I am 9. Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World is my favourite novel. My teacher connects me with someone at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who invites me onto her radio show to discuss the book. I arrive at the studio and get a glimpse of what’s happening on the input side. Once the interview begins, she asks acceptably leading questions the entire time, trying to get me to admit how much I relate to Danny. I’m not biting, mainly because I never thought about it before and am too nervous to pick up on her cues.
“What do you like so much about the book?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does it remind you of the relationship you have with your father?”
“Do you ever go on adventures with your family?”
She continues to be very sweet and encouraging, but I can sense that she knows this is going nowhere and wants me out of here so she can return to more interesting segments.
Even so, I go back to being one of my teacher’s favourite students, heightened by my powerful study of La cigale et la fourmi, par Jean de la Fontaine. The same fable is orated and performed by everyone in my class, and it sticks with me enough that I can recite most of it, actions included, many years after it is required.
In an effort to further impress my teacher, I tell her I want to be a cartoonist, like Gary Larson. As some kind of proof, I create a single-panel comic that, somewhere deep down, I knew I had seen in a Far Side book and hoped to pass off as my own. I had never heard Fats Domino and did not understand the reference I was making, and the relatively intentional theft haunts me still.