Tales Out of School

Ron Houchin


Tales Out of School may be purchased from your local bookstore or from on-line vendors such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Wind Publications
600 Overbrook Drive
Nicholasville, KY 40356

Rarely have I read stories that make me remember being a kid—thinking as, seeing as, imagining as, a kid—the way these stories do.... Tales Out of School fuses the hypnotic rhythms or oral storytelling with a poet's sensibility, an irresistible combination.
               — Ann Pancake

We're blessed to have this volume of short stories from one of our best poets.
               — Silas House

I hoped to show my students, through my stories, how their lives were major material for the stories, essays, and poems they would write.
                                                —  Ron Houchin

It is as if the over-the-top imagination of a strange Tom Sawyer has been transplanted into a contemporary Huck Finn.... These deceptive narratives teeter along the edge of the mater-of-fact and the wonderous.
               — Richard Hague

    From the book —

Fantasy swept me out into the neighborhood night, stalking and lurking about, slinking through backyards and up alleys, terrorizing dogs with my scent. I would definitely have to stand and piss on the occasional fence.

I took mental inventory of what I’d need. Nothing, I had it all, as if it was meant to be: off-white slacks, a little loose, a comfortable gray sweatshirt, several black felt-tip pens from a kitchen drawer, and white sneakers. Wearing knee and elbow pads would be nice but would destroy the look. If anything untoward happened, I knew I’d have to get up and run anyway.

I hadn’t considered that my head and face, even with crew-cut hair, weren’t very catlike. I was not too concerned about being caught in such a sleepy neighborhood. And I had no tail, but imagination filled in what reality lacked. Before the night was over, I’d at least pad out, over crusted snow in my spotted suit.

As I turned the sweatshirt inside out to begin making the rosette spots just right, I pictured myself lying on my left side, perched on my left elbow, very catlike, surveying the bright night from under mottled tree shade of our neighbors, the Meadows’ sprawling juniper.

It took almost an hour and a half to gather tools and materials quietly and make my transformation. I had to be quiet. I had to get away with it all.

I imagined my stepfather looking down at me and over his glasses at my mother, as I sat at the kitchen table in a ripped and bloody leopard suit: “This kid is crazy. If you don’t do something, I will.”

I pictured the look of embarrassment on my mother’s face, too, but mainly I saw myself transformed into a mysterious and powerful being.

Around 12:30 a.m. , I was suited up and ready to slip out back. It had taken a little longer than I’d expected to draw leopard spots on the fluffy insides of the sweatshirt, and one or two of them didn’t look quite right. The slacks were smoother, much easier to guide soft felt tips over. Of course, I left the fronts of both garments spot free for authenticity with the leopard’s underbelly. I believe I was sane, if only because I knew that reality fuels fantasy, and this suit had to be as real as possible.

I stood in that dark back room looking out at the almost untouched blanket of snow over the neighborhood. Fences stitched it all together like a vast white quilt and trees shaded it with brocaded patterns. As I knelt and pried my secret door open, the first tingles of the cold pricked my fingers. I made a quick trip back to the hall closet to retrieve my leather, fur-lined gloves. Turned inside out, they made perfect leopard paws. Refitting the square of wood in place, I was out in an instant.