Today I went down a little Internet rabbit hole and learned about Louis Sachar.
It started when a friend said, which made sense in context, “Fine, then he can look at a monkey.”
I said, “Wasn’t there somebody in the Wayside School books who yelled something like, ‘TOUCH A MONKEY’?”
She didn’t know. A little Googling revealed the answer: Jane Smith, the only student that Mrs. Drazil didn’t like. Mrs. Drazil was the nicest teacher in the world. Jane Smith would never do her homework and finally moved away. Her goodbye note said that now she would NEVER finish the twelve homework assignments she hadn’t done and concluded with her favorite insult: “Rub a monkey’s tummy with your head!”
Fast forward a few decades. One of Mrs. Drazil’s current students goes to his dentist, Dr. Payne. She is sadistic, greedy, and unethical. And after hearing her yell her signature insult at a patient on the phone, he notices that her diploma has her maiden name: Jane Smith. (Her husband’s name is Sham Payne.)
Armed with this information, Mrs. Drazil tracks down Jane Payne to finally make her do all of her homework. Jane, who is prepared for this moment, jumps in her motorboat and speeds away.
This is how the story ends (from “Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger,” Chapter 22):
“Darling, come back!” Sham shouted from the deck as he watched the boat sputter across the water.
Mrs. Drazil climbed into an old rowboat. “I’ll find you, Jane Smith!” she shouted into the darkness. “You can run, but you can’t hide!”
Jane’s voice echoed back across the black water. “Rub a monkeeee’s … tumm-mmy… with… yourrr… heaaaaaaaaaa…”
And neither of them was ever seen again.
Amazing, right? Then I read a New Yorker profile of Louis Sachar by Jia Tolentino, who I love. Which led me to these very sweet and well-written essays by his daughter (then a middle schooler) and wife, about how proud they are of him and about his writing habits. I’ve been thinking about Louis Sachar’s writing habits all day because here they are: He gets up in the morning, reads the paper, does the puzzle, and then spends several hours writing. Then he spends the afternoon reading. Then he plays with his kids or plays bridge or does whatever else he likes. Plus, he’s an ex-lawyer. All of this makes me think that I’m not living my best life. Louis Sachar is living my best life. Except he lives in Texas and plays bridge all the time.
Also, I found out that he has a book that I haven’t read yet called Fuzzy Mud which I am going to check out as soon as possible.