Ive been working on a book for the past few months - it's pretty much finished, but I'm still filing on it.
Set between July 1998 and September 2000, Joseph Velneks is a Latvian-American teenager from North Carolina...who is an Arthur, as is his best friend Jerry.
Naturally, being dedicated to Arthur fans, there are several direct references to the series:
Joseph sleeps - aside from Karen, his stuffed kangaroo - with a 1997 Eden Buster plush that he got "last Christmas" (December 1997)
"Joseph loved spinach, and couldn't understand why so many kids - including Camilla - hated it. "I won't eat it," she said and winked at Joseph. Thundering her fist on the table, she exclaimed "I...hate...spinach!"'
He also dreams of Arthur on the night before his graduation:
"That night, he had a strange dream....
He was in Elwood City, the setting for Arthur, pulling up to a large university building in an old VAZ 2101 (a 21011 to be exact) with an American license plate mounted over the original Latvian one. Molly MacDonald, his favorite character, was sitting next to him.
"What kind of punk bands are there in Latvia?" she asked as Screeching Weasel's "Your Morality" played on his radio.
"Latvian punk isn't all that good," Joseph replied. "Most bands sing play the guitar too loud and the singers sing too hoarse and quiet - Inokentijs Marpls is good though. We can listen to their tapes later on today."
Joseph glanced at the inside mirror - he was a sable with a curly crop of brown hair nestled between his ears.
After getting out, Sable-Joseph opened up the trunk. Molly got her skateboard out, Sable-Joseph his double bass and they walked into the building. "Thanks for the ride, Joseph!" Molly said as she got out. "Hey, did you see Miss Turner's new car?"
"As a matter of fact, I didn't." Sable-Joseph heard a smooth in-line six-cylinder and turned around to see a magnificent maroon touring car with wooden spoke wheels and whitewall tires pull into the parking lot. The huge door swung open - stopped by the side-mounted spare tire - and Paige Turner stepped out. "I feel like Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby!"
"Nice car, Miss Turner!" said Fern.
"What kind of car is that?" Maria asked.
"As a matter of fact," Mrs. Turner stated, "it's a 1924 Paige Model 6-70 Four Passenger Phaeton. Not only do I get to share my name with this automotive work of art, but people will also instantly see whose car this is!"
"Anyways," Molly continued. "what I wanted to ask you was if wanted to join the Tough Customers?"
"Oh please," Sable-Joseph said, rolling his eyes. "I'm not walking around with your posse acting like a big shot, menacing anyone coming my way."
(This was dreamt in June 2000, thirteen years before The Last Tough Customer aired)
"That was in elementary school," Molly said sharply. "This is college. We're still the Tough Customers, but now we're just a bunch of tough guys and gals who harm only those who dare to act hostile towards us. So think it over."
"Actually," Sable-Joseph said. "Now that you say it, why not! I'm a Latvian after all, and [...] we Latvians never back down from a fight! I can prove it to you today - I got a martial arts competition with Sue Ellen this afternoon!"
"Great!" Molly exclaimed. "See you then!"
"Hello, Buster," Sable-Joseph as he approached the rabbit. "Ready for the first day of college?"
As usual, Buster's response was "I hope they have a buffet!"
"Hi, Joseph!" a familiar voice exclaimed. Sable-Joseph turned around to see a skunk with Jerry's haircut and voice wave at him as he passed him.
"Hi, Joseph!" what was unmistakeably his girlfriend's voice said. Sable-Joseph turned again and saw a gray cat with freckles and long black hair - a cross between Jenna Szalinski and Jenna Morgan. "Jenna!" Sable-Joseph exclaimed. "What are you doing in my dream? You're not an Arthur fan!"
"But," Sable-Joseph heard himself saying. "why am I a sable? What's happening? Where, why, what..."
