I remember asking the Ritter Elementary School librarian for a book on Spielberg in the 1988-1989 school year. I waited two weeks for it. Every other day, I’d bother her about the book, but the date of arrival never changed.
At age 8, I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. He made daydreams come to life. He turned regular people into giants. A rainbow always shined in the end, and evil always lost. My world was my family, my home, and a movie theater, and I could see no other calling.
At age 42, I just want to live well and write well and maybe have a wider audience. I try and sometimes succeed at the first one every day. I feel better about the second. Maybe I’ll have the third eventually, but I think I’ll be okay if it never happens. Until then, I finally own that Spielberg book.
One-and-a-half trips around The Sun today, Emile. There will be no party, but I celebrate all the same.
You are here. You are healthy and strong and absorbing new words faster than I ever could. You were meant to be here and will inherit the world in ways that I could not.
There was a time when my head was a carnival of light, my son. Thoughts, ideas, and emotions all intertwined in a kaleidoscopic feast, and I believed that if I just put it out there, put it on paper or film or on stage, people would understand me. I was convinced I was here to save the world and show them things hidden under the blanket of their fixed views and idealogy.
But no one seemed to care, and I engaged in a protracted and misanthropic self-conversation that robbed me of joy and gratification with even the most delectable of occasions.
It doesn’t matter what they think of me anymore, at least not like it used to. I see the psychedelic-Kodachrome cavalcade in your smile and I am reborn. It makes its way down the abandoned roads of my soul, and some days I think I can see barren fields filled with life again. I ask myself, “How could I ever have allowed others such power over me? How could anyone torture themselves as I did?”
I will be your audience, my son. I will be your witness. I know that if I can do anything it will be to see you in your most noble and extraordinary wardrobe, a tapestry of confidence and sweetness patched together with no visible seams. I will be your champion. The world doesn’t know what they’re in for like I do.
Happy 18 months old, Emile. We’ve come so far in such a short time, and we have miles and miles to go. Sometimes I wonder what I would do for a few miles more.
Your Daddy writes to be heard. Your Daddy writes to let the world know that he’s here. Your Daddy writes because he feels that he has something to say, a message that needs to be delivered and pulled out of his gut like some-type of science fiction movie. Your Daddy writes to not be interrupted when he speaks. Your Daddy writes to be loved. Your Daddy hopes to be understood, but at this point feels that most people will never understand him. Your Daddy writes because he cannot say what he means on the top of his head without the other person giving him time to think or respond. If Daddy were to try to verbally express what you’re reading now, he would sound like the under-educated, working class kid that he was. Your Daddy writes because he’s an artist. Your Daddy is an artist, someone that sees things so…
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A mini-story from my mini-book, So You Say You Want An 80s Childhood?
The Homework Thief
Brian Ross was my friend.
“Are you friends with Brian?” Anna said to me, sitting on the floor in gym class. “I think he puts mayonnaise in his hair.”
“No, he doesn’t,” I said.
“Yeah,” Frieda said. “He smells like my lunch bag.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Brian Ross was my friend, even if he were to put peanut butter on his head. Brian liked what I liked on TV, and we could play the same characters every recess without my having to tell him about them. He was the only other kid that laughed at my cartoon jokes and references. Brian Ross was my friend. Then Brian Ross stole my homework.
It was there in the bin. I told Mrs. Cain that I swore I did my homework and put it there when I arrived at 8am. So she looked through all of last night’s assignments and pulled it out. I could see my name erased and Brian’s name now on top of it.
“That’s it,” I said. “I know because I wrote my name nice and big.”
Mrs. Cain turned to the class. “Alright, let’s go to lunch. Marc and Brian I want you to stay behind.”
At recess, my classmates surrounded me, trying to piece together what happened.
“He tried to make it look like it was his homework?”
“Did he ask to take it?”
“Is he getting in trouble?
I answered the questions as fast as they were given, and I assured them that I didn’t give him the assignment. I liked this feeling, this attention. It felt good. All eyes were on me for the first time in a very long time. The boys even stopped playing kickball to question me, and the hopscotch girls left their beanbags unguarded. This was nice.
Within two minutes, they’d gotten all the information they needed, and I ran out of things to tell them. They began to talk amongst each other about Brian.
“Yeah, he smells like ham sandwich.”
“He took my pencil.”
“Why’s he always dirty?”
They kept going on about different circumstances involving Brian. I laughed at a joke without even hearing the punchline.
“Mrs. Lee looked mad,” I said.
They kept talking.
“He got upset.”
They kept talking.
