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             Good kids at heart, we didn't try to screw up. It's just that we were not exactly rocket scientists.

     Not Exactly Rocket Scientists and Other Stories
is a collection of "mostly, mostly true" short stories of life "writ small" in a suburban town in the 1950s and 1960s. Tied together by a certain sense of time and place, each story nevertheless stands well on its own, a nod to those with attention spans about as short as ours. In school, in sports, in the summer season of peak boyhood idiocy and even in church, we engaged the world in happy abandon, our band of buddies quick to find chaos and stupid just about anywhere. In the tradition of writers like Jean Shepherd and Garrison Keillor, our stories enjoy few triumphs, and even these were scarcely noted. Our failures, however, were many, although rarely the stuff of tragedy.

     Yes, we managed to mess up just about everything. Over in a typing class barely held together by a hapless substitute teacher, when we tried to type "it is now 1958" it came out "Ir uz nou 1498." We couldn't catch a cold playing centerfield, or even hit our IQ's -- fearfully low to begin with -- on the local ball fields. Our bowling balls knocked out everything but the pins, and our pick-up hockey games collapsed in comedic confusion when no one could agree on who owned the puck cleverly labeled "mine." Conscripted into something terrible called dancing school, we exhibited the social skills of a herd of walrus, along the way never mastering a single step. Looking for some kind of redemption, we joined up as young acolytes in church, where we piously wore something called "cassocks" -- not to be confused with Cossacks, although we were likely more dangerous than those marauding Ukranians, at least to the idea of peaceful worship. And when everyone went crazy that the Russians would beat us to the moon, we stepped right up and began building and launching our own rockets, which proved a much greater threat.     

     And the important back story throughout this collection is this: only through the patience, grace and love of the adults all around were we able to "grow up gently." The sometimes comic, sometimes bittersweet journey of our youth rested on the many broad shoulders of the "Greatest Generation." Together, they picked up the pieces as we stumbled along, and the final story in the collection is a tribute to them all.

     The book, in the end, celebrates the fragile magic of youth, the enduring miracle of friendship and the gift of remembered stories told over the years with both laughter and tears. Time has certainly softened some of the rougher edges in our memories. And like a good fish story, some of our capers have likely grown a bit over the years too. After all, stories are stories. But in their retelling we have tried to embarrass no one but ourselves. Which we think we have done quite nicely.

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