That night, Evangelina and I left L.A. We hit the highway in high spirits, having trounced Triumph the Insult-to-Comics Dog in appropriate fashion.
My cell phone vibrated. It was my editor Pistola Bartolomeo at Edizione Testa d’ Uovo.
“Rocky!” he shouted. “Tell me about this next project, the children’s book. What’s it called, An Ovenful of Muffins? What’s the plot?”
“No, no, dear fellow,” I replied, “it’s called The Curmudgeon in the Dungeon. The story goes like this: There once was a humble cobbler. He was an honest, hardworking man. But he was beaten down by life. A messenger came to him on the coldest day of the year and said the king wanted to see him. He was poor, so he had to travel by foot for three days to reach the king’s castle. The king convinced him that it was horrible and frightening to live out there in freedom, and that it was better for him to live in the dungeon of his castle, like many of his subjects. So the cobbler decided to give up, and live in the dungeon.”
I continued, “As time went on, the cobbler became bitter. Living in freedom was hard, but living in the dungeon was depressing. He became the curmudgeonliest curmudgeon ever. One day the king was overthrown. The citizens stormed the castle, found the dungeon and released everyone. But the curmudgeon wanted to stay in the dungeon. He was simply tired of life. Then a woman with a baby came to the dungeon, just to see it with her own eyes. The curmudgeon looked at the baby and saw in it all that was pure and joyful in life, and he felt his organism strengthen. He left the dungeon and never looked back as he walked home to his village.”
“Let’s go with it!” Bartolomeo shouted.
“Adieu, dear fellow,” I said.
Evangelina rubbed my ear. “Rocky,” she said, “I love that tale! It is both timeless and timely!”