I'm traveling to Boston for a work event today. Brought Neil Gaiman's "M is for Magic" with me for the train ride. Today's story was, "October in the Chair."
This short story is one that makes you smirk when you finish. The premise is that each month, personified, takes turns telling a story – in order, January to December – and this turn belongs to October. There is a bit of banter between the months so the reader can understand their "personalities", then October begins.
October's story is about a bullied little brother, Runt, who runs away. On his first night he finds a graveyard and bravely befriends a little boy who is a ghost. They spend the evening climbing trees and running around. Runt discovers that he is most happy in this graveyard with his new friend, seemingly a feeling he has never felt before.
We hear a lot in the news about bullied kids today. And it's so sad. They feel so alone and scared. And sometimes suicidal. Just this week two local girls ran away because they were bullied at school. Why don't we take more time to consider their feelings? We think children feel so connected because they are on social media. But we've all felt maxed out on our social media before. Sometimes I think about how much social media I have and get confused because I'm posting to the wrong account. I should be work me but I accidentally post to my personal page. Or my blog post gets shared to another page accidentally. Which of these social media profiles is really me? Two instagrams, three twitters, three fave books, who knows how many email accounts. Sometimes even I feel a little confused about who I am… And I'm a working adult who has a solid group of friends. Imagine feeling that sense of confusion and being 13. Eek. Though Gaiman didn't specify the era of when this tale took place, it feels timeless and I'm sure lots of young adults could relate.
Side note: know some readers feel Gaiman is too prolific and perhaps a bit commercial. This story is one I would ask them to read to change their minds. Gaiman's ability to characterize the months of the year and cause no confusion is not something that is easily mimicked. And, the ol' story within a story can seem trite… But not when OCTOBER is telling you a GHOST story. So just chill, guys and enjoy it. (Get it, chill, October, ghosts… Never mind.)