Friday, March 23, 2012

The Boy in the Yard (Part 1 of 2)

Well here it is. And here I am. I've adamantly resisted doing a blog until I can no longer believe my own excuses for not doing one. And this place seems as good as any to finally start. An open forum for sharing creative ideas. Hopefully I'll fit right in. So welcome to The Long Morrow. My blog. Featuring my artwork, (and/or maybe sometimes the artwork of others that I love and wish to share.)

So anyway a little about me. Born and raised just outside of Washington DC, but have now taken refuge in the greener pastures of North Carolina. I finally awoke to the fact that DC traffic is inhumane. Waterboarding is considered torture, yet endless road construction so they can overbuild is considered progress? Sorry, but I expressed my disagreement by leaving. (And therefore I guess I did my small part to help relieve the congestion. You're welcome Beltway Dwellers. Fare thee well.)

I had hoped my new surroundings and more peaceful lifestyle here would nurture my artistic sensibilities. And perhaps it has. (I'm now blogging anyway.) Although a visual artist is all I've ever truly aspired to be, I've long struggled against having a definable "artistic style". Everything I tend to do, to me anyway, sadly looks like it comes from me. ;-( And I dunno if it's because I haven't settled on a style I want to develop as my signature or if it's more of a classic "self-loathing" thing. But I'm desperately trying to be free-form and shapeless. Like water. Stay on the edge of something unfamiliar and new, and not fall back into the comfort of the tried and true. It's not easy for me. But I think it's important to stretch as far as you can. When you hit the walls, your limits, well... that's where you find yourself. Somewhere in the middle of that space. And once you know your limitations you can then set in motion what is needed to grow beyond them.
To try something new.
Like a blog.

So today, before I post some of my more current stuff, I'll dip into the archives to share a simple story I wrote and illustrated back in 1998. I posted it on my Black Egg Theatre and there it has languished for 15 years. Believe it or not, at the time, I considered reworking the concept a bit and turning this idea into a 3-book series (with a different story featuring these same characters in each book). Below is the "proof of concept".

Hopefully this affords me an easy outlet to share works, express ideas and receive public feedback from like-minded crazy people. 

Well thanks for taking the time to enter my little corner of the multiverse. Enjoy your stay.

And if I'm not doing this whole blog thing correctly... Forgive me.


This is the story of a little boy struggling with a burning secret, and his troubled older brother who is literally in over his head. It's a story of personal exploration, of blind faith, of parental neglect, and of... the boy in the yard.

boy in the yard title

There once was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy. A sometimes peculiar eleven year old boy named Peter.

Peter had a most unique wish that no other child had ever considered.

peter in bed

It all started one innocent night when Mother put little Peter to bed. He was lying on his stomach with his arms and legs tight against his sides just like always. 

As Mother gently pulled the covers around him, just like always, Peter had an unusual request. She wasn't sure why he wanted it nor could she possibly foresee the consequences to come, but she did as he wished. Mother tucked the covers tightly around the edges of Peter's body so he couldn't move. This was his wish. He called this being "mummified" and Mother soon discovered that her son loved it.

"Mummify me, mummify me," he would whisper with anticipation every night at bedtime. And Mother would always do as he wished. Several uneventful months passed until one night when an odd germ took root in little Peter's head as he lay dreaming in his mummified state. Proof positive that sometimes, dreams should just stay dreams.

peter digging

The next day after school, little Billy wandered out into the yard to find his older brother Peter digging a big hole.
"Hey whucha doing?" inquired Billy.
"I'm diggin' a hole" said Peter, "What's it look like?"
Billy saw the edges of Peter's mouth curl up and knew from experience that was usually not good.

peter leaning on shovel

"Hey Billy, uh, um I was wonderin' if you'd help me with this hole. Ah but you're too small. You probably couldn't lift the shovel."
"I can too!" insisted Billy.
"Well then here's what I want ya to do"
Peter stepped down into the hole and sat down.
"OK Billy, now push the dirt on top of me with the shovel."
"You want me to cover you up?" asked Billy with concern.
"Of course dummy. Shovel all the dirt back on top of me. Just fill in the hole. But you have to remember one thing."
Billy struggled with the heavy shovel and awaited his next order.
"Go back inside and when your stupid Ratman Cartoon Show is over, you come back out and dig me up OK? Can you remember that? Oh, and don't tell Mom and Dad where I am. This is our super secret. OK? I still haven't told your friends about your little wet bed mishap so you still owe me, got it?"

peter in the hole

As little Billy nodded and proceeded to carry out his strange task, with every shovelfull of dirt he threw, he was bombarded by a mixture of feelings. First glee, then anxiety, then curiosity, then sadness. That's a lot of emotional baggage for a seven-year old.

ratman on tv

Soon, with his orders completed and his big brother now completely hidden from view beneath the soil, Billy headed back inside the house. His mind was filled with anticipation of the coming adventures of his beloved Ratman and his sidekicks Dinky and Mojo.

from below as above

Underground life was moving at a different pace and on a different level.
Peter was embracing his new surroundings much in the same way the first astronauts felt stepping off their craft and touching lunar soil for the first time.
Peter absorbed the coldness, the darkness, the beautiful tranquility. Peter's senses tingled with excitement.

