When “Kids Say The Darndest Things” potentially goes bad

In 1995, Bill Cosby hosted a show on CBS called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” In it, Cosby would simply ask children questions and carry on a conversation. He would masterfully revolve the conversation around whatever the young child might say.

Here is one example:

Cosby: “Of your parents, who is the boss of the family?” 

Chlid: “My mom.” 

The audience audibly groans and Cosby gives the small boy a blank look.

Cosby: “Why?”

Child: “Because my mom bought most of the land.”

Laughter followed.

Any parent knows this happens when you have conversations with children. They can say things that adults most of the time can’t get away with. Their innocence and honesty at an early age is endearing, sometimes embarrassing, and oftentimes hilarious–no matter how hard we try to hold our laughter.

My brother has a little girl named Dorothy (I’m giving you the name she sometimes likes to be called after Dorothy on The Wizard of Oz instead of her real name). She has a bubbly, ebullient personality that brings joy to anyone who comes into her presence. She is very smart (my brother says it is because she has half of my brain) and has a HUGE imagination.

She can turn any room and situation into one of her favorite movies: either the aforementioned Wizard of Oz or Frozen. She can act out all the scenes from the movies and recruit others to fill other roles. She knows all the lines, all the songs and can show genuine emotion during any recitation. She is a phenomenal little girl and I love her so much.

However . . .

There was this one time I thought she was going to get us killed. Briefly. Because of something she said in a restaurant.

My brother and I live in the same North Carolina town outside of Charlotte. When our parents come to visit us from out-of-state, one of our traditions is going out to eat as a family. Occasionally, our sister from nearby Greenville, SC travels up I-85 to come join us.

We let our parents pick the place they want to eat, and they’ve developed a few favorites over the years. The place we went this time was a local, family owned barbecue place called Troutman’s in Concord. Many of the patrons at this place were either large families. older couples or retired farmers and vets dining by themselves.

It was one of the latter whom I believed wanted to kill us.

As we had a large group, we were seated in the middle of the dining area at a big table. We had placed our orders and were catching up on current news and gossip with our parents while waiting for our food to be served. It sometimes takes a long while between the time an order is placed and the time the food actually comes out at this place. We knew that beforehand. It’s worth it because A) my dad enjoys the food, and B) we get time to catch up with each other.

Dorothy was probably three-years-old at the time and full of questions, comments and one-liners. Like most children, anytime they have to be in public and can not do what they want to do, they get restless. She asked repeatedly if we could go outside and play while we waited and only played briefly with my brother’s I-Phone before losing interest.

Not finding something in her immediate vicinity to keep her occupied, she got quiet and started to look around.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a people watcher. I love being at a busy mall food court and just watching the interesting waves of humanity that surrounds me. I believe young Dorothy is a lot like me in this way.

There were some older couples sitting along the wall, one small family and one man dining by himself. It was this singular man who caught and held her attention. Because Dorothy and I seem to share this “people watching” gene, he grabbed mine as well. The others at our table went about their conversations, unaware of the situation unfolding around them.

He was hunched over his table facing in our direction, cradling a steaming cup of coffee. He looked like he was probably in his sixties, had a red bandana over his head and wisps of gray hair fluttering around the edges of it. He didn’t have a beard, but you could tell he had not shaved in days. He wore a camouflaged military jacket that had sleeves going just past his elbows exposing his forearms. On the exposed skin were looking tattoos of snakes, skulls and other scary imagery. His most notable feature was a black patch over his right eye.

As he stared blankly at the table in front of him, eyes never leaving the steam rising from the bland coffee, his lips flared in an eternal snarl, I wondered what events in his life had brought him here. His face was a map of deep-set wrinkles, leaving me to believe he had had a hard life and had seen many bad things. His hard expression simmered with hate, loathing and everything in between.

Everything about this man said “Leave Me Alone.”

Dorothy did not sense the abhorrence of mankind coming from this solitary man that I did. Her eyes studied him for several minutes as she sat on her knees in the chair, facing in his direction. She wasn’t bothering anyone. No one paid her any attention. She was just looking around. The old man had not looked up from his coffee. He was seemingly unaware of her interest.

Then it happened.

She sat up straighter in her chair. She was ready to reveal the thought that had formed in her young, innocent mind.

She grabbed her daddy’s–my brother’s–sleeve to get his attention.

He turned to face her. “What is it, sweetie?”

