Who is that kid on the front page of the website? That’s Doc. He’s one of the main characters in the first book of Friday Night Monster Club. In fact, he’s the founder.
Way back when, while we were still deciding what this book would be about, we decided to write some character short stories– just little snippets that wouldn’t appear anywhere in the books– that would help us to understand what kind of people we were creating. So, for your reading pleasure, and hopefully to whet your appetite for the book itself, here is Doc’s character story.
It was Saturday. It was early, about 6:30. Across the town lay a patchwork of quilts, protecting the merchandise from the dewy grass. Soon swarms of people began scouring other people’s yards in search of a sale. Anything you could dream of buying. Anything you could dream of getting rid of. Board games. Variety packs of engine oil. Every device ever designed to keep a baby confined in one place, most with signs of hard struggle. Books, manuals, an occasional microwave, bicycles, tricycles, training wheels, roller blades in all stages of annihilation. And parts. Parts of things. Parts of everything that had ever been a whole thing. Parts whose owners had finally admitted that they would never be a whole thing again. Parts whose owners clung to the hope that someone else would see their potential and would– for a quarter or a dollar– purchase their guilt for projects never accomplished.
Only the parts interested Doc, nothing else. He had a fascination for how things could be made into other things. The laws of the universe would never allow these parts to go back into their original design, but they could become something better. Doc walked straight past several rows of fruit stained baby onesies to a table full of parts, many of them poured into old hubcaps. One contained a bunch of wires. One contained a bunch of hooks that could have been used– in a more orderly life– to hang things neatly on a peg board in a garage. One looked like a rusty robot had barfed into it. Wires, angled frames, toggle switches, a bottle brush, a Swiss Army knife, and a few hinges. And one barely contained the blades of a ceiling fan, its motor resting separately aside.
Doc looked coolly at the assortment.
“How much for all of it?” he asked an overweight man in black shorts and a black t-shirt with a skull and the faded letters of some band name on it. “Crawlers” was the only word clearly legible.
The man sniffed his interest, and smelled a sale.
“Three dollars a container or ten for the whole thing.”
Doc took a second to look slightly shocked and hurt, and glanced at his pocket, as if to will $10 to appear there. His face clearly registered that his hopes of building a backyard rocket that would win the blue ribbon at the science fair had just vanished.
A woman in a thick, plaid housecoat came over almost immediately and nearly shouted, “GOOD GOD, GORDY! Get that garbage—“ she paused here for a thick fit of coughing as her sudden movement had obviously disturbed a layer of phlegm somewhere in her inner atmosphere. “Get that… get—“ one final hack and she was able to say, “Three dollars and take it, kid. Get it out of my house.”
She launched this last sentence directly at Gordy, rather than Doc. This gave Doc the opportunity to check his pockets to make sure he pulled out several one dollar bills rather than the ten he had stashed there. Doc pulled out the bills one at a time and handed them to the woman.
“Thank you sweet heart” she said. “Whatchu got planned for this stuff? You gonna do a project or sumpthing?”
Gordy grunted a sarcastic chuckle.
“Something like that.” Doc said.
Doc even got a box to carry everything out of the deal. He headed to the car.
Doc’s mom had also fared pretty well. She came away with some kid size ballerina outfits, and about 20 pieces of assorted sized dowel rod. The ballerina outfits were useless except for some interesting silk patterns across the front. The rest would be in the trash by nighttime. His mom understood the economics of successful yard saling. Find a diamond in the rough. Find the pearl in the swine trough, then trash the trough. Keep what’s valuable and get rid of the rest. Stuff goes to a yard sale precisely because it’s worthless, precisely because people can’t face the fact that they own rooms full of worthless junk. She mined the nuggets, and relieved the world of the rest. Doc took after his mother. When they arrived home, he dropped all the assorted nuts and bolts and most of the wires in the trash. He already had more than enough of all that. The valuables he took to the shed.
His dad didn’t buy anything. His dad was a car salesman, not a yard salesman. He loved to talk to people about their cars. He loved to talk to people about their dreams. He loved to talk to people about their dreams of a new car. Doc took after his father as well. His scene with Mrs. Housecoat hadn’t exactly involved her dreams, but he had let her see his dreams, just enough to invest a few parts into them: fan blades, motor, and some spring hinges to be exact.