Another compliment Miss Griffiths paid me on my report card (See my blog “Lower School”) was to note I wrote “fine stories.”
She had us write one a week. She divided us into groups, within which we read our stories to each other. Each group then selected a story to be read to the entire class. My stories were always selected. I wrote an series about a small band of soldiers, either in World War II or Korea, rich in camaraderie, like the Blackhawks, but only one story survives, and it is none of these. [Author’s Note: I wonder if this band and my quest for the right gang of buddies to hang with represented an effort to re-establish the “happy” family that had been lost following my sister’s death. Readers are welcome to keep this in mind.]
“Dog Net,” which is the surviving story, parodied the TV show “Dragnet” and was heavily influenced by my admiration of “MAD” comics. It was also a ground-breaking example of appropriation art. I did not tell Miss Griffiths but the idea – and some of the material – came from my neighborhood pal, Mickey Kipper, who’d regaled me with his recollections of a comedian he’d heard on the tube..
In any event, Miss Griffiths called “Dog Net” to the attention of Mrs. Woerner, the head of the Upper School’s English department, and Mrs Woerner selected it for inclusion in “The Literary Supplement,” a (to me) unheard of honor for a Lower School student. [Mrs. Woerner would become a great champion of mine in the Upper School. She continued to admire my writing – but not my spelling and punctuation – and she never gave me an “O.”]
The distinction of having my story selected for “The Literary Supplement,” at the time, had less impact on my sense of who I was or whom I might become than had my inability to handle overhand pitching, which had eliminated my plans to play first base for the Phillies. But it stuck with me. When you do not have an abundance of successes, you keep those you do accrue, neatly at hand. “Dog Net” was probably in my mind the afternoon I sat down across from Professor Leviathan (See my blog “How I Became a Writer ii”). But I had the good sense not to mention it.
Here is how it began (slightly edited). Be warned, it does not stand the test of time:
“This is the kennel. 2500 dogs. I see ‘em all. I’m a police dog. .ARF… arf-ARF arf.We were working on a homicide detail. My partner’s name is Spotty. The boss is Captain Tige. My name’s Rover. ARF… arf-ARF arf.”