Folly of Youth

I've been caught in a lie. In the Fiction section of this site, I make claims about my first published work. Recently, someone reminded me these claims are false.

Senior year in High School, some mumble-mumble years ago, a very good friend ascended to editor of the school newspaper. He urged me to write something, anything! Three quarters of the paper was devoted to sports coverage. He wanted to shake things up. I obliged.

I went digging in the archives and found the clippings, faded to a nice beige. My work was derivative (in one story I even state 'This is based on the work of Kurt Vonnegut') and attempts to shock the reader without being particularly shocking. There's thinly veiled animosity toward authority (e.g. the Principal and Vice Principals). And it is clear the editor was giving a pass to his friend by not editing. I was also surprised.

The stories have a wry tone. There is a subtle dry humor. The themes are shot through with the absurd.

I recognize this writer from so long ago. It's strange. I like that aspects of my style, I might even say writing voice, haven't changed much. But it does make me wonder ...

I'm not going to over analyze it. And I'm going to reprint one article I wrote, mostly to thank that person of reminding me when I really first got published. It's below the break (it's rather long) and the subject is appropriate to the season. Hope you enjoy reading it.

The following is reprinted from the Marshfield High School Masthead,
December of 1984.

Holiday Gift Guide
by Todd Wheeler

The gift giving season is upon us. Literally thousands of people are afflicted with indecision: what to get him/her/it. What to get for the person who has everything/nothing/something. Some go for the traditional: ties, appliances, flowers, food; some for the cheap: batteries, crayons, lightbulbs, dirt, Cheetos. This article is to give some ideas to those who always check the none of the above box.

Does that special/unspecial/worthless someone enjoy passing his time reading? Why not get him/her/it the Complete Works of Mankind? Yes, it will take three generations of slave labor to pay for it, but in the long run it's worth it.

Perhaps the gift receiver is into lighter reading. Then Yogurt: Fact or Fiction may be for him. On the lighter side, there is 1001 Ways to Offend People. Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.

For music lovers there is a whole plethora of new records from Wronko, just for the holidays.

There's the Orson Welles "Eating, Munching and Midnight Snacking" record. This star tells of the many ways to gain weight. Some of the selections are: "Deli Delving", "Pastry for Your Face", and "Food: God's Gift to Man". For those who like less intellectual recordings, there's "50 Noices Usually Related to Digestion". Of course there's the annual release of the "Best of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir".

If none of the previous appealed to your sense of adventure, perhaps some of these miscellaneous items will be perfect for that inebreated/freaked out/insane someone.

Tired of having doors slam on a windy day? Why not get a life size solid lead Jackie Gleason doorstop? This two-ton conversation piece will keep your door open even in the event of a nuclear holocaust.

Is that special/mediocre/pestering someone paranoid? Does he/she/it get terrible headaches and talk about the relevance of Proust to fruit? Perhaps what he/she/it needs is a good ol' fashioned lobotomy. Lobotomies have been scientifically proven to cure paranoia, schizophrenia, kleptomania, dipsomania, pathological lying, monomania, melancholia, megalomania, lunacy, manic-depressiveness, homicidal mania and the rare phenomenon of pencil neck geekness. Do it today; you may be saving more than one life.

Stuck for a gift for children? Get a simple gift. Stuck for a gift for simple children? Go basic; go cork. Few people realize that cork is one of the best learning tools for kids who are downright stupid. If you fear them too stupid for cork, there's always the alternative of felt. Hours of enjoyment are guaranteed for the exceptionally doltish.

If you're still undecided about a gift, take a look at these suggestions.

Hitler's brain. Recycled paper. A Black and Decker staplegun. Elvis' prescription bottle caps. Imitation leather Lawrence Welk book bags. Two Roman numerals made of balsa wood. Vague rumors of a sex change. Membership in the Charles Manson Fan Club. The official cream cheese of the 1984 Olympics. Noxious fumes. Styrofoam dishware. Natalie Wood life preservers. Inflatable Elizabeth Taylor oven mitts. Curtain rods of 15 European nations.

Still undecided? Well, there are people in this world who are never satisfied. Best to forget their address and be done with them once and for all. Remember: in the words of Stu the Djiboutian, overhand bocci champion: "Keep your sales slips; the IRS is watching you"


I detect a definite dry humor

I detect a definite dry humor here. And evidence of a very well-rounded and intelligent high schooler. Thanks for sharing :) It is a gift to find old writings, isn't it?

I'm looking at it as a gift.

I'm looking at it as a gift. The alternative, dwelling on the negative, is not helpful.

Thanks for resurrecting that,

Thanks for resurrecting that, Todd--it made me laugh all over again. I'm particularly glad to be reminded of the Jackie Gleason doorstop. How have I lived all this time without one?

I have you to thank for

I have you to thank for mentioning it, Derek. Otherwise, it would have remained buried in a box.

It's amazing that I can

It's amazing that I can remember the line "Go basic; go cork" from 24 years ago...and it's still damn funny.

Thanks Matt! Now I know my

Thanks Matt! Now I know my legacy is secure.

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