Once upon a time a woman named Mary decided to write a play. A war was going on at that time and many people were sad so Mary wanted to make them laugh. Now Mary knew something about writing and she’d written plays before but she had a hard time writing this comedy. Not only is it hard to make people laugh when they’re sad, it’s hard to find time to write when you’re raising three boys and freelancing to bring in a paycheck. (Mary’s other plays had not been successful.) So in the evenings, when her boys were asleep, Mary scribbled away at her story. It was an unusual tale about a gentle man named Elwood who turns his conventional town upside down when he insists his best friend is a Celtic spirit, or pooka. A pooka that looks like a rabbit. A six-foot-three, tie-wearing rabbit.
Mary spent the next two years perfecting her play. She read it aloud to anyone who would listen and rewrote it at least 50 times. (Plays are as tricky as chemistry experiments; one mistake can make the whole thing explode.) Eventually, a producer read her play, and liked it enough to have it performed on Broadway. Then, fate intervened: people loved Mary’s play and turned it into a hit. It ran for years, became a movie and got Mary the Pulitzer Prize. Now she had people who believed in her and enough money to write full-time. The only problem was everyone wanted more funny stories about gentle people, must like her hit play, Harvey. Mary wanted to write something else.
Ten years later, (though still decades ago) Mary began to write a children’s book. This tale also had a Celtic spirit but the gentle, kind hero was gone. In his place stood Maureen Swanson, a grade-school bully that nobody likes. Maureen is a disrespectful liar and thief but she’s not really brave. Nevertheless, Maureen usually gets her way until she crosses the Messerman sisters, women who are cold-hearted, powerful and evil. Our bully is completely outclassed.
Fifteen years passed before Mary published the story of Maureen and the wicked Messerman sisters and when it came out it was not a hit. It was not surprising since this story had no laughs and people want to cheer the hero and boo the villain, where they’re not laughing. No one could believe this scary storywas written by the woman who created Harvey.
But Mary’s two stories have one other thing in common; they look at what makes people change. Elwood’s conventional family finally become more tolerant when they realize Elwood’s eccentricities are part of what make him so kind. Decent treatment won’t persuade the rotten Maureen so she has to learn the hard way that there is always someone stronger and meaner. Is there a bigger meaning? I’m not sure except never to try to predict or control what a good writer will come up with next. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.