This was originally written for After Dark In The Playing Fields, back in 2010. I thought I would share it here today, as I recently saw this book again at my sister’s house and it has of late been in my thoughts.
I am really at a loss as to how to properly introduce the following item from my past. There are some memories of beloved childhood belongings that just Make Sense – a cherished stuffed animal, for example: a once sweet-faced and shiny marble-eyed bunny rabbit, worn down to rags and nubs from time spent dragging it to and fro through sandboxes, bathtubs and brambles.
Not only did I love this Bunny -I know she loved me too. She loved me so much, I am absolutely certain that she did not mind when, 30 years later – just this past May – I buried her under an old oak tree with my wonderful little cat who had just died. They had both provided comfort and companionship and happiness for me for so many years, it only made Perfect Sense to me to keep them together.
It is fitting then, one should look back at these treasured keepsakes, these fond remembrances and feel a pleasant rush of happiness and harmony. Of feeling safe and at peace. Of the world Making Sense.
Crash Helmet is definitely not one of these items. Even as children, when presented with this book, I recall my sister and I wearing identical looks of abject horror while thumbing through it. I am not sure who gifted it to us, but to this day I wonder what on earth they must have been thinking. I realize that most children’s books are full of crazy, nonsensical plots and unusual characters – that is what makes them so much fun for young people to read, and so memorable many years later. This one however seems particularly demented, and two more wildly unattractive protagonists I have never seen.
A story by Harry Allard and illustrated by Jean-Claude Suares, Crash Helmet follows Elmer, a suave and lonely vulture who runs a gas station in New Mexico who meets Violet, a 5000 year old mummy on a motorcycle. Violet “is charmed by Elmer’s smooth dancing and Elmer is awed by Violet’s fearlessness.” As the two of them try to eke out a living in the desert, they discover “that what they lack in common sense they more than make up in imagination and daring”.
I am not sure it is often that one can trace back to the exact moment the world wobbled, tilted, and subsequently righted itself, but this is as close as it gets for me…. I believe that from that time on my perception of things were a bit skewed for it. This is not all a bad thing, of course! Obviously we had not encountered much weirdness in our lives up until this point, but after repeated, repulsed readings, we grew more and more appreciative of it and the absurdity contained within. I think it probably contributed to our general eccentricities as we grew older!
Of course, we had since lost the copy that we grew up with. I was recently lucky enough to track down another, and surprised myself by how excited I was to tear open the small package and hold the book in my hands again. Having scanned the pages in (the rest you can find below), it is at this moment wrapped in brown paper and in the post on its way to my sister. She is not expecting it, and I cannot imagine what she will think when she opens the package.
I hope though, she will smile and exclaim “This old thing! This strange old thing! How I loved it – how happy I am to see it again.” I hope that after the unusual twists and unexpected turns our lives have taken since that time, she finds comfort in it, as perhaps A Thing That Now Makes Sense.
this is so amazing, and something i too would have loved as a kid. it reminds me of my friend's work / character spacemummy, his little zines are some of my favorites (https://spacemummy.com/). i like this so much i might have to find a copy!!
Ian McDowell says
This is quite wonderful, loveliness.