I looked down at my bed and thought about what I needed to pack. I was leaving to visit my parents in the suburbs of Philadelphia and the weather had been somewhat erratic of late, making it difficult to select a proper wardrobe for a three day trip. Whenever I pack, I try and consider all possible options.
What if it gets colder? What if it rains? What if I’m called upon to make a speech at a black-tie charity gala? What if, while during a game of tackle football in the mud, Natalie Portman arrives and says she has an extra ticket to Paris but that we’d need to leave right away? And what if we traveled there via sailboat?
These are all viable concerns.
Thankfully I have a very limited selection of clothing to choose from, so I just pack everything I own. By the time I’m finished, my blue duffel bag looks like a middle-aged Smurf with cellulite. It’s normally not until I arrive at my destination that I realize I’ve packed everything except those things that are actually necessary. Sure I don’t have my contact lens case, but thank god I’ve remembered nine pair of socks and the candle that sits next to my bed. You never know when you’ll be in a blackout with cold feet.
By nature I’m compulsively early for everything and I normally arrive at Penn Station about thirty minutes early, killing time by leaning against a wall and furtively debating the ages of navel-exposed girls that pass by. That morning I decided to force myself to wait around for an additional ten minutes and by the time I finally did leave my apartment, I applauded myself on this newfound discipline.
Forty minutes later when I was sprinting through Times Square, I was not as congratulatory.
I had gotten the only female cab driver in Manhattan and not only was she more than happy to let everyone get in front of her, including garbage trucks, she stopped at yellow lights and braked for pigeons. And after each good deed, she’d make the sign of the cross on her forehead and tap a large crucifix hanging from the rearview mirror. When she pulled over to give a homeless man money, I jumped out and began running to the station.
I arrived just in time to make my train but was still furious when I took my seat.
“Stupid God-loving freak motherfucking asshole cab driving piece of shit son of a…”
And then I noticed the young boy sitting across the aisle.
“Oh…hi there, bud. Sponge Bob, huh? He’s cool.”
“I have a backpack and another shirt and a toy and a movie with him. He lives in the sea and has friends and I have friends too.”
I glanced at his mother and she was shooting me a violent, “You’re just like my ex-husband” stare. I shrugged and returned it with a sheepish, “I’m an asshole” grin before putting on my headphones and turning to look out the window. I could see her reflection and watched as she explained why people like me exist.
The mother and son got off the train in Trenton but not before she threw in one final look of disgust. I still felt bad but by the time I got to my parent’s house the little regret I had was replaced by a hunger for free food. After pleasantries were exchanged with the family and dozens of cookies were crammed in my mouth, my mom informed me that she’d recently discovered a journal when she was cleaning out my childhood room.
And like any good mother, she had read it.
Journal? What journal? Jesus Christ, what did I write in that? What did I confess to? Were there men in white coats in the other room? Was that a van parked outside when I came in? Is Mexico a non-extradition country? Is my passport still current? Did I pack the right clothes?
I grabbed the book from her and ran out onto the porch to destroy the evidence, briefly wondering if she had made copies. My father is a lawyer…there were ALWAYS copies. I sat in a chair and tore through the pages, scanning for any chapters or drawings that might eventually be labeled Exhibits A & B. Some pictures fell from the back and I scooped them into my pocket as deftly as a crackhead would his stash. I’d eat them if I had to.
By the time I got to the end of the journal, not only had I not found anything damaging, I changed my mindset completely and called my family onto the porch to join me.
“Would you like to get a glimpse inside the mind of a young genius?”
“More like a young idiot.”
My sister had arrived. She is 23 but can still be immature sometimes so it’s up to me to always set a good example.
“Whatever, at least I could read and write as a child. So you’re the idiot. Idiot.”
I turned to my mom, who was no doubt gazing proudly on her children, and thanked her for not throwing the journal away. After all, this wasn’t just an ordinary book…it contained the childhood musings of what would one day become a great man. This journal, nay, this pubescent memoir, would likely end up in a museum, under glass and labeled, “The Formative Years.”
My family wasn’t completely convinced. So I decided to prove it by reading a few choice passages.
