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.