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Mama Cow Man and other stories

Posted by on April 16, 2005

I write in capital letters. My cursive was never good for much. Between second and third grade I switched from an experimental hippie-type classroom where we were encouraged to get on with the important business of school–in my case, reading whatever I could get my hands on, puzzling through math problems because they were interesting, writing stories–to an ordinary rank-and-file class where the chief activity was Education. It turned out most kids had gotten a jump on good handwriting while I was busy reading books way beyond my recommended level. Anyway, my teacher was, I think, annoyed by my lack of skill (extra work for her, I guess, so who can blame her?) and her teaching style, largely based in humiliating errant kids in front of their peers, pretty much froze my cursive right where it was. I even sign checks in block letters now, because otherwise my writing is full of the uncertain loops and careful peaks and valleys of an eight year old.

Anyway, I went on struggling with my choice between cursive that looked like someone was trying to force a devil-minded left-handed child to write with the hand of God, and a printing style that was more or less the same. What saved me was Michele. The first time she spent the night at my house, she brought a strange new form of fiction called (though I didn’t know it at the time) British comic fantasy–Terry Pratchett’s Mort, in fact. One of the main characters is the Grim Reaper, who speaks in blocky all-capitals. He had a horse named Binky. This was the funniest thing sixth-grade me had ever heard of.

I spent a lot of time after that writing notes to Michele in the voice of Terry Pratchett’s Grim Reaper, and eventually his writing became mine all the time. On the one hand, it’s sort of morbid to have transformed myself into Death. On the other hand, it beats being transformed into any of the other voices I used when writing notes to Michele (a caveman; an idiot cultist named Brother Dimbulb; a cheese who addressed Michele as Mama Cow Man for some reason, etc.).

I don’t know why I felt compelled to write all this down, except that now that I’ve seen the header of this post, I know what the title of my autobiography should be.

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