The speech impediment, I'm assuming, is from the birthmark on my tongue, which is real, not something I'm making up to sound crazy. I had the option of having it removed as a kid, but when the doctor described a lazer beam shooting my tongue, I thought, "What if they miss their mark and I lose my whole tongue? Can you eat without a tongue?" Plus, I didn't have a high incentive to have it removed. Kids rarely made fun of me, much to my dismay. Once a girl called me Dragon Girl, and I laid into her so hard, I couldn't wait for it to happen again. Alas...nobody else broached the subject. Then, when I worked at the food court in college, some students would ask me to show them my tongue, but I told them it wasn't that kind of place. It was more of a sandwich/pizza/grill/Chinese food/frozen yogurt place.
I felt neutral about having an accent. But what the mother said next, I really liked. She said, "I think that you're from Brazil."
"Thank you!" I gushed, breathlessly. I've been waiting my whole life for someone to say that. I picture Brazilians to be exotic people who wear bikinis all day. (Though she was probably referring to a Brazilian woman who wears yoga pants all day with the intention of going to yoga but instead tries to think of a children's book series that will make her rich.)
I started convincing myself that I really was Brazilian. "No wonder I don't fit in in America," I said to myself. "No wonder I don't quite 'get' the culture or 'speak' the language. I'm from Brazil."
Now, whenever I feel like I'm different or say the wrong thing, I'm going to say, "Well, it's hard being a recent immigrant to this country. It will take a while to get used to customs such as working outside the home/caring about our yard/being on the ball in terms of Cub Scouts. That's not how we do things in Brazil."
In honesty, I have no idea how things are done in Brazil. Like my brother who acquired his speech impediment by having cousins in New Jersey, I've acquired my knowledge of Brazil from our neighbor, who traveled to Brazil, and described it by shaking her shoulders and saying, "It's so spicy!"
Brazil is just my metaphor for the feeling we all have of "not being from around here" even if you've lived somewhere your whole life. Everybody feels this way, which means, in truth, we are all coming from the same place. Do you like how I so subtly beat you over the head with that metaphor? I just don't want to present myself as some kind of Brazil expert because I also once ate at a Brazilian restaurant in St. Louis.
Anyway, back to the children's book series. As you know, I write picture books and children's nonfiction. Johnny had a friend over a while ago who said, "Mrs. Heos, you should write a series. That's where the real money is."
"You're right," I said.
He follows up everytime he comes over. "Have you written that series yet? If you write that series, maybe you could afford to live in my neighborhood." (They live on the other side of Wornall.)
"What should I write about?" I asked. I mean, I'll write on demand. I do it all the time with my work for hire stuff.
He said I should write about he and Johnny and their friends, who solve real crimes. The Hardy Boys, in other words. Only instead of being brothers, they're friends. How fun would that be: to be a crime fighter in a book?
I wish I could write a mystery. I love reading mysteries. Usually, if you're a writer and you read enough of something, you can write that something. But that hasn't been the case with me and mysteries.
I haven't read kids' mysteries, though, except for my brother's copy of Encyclopedia Brown #14 and some Nancy Drews. I guess my knowledge of children's mysteries amounts to my knowledge of Brazil. That settles it. I will read more children's mysteries in an attempt to get rich. Then maybe we'll move to Brazil.