The journal itself was a hardcover, about seven inches by five inches and emblazoned with the Irish flag both front and back. On the side of the pages was written carefully, “PRIVATE: KEEP OUT.” Even as a young boy, I understood the value of discretion.
Obviously a child familiar with proper book structure, I’d made the first page a title page and labeled it, “Sean’s Journal.” The top right corner showed the date. “Sept 5, 1989.” I was six years old. The penmanship…was perfect.
The first entry in the journal was dated Sept 6 and written in pencil. It said,
“Today we went to Roy Rogers and we had a Good time.”
Hey, Ernest Hemingway? You just got owned.
Today we went to Roy Rogers and we had a Good time. Simple, direct, declarative…brilliant. What else need be written? I was a child who saw no use for superfluous drivel and instead opted for hardened prose that shrewdly skewered the soft underbelly of antiquated domestic puffery.
The word “Good” was capitalized. Why? A mistake? Surely not. Instead I was commenting on the very meaning of the word “good” as it relates to the daily activities of plebian families that feel the need to frequent fast-food chain restaurants. By capitalizing “good”, I was being ironic, deftly lampooning what constituted a “good” time during the end of the Reagan years and the beginning of a booming decade known simply as, “The Nineties.”
Yes, it was difficult being so young with so much presence. It weighed on me. It does still.
After the subtext was explained to my still unconvinced family, I flipped a few pages further and got to more juicy material.
My first novel.
It was written about a month after I turned seven and modestly titled, “The Boy Who Wanted to Fly.” My publisher (well, my future publisher) will probably tell me giving this content away for free was a mistake, but I don’t care. Copyright be damned…this was written for the public and my public it must see. And so, I present to you (in its original form, language and structure) “The Boy Who Wanted to Fly”, by Sean Carney.
“Onece there was a boy named Jim. He wanted to fly. He jumped off a hill, but that did not work, but then he said to Jesus, “Jesus, may you make me fly?” Jesus said, “OK.” Then Jim went to the hill and jumped and he flew. He said thank you and from that day on he flew. But one day he got tiered then he said to Jesus, “Jesus, I woulde like to fly but onece in a while, so when I pray to you, may I fly?” Jesus said, “Of cose you can.” He then thanked Jesus again and whenever he prayed, he flew. The end.”
JK Rowling, if you’re reading this, good luck trying to pass it off as yours. We all know you can’t hang at this level. Oh, you created a wizard who flew on broomsticks?! My boy Jim is flying SOLO, bitch. But your broom thing is neat too. Didn’t witches do that? No, it’s cool. Hack.
I know what you’re wondering. Is it natural to cry after reading that story? Yes, it’s an emotional tale. It’s a boy praying to Jesus Christ for the power of flight and, upon receiving that tremendous gift, the boy says, “Wait a minute there, JC. I don’t need to fly all of the time. Please limit my power; I don’t want to be selfish.”
Oh yeah, did I mention I wrote that shit at seven years old? AND there was a picture? Mozart composed his first symphony at five years old, but didn’t perform it until he was nine. I wrote and illustrated my first novel at seven. Just sayin.
And I heard Mozart’s first symphony sucked.
After a few more days at my parent’s house, I tucked the journal into my giant blue duffel bag next to clothes I never ended up wearing. I boarded a train back to New York and took a seat beside another young boy, this one without Sponge Bob toys and the bitter menstruating mother. Instead he was playing a video game and as he punched away at the controls, I wondered if he kept a journal.
This boy’s journal would likely be on an iPad or some other electronic device, but I hoped he had one. And one day when he was older he could look back on it and remember his high score from the video game and how proud it made him. Or that train ride he took to New York when he was younger and the brilliant 28 year-old man he sat next to… that stared and observed him.
I looked over and saw his mother, a woman with kind eyes who smiled and nodded when she saw me do the same. Content and relaxed, I turned away towards the window… and spilled coffee all over my lap.
“Oh FUCK! Fuck! Fuck, that’s hot. Fuck me! Ow! Motherfucker!”
And as I looked in the window at the horrified faces of the passengers, I silently prayed to Jesus for the ability to fly away.