Nothing scares me more than the birds and the bees

illustration by author

For a long time, I’ve dreaded discussing the facts of life with my son. I blame this dread on New England, where I’m from. It is a place alive and shivering with the fear of sex. Who started this fear? The anti-sex wrestling tag team: the pilgrims and the Puritans.

Why did the pilgrims wear so many buckles?

To keep all the sex in. To smother it to death.

But when you try to buckle up a natural thing, it will escape. Malcolm was right,

“Life finds a way.”

I think it comes down to a very bad equation hatched…

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It seems impossible that something as marvelous and boundless as a person could ever be gone

illustration by author

It struck me recently that most gravestones give you only a name and two numbers with a little line between them.

That’s it? I thought. What about all the stuff that makes me ME?

In the old days, stones at least said how a person died:

Jasper Billings 1802–1855
Found under boulder.

Matilda McConnel 1799–1831
Dead. Wolf-related.

That’s good information to include. But there should be more stuff too. All the stuff. So even a stranger could pass by and be moved to tears.

But how?

Someone please describe this new and wonderful gravestone.

The New and Wonderful Gravestone



“Buckle up. I’m about to do something bad.”

illustration by author

Bad kids are the great and terrible adventurers of the classroom. What might they say? What might they do?


The teacher turns his back and your buddy gives you a look, a telling flash of the eye:

“Buckle up. I’m about to do something bad.”

And you, a virtuous child, think “Oh no” and “Thank God.”

In one of my schools, I heard a legend about a kid so bad, that when the teacher left the room for a moment, the kid stood up, lifted the lid of his flip-top desk, and peed into it.

They say the pee…

Express Yourself

Sometimes the lessons you learn from writing a book aren’t quite what you expected

illustration by author

I’ve heard that a lot of writers have a similar origin story: They’re reading a novel and suddenly stop. “Holy crap,” they say, I can do better than this!” Then they close the book and sit there, or they fall down and lie there, dazed.

“I can do better than this,” they whisper. “I really can.”

This is my story. It happened with a book my mother gave me called The Strumpet Sea. I don’t remember the book, but I think it was about a strumpet and a sea.

By the way, what’s your book? Which one made you cry…


This is not a season of luxury

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash
  1. Tell A joke — These are farm children, familiar only with privation and slaughter. The shock of merriment will sponge away recent memories. Soon, they will associate the ruler with laughter and will rejoice whenever it appears.
  2. Lead A Lamb Into The Schoolhouse — The unpleasantness caused by punishment will be replaced with joy when the children meet their new acquaintance. Have your students name the lamb. They will know they should not, for this is spring, but when you insist, they will understand you mean to save this lamb. …

illustration by author

I know a genius.

We’ve cheapened the term by using it on everyone, even babies, inflating our compliments until people are walking around with wheelbarrows full of billion-dollar bills, “embellishment bucks,” but the guy I know is the real thing.

Though he’s undiagnosed, I’m certain his IQ is 160 or higher. Maybe much higher. How do I know? It isn’t because I’ve witnessed displays of kickass mental math. He never came up with a chemical compound for solving the gum wads in our stomachs. …


I Hope Heaven Is Still Possible For Me

illustration by author

I eat pizza only twice a year.


I have a problem.

Yes, cheese makes me ill, particularly in my entire body for days. But that’s not the problem.

Yes, bread turns my physique into a ship’s anchor chained to a bathtub rowboat: my self esteem. But that’s not it either.

Is it the red sauce? True, red sauce does make my core suicidal with fire.

And yet, it isn’t the red sauce.

The reason I save myself for two pizza feeds a year, is this:

I have an addiction.

Dogs understand this. If you lay out too much food…

illustration by author

I loved rollerblading when I was a kid. You should have seen how well I could skate facing forward. That’s what I chose to learn first, and after mastering that trick almost too quickly, I thought, “What’s next?” so I picked up skating in reverse. I could even skate fancy, not creepy fancy, but just enough to be the best in town.

Then I started jumping over little obstacles: sticks, dead snakes, my prone sister. I learned I could jump, spin in the air, land going backward, fall down, and then get back up as fast as a professional.


illustration by author

What makes children so brave? Why are they so buoyant in their souls? Here’s a clue:

It isn’t what they believe in.

If you went to any young niece or nephew of yours and said, “Hey, kid.”

“My name’s Peter.”

“I got a question for you, Peter. Did you know that, one day, you’re going to die?”

Peter’s eyes would fill with tears as he thought back to his dearly departed Glubby the goldfish or Kippy the cat. Terrified, he would say,

“That’s going to happen to me?

“I’m going to go blind and deaf and get run over by…

How my pet dragon validates my existence

image by author

My sister-in-law and her family went on a trip recently and asked us to care for her daughter’s bearded dragon.

This dragon, a green guy with brown eyes, is still a youth, about seven inches long from the nose to the tip of his tail, though in 18 months he’ll swell to the size of a Tyrannosaurus-rex arm, one you can take out walking with a leash.

While he stayed with us, he lived in a big glass box on our buffet cabinet in the dining room. This changed our mealtimes slightly. Eating in the presence of a reptile makes…

Daniel Williams

A poverty-stricken, soft Batman. Here are some drawings: And here’s a blog:

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