One of the neatest things about the Christmas just past is the fact that, for the first time, the three oldest grandkids gave me and Pa-pa gifts they had made themselves. Sooby, 10, made a bright multi-colored tissue paper flower, complete with the scent of her mama's perfume, that I stuck in the dirt alongside my Christmas cactus.
Pooh capitalized on his love of Hardy Boys mysteries to write five "chapters" of his own story, Fred and John in the Haunted Castle. Either because he got tired or because he ran out of time, Chapter 5 ends with a cliffhanger that, in an introductory note, Pooh instructs me to resolve and finish.
I may not be entirely objective, granted, but the story so far seems pretty advanced for an author who is in only the third grade. Consider the following synopsis.
Fred and John (last name--Scott) are contacted by police chief Francis Key. (Am I the only one humming "The Star Spangled Banner" here?) The chief has received a call from millionaire theatre owner Jim Divenport, who reports his concern that a medieval castle on his New York (a state older than we previously thought) property may be haunted by his ancestor, King Robert. And just like that, the Scott brothers have a new case to investigate.
The brothers then accomplish the one-day drive from their Colorado home to New York (hope they had a radar detector), where Jim greets them with an English accent and has his butler (uh-oh--a suspect already?) drive the three of them to the castle (by a lake, of course) in his luxury limousine.
"It was a large stone castle," Pooh writes. "High turrets stood at each of the four corners. Mr. Divenport inserted the key into the rusty old lock and opened the huge wooden doors." Then, a few lines later, "Suddenly metal walls slammed down in front of all the exits." At the edge of your seat? Read on.
Warned by a mysterious, threatening voice that there is no chance of escape, the boys note with dismay that Jim has disappeared and a rusty piece of metal, which turns out to be an ax, protrudes from the dirt floor near them. After a struggle to retrieve the ax (reminiscent of a scene from The Sword in the Stone), they find a secret tunnel, accessed by a now-collapsed trap door, where someone truly sinister has stashed Jim.
It is then that Jim lets the boys in on a family legend. He speculates that robbers have used the ax to break the trap door and search for the fortune in gold thought to belong to the royal Divinport family of medieval times.
At this latest plot wrinkle, Fred declares that a stakeout is in order for the evening. But just as the boys are lifting Divinport from the hole, "BANG!!!!!!! A shot rang through the air." Clearly, the Divinport heir and his two youthful sleuth buddies are under attack--but a quick survey of the immediate area turns up no one.
And this is where the story, in its present state, ends and Pooh's note comes in. "Dear Googie," he says. "I wrote this book myself . . . . I made it in a special way where you can finish it. Love, [Pooh]."
In my opinion, Pooh's idea of joint authorship sounds like tremendous fun, so I will pick up the story where he left off, all right. I am thinking perhaps a flashback of some sort might add some depth and background and, maybe, lead him to consider a new fiction technique.
Then, when Pa-pa and I go to his house to celebrate his ninth birthday with him in a couple weeks, I will throw the ball back in his court and tell him to write the next part. There are quite a few pages left in the little 6 x 8-inch notebook. Who knows what drama and skullduggery might ensue?
Charming as it is, Pooh's creation is not my only Christmas keepsake. His younger sister Bootsie drew Pa-pa a Christmas card that depicts a delightful manger scene--and I'll bet my boots and yours there has never been another quite like it.
But I'll save that story for next time. Right now, I have some other important writing to get started on.
|Co-author of Fred and John in the Haunted Castle|