Guess what day it iiiiisssss! Guess what day it is! MikeMikeMikeMikeMike…you know what day it is. It is not Tuesday (yes, I am aware). But it is Hump Day and that has to count for something. And, as an aside, I cannot be the only person who thinks Denzel is voicing that camel, am I? I keep waiting for him to say something about sending people to Pelican Bay.
Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about something—anything—and I choose (like this is the Hunger Games) 7 little words that changed my life: Hey, you know what we could do?
When I was a kid, my brother would promise the most exhilarating and potentially painful adventures with these simple words. It didn’t matter what it was: sliding down the steps in laundry baskets (they tip forward and you bust your face), riding down the sledding hill on the backs on Tonka trucks (it was AWESOME!), making a tape recorded news show full of farts and blaming it on my sister, selling peeks in Playboy magazines to neighborhood kids (that was wholly his idea—I just took the money). Didn’t matter what it was. Didn’t matter that it would inevitably end in Band-Aids and butt whippings. Whatever it was, with those 7 little words, I was down.
When he figured out how to make 3000 juniors from 9 different schools in the Twin Cities skip school and come to Lake Nokomis for a pizza party DURING STANDARDIZED TESTING because “it wasn’t fair seniors got a skip day and juniors didn’t,” my brother took You Know What We Could Do to another level. The St. Paul Police tried to arrest my mother for contributing to the delinquency of 3000 minors. The Catholic school we attended for one semester tried to expel all three of us. His last words, right before my mother tried to shake his teeth out his head, was “I did something you couldn’t do. You should be applauding my ingenuity.”
I did something you couldn’t do. You should be applauding my ingenuity.
Bold words from a 16-year-old, huh? At the time, I didn’t get what he was trying to do. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just fall in line, do what other people would do, adhere to the rules set before him. Stop trying to turn the world on its head. But that was then.
encouraged beaten over the head trained to ask What If questions. What if your 200-pound Saint Bernard got rabies? What if your parents got shot in front of you and you became a symbol of revenge for a crime-ridden city? What if a rich woman and young, broke artist fell in love on a doomed oceanliner? That’s what writers do. We take the things we all know and love and turn it on its head. We take life, add What If, and mix. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
My brother taught me to do something different.
My brother taught me to think completely outside the box. To approach every story saying “Hey, you know what we could do?” Tell the story of the war in Heaven from the Devil’s point of view. Examine morality from the perspective of the ones whose hands should be the cleanest. Take a slave, give her god-like power, and drop her in Harlem. In the 60s. Or in the post-9/11 Middle East.
That’s what we could do.
These days, my brother is an engineer, which means he gets paid to say Hey You Know What We Could Do and figure out how to make it happen. And since he hasn’t gotten fired, I assume he’s good at it. These days I write stories completely from left field. Because I can. Because my brother inspired me to.
And I am applauding his ingenuity. Love ya, B!
That’s the deal. Catch ya Friday!