She gave him the most beatific smile, pointed at the old man, and said in an innocuous, happy voice loud enough for everyone in a five-mile radius to hear, “Look daddy! It’s a pirate!”

My whole world went silent. All my focus was on the old man. She was right. He did resemble a pirate. I pictured him pulling out a knife and murdering everyone in my family. For the first time since I started watching him, he reacted.

He took a sidelong glance at Dorothy. His head did not move. Just his eyes. He stared at her for a hard second. It felt like an infinite amount of time to me. Then, he did the thing I least expected (because I fully expected to die): his eyes moved back to his coffee mug, took a sip, grimaced and went on as before.

He made no sudden moves. Did not look back in our direction for the rest of our meal.

Soon afterwards, our food arrived. We ate. We conversed. We left.

Dorothy thought nothing of it again as her chicken strips kept her occupied for the rest of our meal. She just smiled as she always does.

Kids say the darndest things.

Every good pirate story needs a treasure map: here’s mine

A little behind-the-scenes from the creation of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.

At the beginning of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, archivist Darwin Trickett discovers, among other things, a treasure map he believes was drawn by none other than Blackbeard himself.

However, there are no markings on the map besides a big X indicating the treasure’s location and the inscription: treasurre buried 23 paces in by the large oak under the falling sun where dolphinss gather.

This finding propels Darwin and his only friend Lucas on an adventure to try to find the mysterious site on the map.

About halfway through the writing of the novel, I knew that this map would play a huge role in the story and wanted to have one made. So, I commissioned a graphic artist to create one for me.

Here it is. I would say “good luck” in trying to figure out what the map depicts, or you could read Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure to see if Darwin and Lucas are able to decipher it.

kidney scroll map

 

My model for Blackbeard in Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

Blackbeard FigureA little behind-the-scenes from Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.

This Blackbeard figure served as my model for the pirate during the writing of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.
I got this during a research trip to Bath, NC – the town where the notorious pirate lived before his death.

I visited the Pirate’s Treasure Shop on S Main St. and met the owner/proprietor, a sweet older woman named Alethia. She took the time to answer many of my questions about Blackbeard and Bath.

Some of that conversation ended up in the novel.

Q&A with author Caleb Wygal

Caleb WygalEvery now and then, I get questions from readers. In this article, I answer some of those questions.

If you have any questions for me, please leave them in the comments section below, and I will answer them in a future Q&A.

Here goes:

How do you get inspired to write?

My inspiration comes from within. Many years ago, I thought to myself, “I know that life is short. How can I leave something that will leave a mark, and possibly be discovered by someone a hundred or a thousand years in the future?”

Writing a book was my answer. Now that I’ve completed a third, half of another, and started a fifth, it’s an addiction. I am driven to complete what I started, and I want to do it in the best possible way.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

I got the idea while I was on vacation in South Carolina. My wife and I watched a show on the History Channel about pirates, and Blackbeard in particular. It struck me that he had been in the same waters three hundred years before.

During that same week, I learned about how the first settler to the island we were on had his plantation destroyed in an attack by unknown pirates.

I asked the question to myself: What if that was Blackbeard?

Thus, the idea for Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure was born.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid of what others will think of your writing. Let it come from the heart. Write with the door closed, and don’t open it to others until you have your first draft complete.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I love being able to create worlds and craft characters. My two main characters in Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, Darwin and Lucas, grow as the story goes on, and by the end, they have a different outlook on life.

Sometimes, as with my murder mystery A Murder in Concord, I like setting an elaborate scene with a dead body dropped in the middle of it. Lucas found himself as the only suspect and took it upon himself to clear his name. To do that, he had to figure out the puzzle for himself during the book while having to run from another character with, um, bad intentions.

For me, the challenge was figuring it out myself on the fly. That was fun.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Take a shower or go for a drive. I kid you not, most of my best ideas come from those two places.

What are you currently working on?

An action/adventure novel about the search for the Fountain of Youth using the same cast of characters from Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.

When you want a hooker, don’t go to this area of Monroe, NC

20160526_143627My wife and I were recently traveling through Monroe, NC and came to an intersection and saw this sign.

I had to stop and take a picture. It wasn’t a busy intersection and it was in an older commercial area of the town.

Our questions were: Why is this sign here? Is prostitution that big of a problem in this town? Does this imply that we can go elsewhere in town and find some action? And, now where are we supposed to go the next time we’re looking for a hooker on a Thursday afternoon?