve been up to!”

Calvin did.  He told him everything.  How he and Susie fell in love in high school and married after they graduated from college.  How he had three kids and four grand kids.  How he’d turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on.

“You know . . . I visited you in the attic a bunch of times,” Calvin said.

“I know.”

“But I didn’t see you.  All I saw was a stuffed animal.”

Calvin’s voice broke and tears of regret started to well in his eyes.  His throat constricted and a tight knot formed across his chest.

“I know,” Hobbes repeated.  “You grew up.”

“I’m sorry,” Calvin said.  He sobbed and hugged his best friend.  “I’m so sorry.  I broke my promise.  I said we wouldn’t grow up and that we’d be together forever.”

Hobbes pulled the little boy into a warm embrace, and patted him on the back.

“You didn’t break your promise,” Hobbes told him.  “We were always together.  In our dreams.”

“We were?” Calvin asked.  Hope and a little excitement entered his voice.

“We were,” Hobbes assured him. “Well, Calvin, are you ready to go out and play?”

“Sure thing, Hobbes,” Calvin said.  He bounded to the floor, bent on one knee, and tied the loose lace of his shoe.  “What should we do first? A rousing round of Calvinball? A downhill run in the wagon? Or a meeting of GROSS?”

“Whatever you want,” Hobbes smiled

Calvin reached for Hobbes’ outstretched hand, and caught a glimpse of the hospital bed behind him. He turned to see an old man, eyes closed, with a peaceful look on his face, and a slight smile.

“Who's the old guy?”

“What old guy?” Hobbes said, confused.  He scratched the top of his head as only a tiger can.  Calvin looked around.  The sun was shining, the grass and trees were green.  He saw all the favorite places where he played with Hobbes practically every day.   

“Are we going, or what?” Hobbes asked.

“Of COURSE we're going,” Calvin replied. He looked around for the old man, shrugged when he couldn't find him, and turned to join Hobbes. “It's TIME to go, isn't it?”

Hobbes nodded sagely. “It sure is.”

“Hobbes,” Calvin said, his voice for once small. “I'm glad I'm going with a friend.”

“Everyone should,” Hobbes replied.

Once again, I want to make clear that I’m taking no credit for this.  As I said, it was an exercise that I deemed worthwhile today.

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