"This is so cool," he thought.

worm wiggling

His trance was interrupted only by the occasional icy slither of a passing earthworm on it's purposeful journey to who-knows-where. Many quiet minutes passed punctuated by the faint barking of a dog, happy it's master had come home. He thought he heard the buzz of an airplane overhead, but wasn't sure.
Peter suddenly felt the rising and fading foot thumps of a group of passing children. They were laughing and shouting. He tried to guess who those thumps belonged to. Was it Logan and his no-good sister Sheila? She would always try to tag along when the guys went exploring. Was it Jimmy and the gang gathering teams for a game of neighborhood soccer?

"Maybe they were looking for me. Ha! They'll never guess where I am in a million years,"
Peter thought with a secret grin.
Birds sang from the trees. Peter listened from the ground.

Just then a soft rumbling caught his attention.

peter happy

It faded in and out for a few minutes before Peter realized what it was. The Tall Man from next door was mowing his lawn. He was a strange guy, even by Peter's standards. He never spoke to anyone and last Halloween he gave out coupons instead of candy. Peter didn't like him very much. However, he did like the funny vibrations from the mower. He could feel the dirt settling down through the hair on his arms. It gave him goose bumps. For a brief moment in time, at least in his mind, Peter was a little black ant tunneling through the quaking Earth. As the sound grew louder he had a devilish thought.
"I could pop up from the ground and scare him to death," Peter mused.

Just then, he felt a shock to his back. Then another. Peter's world evaporated.

peter and the too bright light

"Ratman is over and you missed a good one," shouted Billy excitedly.
"Dark Clown took control of the City again and..." Billy's voice trailed off as his brother rose from his early grave.
"Um... time's up already?" Peter cleared his head. The Sun's rays stabbed at his eyes.

saviour wings

He brushed himself off and told his brother all the exciting and strange things that happens to someone underground.
"When you can't see it forces you to use your ears and your… extra-subterrestrial powers. Like Ratman! Come on, you should try it Billy," Peter urged. "I'll bury YOU this time."
Billy shook his head and took a step back. A spider crawled across his brother's chest.
Peter brushed it off and snapped,
"Well if you're gonna be a baby then let's go inside. You're not old enough to appreciate it anyway. I better change clothes before Mom and Dad see me."

Peter's bedroom

That night before bedtime, Peter took Billy aside. "Tomorrow is Saturday and Mom and Dad are going yardsaling. I want you to bury me again before they get back okay? And remember, not a word, got it? G'night Billy."

Billy had trouble sleeping that night.

Saturday morning came bright and blue.
Mom and Dad left early to visit yardsales and older sister Jennifer was in the middle of her two-hour bathroom ritual getting ready for her job at The Candlestand.

The time had come.
The coast was clear.

Peter the digger

The hole was dug much deeper than before.
Billy seemed more hesitant this time as he watched his brother's mad digging from the basement door. Finally, he walked outside.
"What's the matter Billy?" Peter snapped.
Billy waited for Peter to add some insulting remark per usual, but it never came.
"I had a bad dream last night," Billy murmured softly.
"Oh grow up Billy, you big whiner, I'm just a few feet down. Nothing's gonna happen to me. I'm just in the backyard. You'll know exactly where I am the whole time."
"I dreamed Mom and Dad found out and got mad at me," Billy admitted.
"Oh... well look, nobody is ever gonna know, OK? Besides I asked you to help me. No one would believe it was your idea anyway."
Billy seemed only slightly appeased.

Peter paused for a moment then pulled something off his wrist and handed it to his brother. It was
The Watch

the watch

Peter's prized digital watch which he picked out and purchased HIMSELF with his birthday money given to him by Grandma. It had a stopwatch feature which went to 100ths of a second. Peter's best friend Joey's watch only went to 10ths. Billy knew this watch too. In fact it played a traumatic role in Billy's young life. Peter would use the watch to tease his younger brother. He would eat a piece of candy, claiming it gave him the power to alter time. He would then discreetly push the stopwatch button and show Billy how time had been accelerated.


"See now your goldfish are gonna grow old really fast and die. But SEE I have the power to set things right. As long as you bring me more candy I can control time and keep things in order." 
Peter could be a cruel boy when he wanted to be.
"Now when the watch reads 10:00 you just come right out and dig me up. Got it, Billy boy? So simple even a monkey could do it. Nothing to worry about." Peter began grinning with anticipation as he jumped into the hole and laid down flat. He flinched slightly as the first shovelful of dirt smacked his back. 
"This is gonna be so cool," thought Peter. He closed his eyes and grew more excited as the shoveling faded. After Billy finished, he looked around and then carried the shovel back to the shed.

