Mysterious mystery writer is in pre-school!
Best-selling mystery novelist Cliff Manly, whose book jackets contain no biographical information, has had his identity revealed. In reality, he is three and a half year old William “Skippy” Browning. His identity was accidentally uncovered during a trip with his mom to the supermarket when, sitting in her shopping cart, he yelled at a slow-moving woman, “Hurry it up, sister. I ain’t gettin’ any younger.”
The woman ran to get the manager of the mart, Mr. Charles Lazze. “We called the police, of course, although we weren’t quite sure why. The woman who filed the complaint was hysterical. She made me call the local Catholic Church to see if an exorcism was necessary. Just to play it safe, I told the toddler’s mom to take him out of the frozen food aisle because, if the kid was in league with the devil, we’d have a flood.”
By the time police and clergy arrive, Skippy responded with “ga-ga,” “goo-goo” and “we go now?”
Everyone left disappointed.
Says Skippy’s father, librarian Ernest Browning, “After the market incident we knew it was inevitable that Skip’s identity would be revealed. We tried to do it as gently as possible.”
As Cliff Manly, Skippy garnered rave reviews for his first novel, “The Pabulum Pukers.” According to The New York Times, the book was a “riveting mystery wherein a very special child discovers that his peers are being killed by poison pabulum. Once the reader clears the hurdle of accepting a child as a noire hero, you can almost hear Humphrey Bogart’s voice reciting the dialogue; albeit a Bogart who wears pampers.”
“When the doctor slapped him, he responded with a right cross.”
His just-published second novel, “The Baby Monitor Monsters,” was even more daring said The Washington Post. “What would happen if baby monitors were being controlled by alien overlords in an effort to take over new human lives? And what would happen if one, smart baby decided to fight back? I know it sounds crazy, but this is a classic science-fiction mystery novel where a lone child battles an entire race of alien warriors.”
Seated in their Manhattan brownstone, Skippy’s father, Bob recalls his son’s emergence as a literary figure. “I knew he was special from day one,” he recalls. “In the hospital, when the doctor slapped him he responded with a right cross and, instead of crying, he seemed to be yelling ‘Lemme at him!’ At his baptism, Skippy looked up at the priest and snarled ‘Back off, buster!’ I thought the priest’s head would explode. So I came up with an excuse, saying it was me who said that as a joke. I was a part-time ventriloquist.”
Skippy began a meteoric rise in intelligence once the Brownings settled back home. “By the time he was four months old, he was yelling ‘When suddenly a shot rang out!’ and saying things like ‘She had gams that led to Heaven.’ I took parental leave. I had an idea that Skip would be like a sponge, soaking up everything. He needed guidance, though. By six months, he’d mastered reading and using the computer. He was reading Hammett when I was changing his diapers. He started smoking a pipe and drinking bourbon. This led to his mom’s first nervous breakdown.”
“She’s crazy, but in a really sweet way.”
Skippy’s mom, a depressed nuclear physicist named Eileen, has been on medical leave since giving birth. “She’s crazy,” says Ernest, “but in a really sweet way. She’ll be normal as normal can be and, then, she’ll start talking like Donald Duck for a couple of hours. After that? She’s fine. I’m glad she didn’t go back to work. Skip has a tendency to ignore the fact that he’s a child. She treats him like one so he tones down his attitude to make her happy. It’s a pretty remarkable relationship. Now, would you like to meet Skip?”
When this reporter is led into Skippy’s room, the child looks up. “Me Skippy!” he declares with an impish grin.
“It’s alright,” Ernest tells Skippy. “He’s been clued-in.”
At that point, the voice of Donald Duck echoes through the apartment. Ernest excuses himself. “I have to tend to Eileen.
After he leaves, Skip’s grin fades and he picks up a Sippy-cup filled with bourbon. “Pull up a chair,” he says. Later, he ruminates on the meaning of his existence. “If you think things are crazy, now,” he says, lighting up his pipe, “come back in a week once the news spreads. I’m going to have reporters up the snuggies. Probably a lot of tin-foil hat jamokes, too. We had a Tibetan monk show up this morning saying that I was the reincarnation of somebody. I mean, who cares at this point? I did appreciate the dance he did, so I clapped and did the whole ‘goo-goo,’ ‘ga-ga’ routine. He left after I spit-up on him.”
Skippy’s future is uncertain.
In terms of his future literary career? Skip is pragmatic. “I’m half-way through the third novel. I’ll use both names to see if the public will buy into that. Movie rights for the first two have already sold. My college years are paid for. My parents are set for life. I’ve been offered a lot of TV talk shows. Kimmel really wants me. They agreed to get me a high chair but refused to let me drink and smoke on the show. No way, Jose. Life’s too short.”
He leans back into his stroller, having another sip. “As far as what I’ll be doing ten years from now? By then, I’ll have hit puberty. I’ll probably start writing porn. Either that or enter politics. Maybe both.”
Outside his room, the sound of Donald Duck’s hissy fit grows louder and louder. “Wheel me outta here, will ya, bub? Mom’s in trouble. There’s only one man on Earth who can ‘goo-goo’ and ‘ga-ga’ her off the ledge and you’re looking at him.”
As this reporter begins to wheel the stroller out of the room, Skip raises his hand. “Slow down, there, Sparky. Don’t forget to refill the Sippy cup. This could take a while.”