“I think he’s scared.”
They kept talking.
“He picks his nose too.”
They looked at me.
“I know. I saw it,” Lucy said. “He does it all the time.”
I continued, “He used to be my friend, but he acts stupid sometimes.”
“He thinks he’s funny,” Elvin said.
Their circle opened up, enough for me to fit in. It was as though they made the perfect spot for me with my name on it. I walked forward. The circle closed again. I was in. I was there. I was one with the rest.
Brian walked out of the building and onto the playground pavement. His head was pointed down to the ground as he zipped up his thin red jacket. The kids turned towards him. I backed away just a bit.
He stopped and scanned the playground, then turned and looked at me. I looked away. A kid in the group said something that made the other kids laugh. I chuckled at the joke without even hearing the punchline.
by Marc Alexander Valle
“You guys want to stay here and watch Transformers,” my dad said. “Or do you want to go on a ride?”
My older brother voted to stay at the department store to finish the episode on a big screen color TV.
I voted for the ride.
“Well, you guys have to figure this out,” my dad said.
I turned to my brother, “I want to go on a ride.”
“I want to watch Transformers,” my brother said.
“I want to go for a ride!”
“I never saw this on a big TV.”
“What’s the ride?” I said to my dad.
“Well, you’re not going to see until you get on?”
“I want to go on a ride,” I said to my brother.
“I don’t want to go,” he said.
“But you’ve seen this one,” my dad said.
“Yeah, we saw it!” I said.
“I want to go!”
I want to gooooooooo!
He looked over, “No.”
I turned to my dad: “I want to go for a ride.”
“Well,” he said. “Since you guys can’t decide, you can watch this at home.”
“But it’s gonna be over then,” my brother said.
“It’ll come on again.”
We went on the ride. It was a five-story, downward spiral car ramp. The one we were always going to ride if we wanted to leave the parking lot.
by Marc Alexander Valle
The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its pinkish hue and a warm breeze hit his face.
“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”
“No,” he said.
“Then no,” she said.
But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep in the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for soda, lying on the grassy field with the late morning sun warming him enough to feel bliss.
He looked back down. Then kept squirming and picking up dirt.
“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”
He thought of candy then reached down and picked it up.
He could feel its life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. Candy would be pointless, he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” Then he imagined roast chicken instead.
“I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”
He popped it in his mouth and could feel it slither then contract, the dirt turning to grim on his tongue. He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly and he could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching the stomach.
He opened his eyes and looked to her.
“Yuck,” she said.
He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.
His lips touched hers.
But he felt nothing in return. He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return. He stepped forward and moved his face closer to her. But he felt nothing in return. He could feel nothing but the dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.
She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.
“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”
As he held onto his gut crunched over he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight. The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom.
He could hear the bird chirping and an animal moving in the brush. He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded for two days.
Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.
Any feedback on the video or poem will help. Written, filmed and performed by mavthewriter.
My newest flash fiction video. Written, performed, and filmed by mavthewriter.
I never wanted to be a writer first. I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. At age 8, I asked the school librarian if she had a book on Spielberg.
She said, “No, but he’s a very interesting person. I think I’ll look for one and order it.”
I kept going back to the librarian nearly every day to see if she found the book and she eventually ordered it.
“It’ll take two weeks to get here,” she said. Once again, I went to the library every day and asked to see if the book arrived. I thought that maybe asking for it would speed up the process and ever time she told me that it takes two weeks to get to the school.
So as I waited, I tried to imagine what the book would look like and what it would say about Spielberg. I wanted to know about every movie that he made and what it would take to be a movie director. All I knew was that this was the man behind all of my daydream fantasies, and he got paid big houses and cars to make them. Movies allowed me to explore a more courageous side of myself that was not manifested in my interpersonal social life. I could be anyone I wanted after the credits started to roll, and I believed that I had a few characters of my own to share.
When the book arrived it was thinner than I thought, but I opened it and took in the new book smell. I could hear the glue of the bindings and the hard cover crackle. The pictures were in color, and I sat down to take them in.
I can’t remember exactly what was said about him in the book. Over the years I would take in more information about him and all the information seems to conflate to that book. But I do remember that this was the first time that I read a book that was purely informational. Until this day, I’m good at absorbing trivial information and consider myself an info junkie. I have so much data in my head that it fuels my imagination and serves as points of references in my mind. This book started it all.
The book didn’t help me become a filmmaker, but it helped me see the world more critically as non-fiction has allowed me to do. It helped me become a better writer and artist, who work deals with the critical analysis of reality and its nature.