Billy on the couch

Time passed. The boy watched Ratman save the City of Atlantica from the sadly misguided Troglodytes. He'd seen that one before.
Billy carefully checked the watch.


It read 00:00.00. Still not 10 O'clock. 
"Peter will be mad if I dig him out too soon," he thought.
After a few more cartoons Billy checked it again. 00:00.00. Still not time.

Mom and Dad came home with armfuls of strange things.
"They look just like the things we have in the attic and never use," thought Billy to himself.
Finally Mom asked THE QUESTION.

Billy pointing

"Where is your brother?"
Billy now had to lie to Mom for the very first time. After some careful hesitation he said, "He's outside playing in the dirt."
It wasn't really a lie. He felt a little better having gotten through THE QUESTION.
He secretly checked the watch. Nope, not yet.


"Well I certainly hope you don't take after your brother. He was never one to set a very good example," said Mom.
"Serves him right for running around and not telling us where he is. We're going to Rockhill Park to take advantage of this beautiful day before the rains come. Go get the kite Billy," said Dad. Billy dashed out of the room.
"We should at least call for the boy dear, before we just leave him," pleaded Mom.
"The boy knew our plans for today so if he'd rather spend it running around with his friends then just let him," Dad insisted. "Serves the boy right. He's gonna miss eating at his favorite restaurant."


"Monkey Meal Emporium?" shouted Billy, running into the room with a huge red kite over his head.
"You guessed it. And today's All-You-Can-Eat Cheesecake Day!" Dad gleefully announced. 
Billy's face lit up. "Cheesecake!" 
Mom stood on the porch and called out, "Peter!"


Out in the yard Billy's older brother could faintly hear his name being called. At first he thought 
"Why are Mom and Dad home so early?". Then, realizing the sneaky fun of the situation, he smiled and waited for her voice to fade. 
"She's given up. Cool. This is a great hiding place. I'll have to figure out a way to bury myself next time, then it will be my perfect little get-away." 

The ground was slowly warming up around Peter's body. It was so comfortable he was having difficulty staying awake. He closed his eyes and started to let his mind go exploring.

Three faint door slams could be heard, then the slight rumble of an engine starting. A bug tickled Peter's ear. He felt an unscratchable itch on the bottom of his foot, but it soon 'went away'. Peter was wrapped in Mother Nature's womb. He was perfectly mummified. He was comfortable. He was happy.


Mom sat on a blanket in the park. Billy and Dad flew the beautiful red kite high into the air. It soared high above the trees and even the birds. Billy wondered if the kite could see his house from way up there. Maybe it could look down and see the dirt mound in his backyard. "
Oh check the time!" thought Billy, as he quickly glanced at the watch. The numbers still read all zeros. Billy wondered if something was wrong with the watch. "Why wasn't it ten o'clock yet? Oh NO, if I broke Peter's watch he's gonna kill me," worried Billy. He knew how much Peter loved that watch. 
Dad jerked the kite string from Billy's hand. 
"If you're not gonna pay attention, you're gonna get the string tangled in the trees. Here, let me show you how to fly it. I was really good at this back in my day."


Hours passed. The beautiful sky darkened as the afternoon waned.

"Looks like it's gonna storm Honey, better get the kite down. You're scaring me." Billy noticed that Mom always seemed like the first one to call a stop to any fun the boys ever had. Dad would usually let them play until they got hurt, then he would yell at them for being stupid. 
"Well Billy my boy, appears we've overstayed our welcome. Let's gather up the stuff and head back to the car," suggested Dad. "The sky's 'bout to bust wide open and we don't wanna be standing here when it does."
Billy had been having so much fun he had forgotten about the time. 
"Dad, what time is it?
"Oh it's about 4:30. You getting hungry?" asked Dad.
"Um, yeh." Billy was so relieved to hear it wasn't past ten o'clock yet. "I was wondrin' if you could look at my watch. I think something's wrong with it."
"Sure, lemme see here." Dad took the watch from Billy's wrist.
"Isn't this your brother's watch?"
"Yeh, but he let me wear it today," replied Billy. Dad fiddled with it for a few moments. It beeped a few times. 
"Seems to work fine. Let's get moving if we're going to beat this rain."


Billy put the watch back on. It now read 4:27
"Whew," he sighed, "still have one, two, three, four, um, five, six more hours to go."

They all climbed into the car and buckled up.
"Are you ready for…(Mom made a drum roll sound)…Monkey Meal Emporium?" said Mom, smiling into the visor mirror. Billy shouted with delight. 
"Then let's go get that cheesecake!" Dad ordered with a thrust of his fist, and the car pulled away, as large water droplets exploded like fireworks on the windshield.

rainy windshielf

Little Billy hadn't given pause to consider how this thunderstorm might affect his subterranean sibling.

Cheesecake demanded his full attention.


  1. I can't wait to see where this goes!

  2. Part 2 is online here: