Mr. Burdick’s Burden

Hello, my name is Rick C and I’m a bookaholic.

It’s true. There is always at least one book I’m making my way through, sometimes a few at a time. My backlog of to-be-read books is out of control. I’ll read pretty much any genre, but there’s one I miss terribly. Children’s picture books are among my favorite reading matter.

FrogToadArnold Lobel, Don and Audrey Wood, Rosemary Wells, Peter Spier, James Stevenson, as well as old reliables like Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. They’re my Tolstoy, Hemingway, and Faulkner. I miss having little children around to read to and it runs contrary to the societal norm for a man to read “Frog and Toad Are Friends” in public. Not that I haven’t done it anyway.

burdickNo list of children’s author/illustrators would be complete without the remarkable Chris van Allsburg, best known for his “The Polar Express”, as well as other great books that were made into mediocre movies. One of his books was an enigmatic masterpiece called, “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick”. Each page of the book consists of a magical (and sometimes downright creepy) illustration. On each facing page was written a single line from the book from which the picture was supposedly drawn (pun intended).

According to the book’s introduction, the collection of drawings and accompanying texts were dropped off at a publisher by a mysterious author named Harris Burdick, who never returned to pick them up.

All that verbiage was simply to lead up to an idea I’ve come up with for some blog posts. Since the extent of my backlog of writing ideas outstrips even that of my reading list, what better model to follow than Mr. Burdick’s? I can’t draw to save my life – hope to God I never have to – so I’ll write short snippets from stories that don’t exist, that I have ideas for but have no hope of ever pursuing. Consider them writing prompts on steroids. Maybe they are.

Confused as much as distressed, he watched the ship disappear beneath the waves, foam and oil bubbling to the surface, marking its interment. No one could possibly have survived the explosion that ended the vessel’s journey long before it reached its destination.

He still clung to the life preserver he’d carried with him when he leapt into the water just moments before the blast. The old man he’d dived in to save had certainly looked like he might drown out here, miles from any known shore. The prospect of playing the hero in front of the crowd of onlookers standing on the deck, some of whom were attractive young women, had triggered a shot of adrenaline that made him perform an act that was as uncharacteristic of him as the peaceful, beckoning look was on the face of the old man.

Now the ship was gone, the sea slowly settling from turbulent to placid. What had happened to that man?

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