I wrote “Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie” more than four years ago. In that time, it’s been read by dozens of people, first by an author friend of mine (who offered much-needed tough love when she told me the first chapter was, essentially, undead on arrival). Then by friends, relatives, agents, publishers, editors, more editors, and more editors.
With publication just a few months away, there is still one person rather close to me who has not read one word of the book. No, let me clarify.
He has refused to read it.
I know what you are thinking. “You can’t force anyone to read something, that’s un-American, unless you’re talking about school, then you can force anyone to read anything, hey, my microwave popcorn should be done by now, I should probably let the dog out while I’m up, whoa, this blogger can read minds.”
Meanwhile, back to what I was saying – the person who has instituted his inalienable refusal-to-read rights happens to be my 18-year-old son Bryson. The very same Bryson to whom I read for hours and hours when he was a child. Sure, I knew Mr. Brown could moo without opening the book, yet Bryson was still tantalized by the tale after the 50th reading, Mt. Brown mooing the entire time, though he got a little hoarse.
I did enjoy every minute of it, since I have always loved to read and was sure I was instilling this trait in my son. But by the time he was in third grade, it was clear my son would enjoy reading and writing as much as I enjoy eating cauliflower (hint: I don’t). Still, I thought he would make an exception when it came to his own father’s book. Here is the conversation as I remember it:
Me (excited): Bryson, I just finished the book, I mean like a minute ago, the ending finally came to me yesterday so—
Bryson: What book?
Me: The kid zombie book. The one I’ve been working on for, what, nine months.
Bryson: How long is it?
Me: I’m not sure. Maybe 50,000 words.
Bryson: That sounds long.
Me: Sort of, I guess. You want to read it?
Bryson: All of it?
Me: Well, yeah.
Bryson: Not really.
Me: Seriously? My own son won’t read my book?
Bryson: I’ll read it if it’s published.
I was speechless as I walked out of his room. And four years later, he has stuck by those words, so he gets point for dedication.
Bryson’s refusal surfaced in a recent conversation with my dad.
“Bryson isn’t your audience,” he said.
“He is my son, and thus has been my audience since the first time I changed his diapers,” I said. “What about all those school concerts, the soccer games in 100-degree heat, the season of tackle tee-ball (it was at its heart baseball, yet the 3-year-old merely chased the ball in packs, slamming one another to the ground as the last one standing came up with it). I was always in his audience.”
“Point made,” dad said, “but you really need to move on.”
I have moved on. To a point. But I know what is going to happen Dec. 3 when “Dead Jed” hits shelves.
I am going to toss him the book, telling him it’s time to keep his promise.
“And one more thing,” I will say. “That will be $8.99. With tax.”