The First Crusie

I’m cleaning out my office and I’ve reached the Pleistocene Era. Well, I’ve reached 1977 when I was still married and Mollie was a toddler and I took a class on writing and illustrating children’s books at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, one summer, writing on a TYPEWRITER, for God’s sake. I think I realized fairly early on that kids’ books were not going to be my forte, because the story I wrote . . . well, let’s just say it clearly was an early Crusie and not an early “Goodnight Moon.” And because I know I’ve neglected this blog shamefully, and because I don’t have either of the real blog posts done that I wanted to post here, I thought I’d show you the earliest Crusie. It’s called

(Helen was a pal in the class with me. Wonderful sense of humor, terrific artist. Wonder whatever happened to Helen? Something marvelous, I hope.)

Where was I? Right:

Helen was the coolest little rabbit in the forest. She had big velvety eyes and a cute little moist pink nose, but so did all the other little rabbits. What set Helen apart from the crowd was her insatiable lust for ice cream.

Helen’s mother warned her. “You’re going to get fat, Helen,” she said. “And sick. And your fur will break out. Nobody will want to go out with you. Eat some greens, Helen.”

“Pistachio or lime sherbet?” Helen asked.

Helen’s father warned her. “You’re going to hell in a sugar cone, Helen,” he said. “You keep hanging around all those seedy ice cream parlors, you’re going to take up with a bad class of rabbit. Eat some fruit, Helen.”

“Raspberry ripple or mocha orange swirl?” Helen asked.

Helen took to hanging out around a particularly good trash basket outside Mother McClean’s House of Calories. On a good day, she could salvage two sundaes, a malt, and half a dozen cones before the melt got too bad. Every day was Sundae for Helen until the day she met Firebolt.

Helen first noticed Firebolt when he began hanging around her trashbasket one day. It was hard not to notice Firebolt. He was a foot taller than all the other rabbits and he wore a black leather jacket and swung a bicycle chain.

“Hi, honey,” he said to Helen.

“This is my basket, hyperthyroid,” Helen said. “Poach on my trash and I’ll rip your nose off.”

“Obviously, you are unaware of my identity, kiddo,” he said suavely. “I am Firebolt the Thunderbunny, and this is my slave, Zumpf.”

Behind him, a small brown rabbit waved at her nervously and nibbled his lip.

“I don’t care if you’re the heir to Baskins Robbins,” Helen retorted. “Touch my basket and your face will be shorter by a nose.”

“Here.” Firebolt handed Zumpf his bicycle chain and Zumpf began to swing it for him. He put his paw around Helen’s shoulders. “You still do not understand, my sweet,” he said. “Let me take you away from all this. Return with me to my pad in the storeroom of Mother McClean’s and I will feed you ice cream that will blow your argyles off. Have you ever,” he whispered in her ear as he stroked her soft furry shoulder, “tried rum raisin?”

“Rum raisin?” Helen weakened and was lost.

Firebolt took her back to his place and plied her with rum raisin and Harvey Wallbanger sherbet. From there it was just a short step to egg creams and ruin.

Helen’s argyles ravelled and she got fat. Firebolt dropped her in favor of a little black spotted job he’d found arguing with Zumpf over a discarded raspberry ripple. Now she plays cribbage there with Zumpf and waits with a hopeless passion for someone to pitch an egg cream at her.

It never happens.

Moral: If someone offers you an egg cream, rip his nose off.

Okay, like I said, it was almost thirty years ago, and obviously I was not cut out to be a children’s writer (or illustrator), but I can see the echoes of my later work. Helen is clearly the prototype for the Crusie heroine–angry, rebellious, and starving with interesting footwear–and I can see the genesis of my heroes in Firebolt the Thunderbunny, but I have no idea where Zumpf came from. Or went to. Or why the argyles. Really, I have no idea where any of it came from. I hate egg creams. Oh, and I apologize for egregious use of speech tags and adverbs, also for headhopping there with that soft bunny shoulder bit.

And now back to cleaning the office. God knows what I’ll find next.

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37 thoughts on “The First Crusie

  1. oh god Jenny. i am still LMAO, which makes typing harder. that is definitely an early Crusie. and good thing kids aren’t seeing that. five year olds should not be exposed to rum raisin and Harvey Wallbanger sherbet so early. 🙂 loved it though.

    red: kpmjkq

    keep pencils moving. Jenny keeps quirking.

  2. As on who has garnished his ice cream with brandy, I fine your first story absolutely delightful.

    Like the argyle socks.

  3. I love the chomp out of Firebolt’s ear. And Helen’s glasses. And of course, the socks. Yes, it’s all there, just waiting for the right stimulus to set it free. Love it.

  4. Oh, yeah. That’s a Crusie. Except of course in a later Crusie Helen would never have just waited around for Firebolt. But then Helen was a bunny of the 70s, right? Things were different back then. I don’t think snark was invented yet.

    Thanks Jenny for the peak into the past.

  5. Early signs of genius. Perhaps in the sequel she realizes how much she loathes egg creams, moves out, and starts a new life? It IS years later, after all.

