Trivia Questions After Brian Doyle’s “Homework Problems” from Grace Notes by Ruth Kennedy
Author’s Commentary: In Spring 2021, I took Reading as Writers Across Media. One exercise we did was imitation writing, where we looked at books we had read throughout the semester and tried to imitate an author’s work. I was drawn to the unique segmented format of this particular piece by essayist Brian Doyle in his book Grace Notes. I found the idea of not only imitating an overall piece, but each individual section, an appealing thought. This piece has a distinctive style and format, and I wanted to mimic it as closely as possible while adding my own eccentricities. The task of mimicking Doyle’s sense of humor and jokes was a challenge for sure, but it made me analyze his work in a way I hadn’t before. I had a lot of fun writing this piece and sharing it with my classmates, and hope that readers will share in that fun.
Q: If a brother is running through the backyard at five miles an hour, and his sister a mile ahead of him is sprinting west through the same yard at six miles an hour, how long will it take them to discover a new squabble and get in a petty argument about whatever they can find, the likes of chores, allowances, taking care of the pet, where to eat out for dinner, and the age-old question of whether they should beg their mother for vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
A german shepherd running at fifteen miles an hour spots a husky jogging at twelve miles an hour and a corgi trotting at ten miles an hour, in the waddling sausage-dog way they do, you know how they bounce around like a person running on their knees? You know what I mean? Q: Why do they do that weird run-like-I-never-learned-what-feet-are walk anyways? Is it an act? Are they just trying to convince everyone they have legs, not just stumps?
Q: If an owl and a songbird have a Vegas wedding, whose surname do they take? And can they file for joint-taxes in California?
Q: A worm going one quarter of a mile per hour encounters a fox. Why is the worm going so slow? Does being so slow mean he’s taking his time to enjoy life? Or is being so slow a sign of terrible fear, a terror of not knowing what you’re supposed to do with yourself once you reach the finish line?
You are playing basketball, and your teammate tosses a beautiful three-pointer from the corner of the court, as the final horn blows, a shot for the ages, and the ball juuust hits the right place on the backboard and the angle from the ball to her arm is juuust right and the ball is headed right for the net, is right about to touch the orange of the rim, the winning shot, as far as you can tell but then holy guacamole a racoon falls from a tree into the net! and grabs the ball! and punctures the ball as it leaps up and falls to the ground! and runs off screaming, ball shard trailing! Q: Do you go into overtime?
A komodo dragon, an iguana, and a gecko that denies being affiliated with any insurance companies get into a legal battle. Q: Should this be the fifth or sixth feature on the evening news?
A professor gives a class presentation on his newest paper, which pushes past the boundaries of modern historical study and is, as he reiterates on slides 5, 17, and 42, true historical research, void of all the rot and subjectivity that is present in those without such a purely academic mind as his own. Q:How many less hours of homework does he owe his students for making them buy his book?
Five stagehands order a large and complicated coffee order, including multiple secret menu items and more special instructions than you can shake a snake at. The barista, with a receipt the size of her arm, rings up their purchase. Q: How many days do they wait for a director to walk by?
You are shopping in an old bookstore. Ages ago this store, during the reading frenzies of old tales, had so many well-kept story books with fantastic tales that a man could stack them one on top of the other, reach heaven, and still have more books. However, what with the internet and kindles and video games and those heavenbound books falling and hitting peoples’ heads, there hasn’t been a storybook in a decent condition in this shop…until now! You find the fantastical story, and cough up half your wallet at the counter, and ask a pressing question. Q: Tea or hot chocolate?
A grandmother goes out and buys fifteen cans of soup for one dollar, twenty jugs of milk for two dollars, and fifty cookies for five dollars. Q: What world are you living in to get such deals? And where did the grandmother get the money? Is it the money I left in the jar for a rainy day? How many times do I have to tell you that we are saving that, specifically for the rain? Do you want it to rain and us to not have nothing to do? What am I supposed to do with fifty cookies? Do you want a cookie while you read your book? Should I send some to the stagehands?