  6. Too fun!!! I agree with Electric Landlady- we need a sequel- how does Helen pull herself up by the threads of her Argyles, takes Zumpf (who becomes so many of the critters put upon by the world around them that inhabit your books)and starts a new life. One where she emerges strong, put together, and able to go back to her family with her head held high and not dropped in shame.

    I’ve got the bowl of Ben and Jerry’s new Jamaican Me Crazy- which is good, but better with a little dark chocolate drizzled over it- just waiting to read the sequel.

  7. Ooh, rum raisin. Yeah, that would make me make bad choices too.

    Sequel, sequel, sequel…

  8. Cookies n’ cream. It’s all about cookies n’ cream. At least it was until I scarfed down a pint of that stuff last week. Too good.

    Loved the story (an early Crusie, indeed!) and especially the drawings.

    Good luck with cleaning off your desk. If you need help excavating, just give me a call.

    njwuuq (blue) – Norwegian jam was unusually unctuous, queerly.

  9. Can’t stand anything with raisins, but I’d KILL for Baskin-Robbins Jamocha Almond Fudge topped with Kahlua!

    itwqknver –IT wrote Quick/Krentz? Never!

    Oops!

    oloptlc — Oily little optometrists provide tender loving care.

  10. OMG, you can draw, and so well, too! I thought you might have an affinity for art after reading Bet Me … your cartoons answered my questions!

    –Susan

  11. i need ice cream now. so many flavors, so little time before brain freeze hits.

    green: rfazu:
    right, family always zones under.

  12. (-: Thank you for sharing. You’ve come a long way baby, but it’s easy to see you’ve got great roots to start with!

    What I want to know is what the instructors/classmates comments were!

  13. What a blast from the past! Definate signs of things to come and, thankfully, not in children’s books!

    Hey, Talpiana!

  14. Fantastic! Definitely not a children’s book but classic Crusie beginings. Thanks so much for sharing
    What else have you unearthed?

  15. Wow, for some reason I’m craving ice cream now!!
    Loved this look at your past. Too funny.

  16. Best line: “Helen weakened and was lost.” I feel that way myself when confronted with B&J chocolate fudge brownie.

  17. Oh too funny, I’m still chuckling! I can definitely see glimmer of what was to come. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Theresa in Pgh

  18. Kiddies loss is our gain.
    Although I have been laughing big time thinking about an innocent mother sitting and reading about Helen with her little one and becoming increasingly concerned and desperately trying to censor it as she goes along while keeping that even sing songy voice and have the kid say – that says
    “pad in the storeroom mummy” not “sad in the bedroom”.

    LOL

  19. I also love the bite that’s been taken out of Firebolt’s ear – from a rival bunny, no doubt.

  20. Hi:

    Couldn’t get on this site when I first tried to leave you a message. I went over to HW/SW and left you one on “Da Truth”.

    Since you are so experienced in writing children’s stories I am looking for advice.

    Loved the story. A little too risque for the group I am aiming at but great bedtime story for us adults. LOL Thanks Jenny.

    green ouhydyam

    Oh, unhand young Doherty you angry meathead.

  21. Another ending change: Helen ate Firebolt to see if he had a hollow or solid chocolate center.

    Ahhh, sounds like the stories my dad read to me when I was little…

    Quickly! He leered, flitting Jenny away.

  22. Ah, the more things change…

    So when do we get to see what you wrote in high school?

  23. LOL. Great stuff. Think my four year old is ready for that at bedtime?

    So do we get a picture of the office when it’s all cleaned out? 😉

  24. The bunny even has a character arc! There is clear value change, conflict, an antagonist.

    Let’s here it for Mint Chocolate Chip. A sturdy standby- but still zippy.

  25. That was such a treat to read! You were clearly reading lots of children’s books at the time, even if the word choice, moral, and romance aren’t exactly in line with the genre. Glad you switched; your voice is much more suited to rom/com.

  26. That was wonderful. And I’m forever grateful that you finally found you’re calling!

  27. Glad you are back. And if Firebolt can’t appreciate a good woman because of a few pounds, then he doesn’t deserve her.

  28. Oh! THE cherry is back! How did I miss this?

    I love this story and the pictures. So great. Yes, obvioulsy this was working up to those early Crusie heroines. Such sass has our bunny girl.

    I particularly love the Baskin-Robiins part. I worked there in high school. Dunno about Rum Raisin, but ply me Fudge Chunks & Chips and I’ll do just about anything.

  29. OK. That was quite simply fabulous and brought a smile to my face. It isn’t Walter the Farting Dog (don’t ask) and probably not story-time material, but I’m sure you could find a market.

    ; – )

  30. It’s interesting that the children’s story has a male/female relationship. Foreshadowing what will come?

  31. This would have been the type of book I would love to read as a child….it kicks!

  32. Ran across this and was amused to see my name being used as a bunny. Wasn’t real sure what to make of that… but enjoyed it none the less.

  33. or Dreyer’s homemade vanilla with single malt scotch dribbled over it….something about the juxtaposition of the hot and cold……..yum….

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