"HELLO EVERYONE!" a high voice exclaimed. Sable-Joseph glanced towards the door - and gulped. Mary Alice "Muffy" Crosswire was heading towards them. "Daddy just gave me my first car!" she announced proudly. "Remember, run, don't walk, to Cro..."
"We know," Sable-Joseph snorted. "Isn't it time your father found a new slogan to scrupulously sell his used cars?"
Then the PA chimes from his old high school sounded, and a woman's voice sounded through the loudspeaker. "All students, please report to the soccer field for the welcoming speech."
"Let's go!" Sable-Joseph urged.
At the field, everyone sat in metal lawn chairs behind the dean, who was a cat and giving a speech. Next to Sable-Joseph, Buster was loudly stuffing his face with chocolate bars from a box on his lap. He had various food and drink stains all over his shirt, and a chocolate beard around his mouth. "Oh, Buster," Sable-Joseph giggled.
The dean didn't seem to be saying a word, though. Sable-Joseph glanced into the bleachers for his family, and sure enough, they were sables.
The Feldheimers - Tina, Travis and Jerry - were all skunks, too. Sable-Camilla was dressed like D.W., Sable-Arturs had a "FAULT" (Gap parody) sweater on, while Sable-Sandra wasn't paying any attention to the speech, instead she was talking to Bitzi. She was probably telling her about how she was the editor of a newspaper - that is, Brīvība - as well.
What was undoubtedly Oscar - a poodle - was talking to Fern Walters. Joseph listened closely, and he was able to hear how Oscar was telling Fern about how Estonia was occupied by the USSR in 1940 and became the Estonian SSR, how life was there and the revolution up to the independence in 1991. Fern seemed fascinated.
"So when Estonia wouldn't join the USSR, the Russians were all 'Oh yeah? Try resisting this!' and gave them, Latvia and Lithuania an ultimatum," Oscar was saying. "Either they joined the USSR within 24 hours effective August 1940, or the USSR would send their troops." He paused to make siren, bomb and airplane sounds. "Really that was a dirty lie, as the troops came either way."
"How did I know this was gonna happen?" Sable-Joseph though to himself, half-smiling.
Out of nowhere, the dean's words echoed loudly over the field: "...therefore, we would like to welcome our new students. To your dormitories, everyone!"
The scene then changed to a gym. Everyone was watching as Sable-Joseph, in his white and blue taekwondo attire, fought it out against karate buff Sue Ellen Armstrong and belting out taekwondo move names with a heavy Korean accent. On the wall, the flags of Latvia and the US were draped vertically. With one final kick, he knocked the cat to the floor, and the audience cheered as Sable-Joseph triumphantly stemmed his hands on his sides.
"That was nothing!" Oscar exclaimed and stepped up. "Try me on for size, Sue Ellen!"
The Latvian flag was changed to an Estonian one, and the MMA fight was on. With furious yells, the poodle and the cat threw each other onto the mattress and got up again and again. "Ha!" Poodle-Oscar exclaimed and knocked her to the floor. "Now then," He glared down at her victoriously.
"There are three things in Muay Thai that you conceal from your enemy: your fear against him or her, the tiger that waits to be unleashed inside of you and..." He paused for a moment. "Your lucky boxers!"
The others roared with laughter and applauded. Later, Sable-Joseph walked out in the crowd with Molly. "You see?" he said. "I told you I'd be tough!"
Molly smiled. "I can see that...You're in!"
"Great! By the way, I'm playing in the school band as well," Sable-Joseph continued. "I play the double bass, but as you don't play an instrument, I'm afraid you can't come this afternoon. But do tell the others I joined their cause!"
"I will!" The scene transitioned wavily, the organ piece played, and before he knew it, Sable-Joseph was in the auditorium with all the former school band members, sitting at his double bass playing a piece he didn't recognize. He looked behind him, and sure enough, Skunk-Jerry was there, nasaling away on his serpent. Matt the polecat was engaged in a clarinet (he plays the bass clarinet) battle with Binky, and Oscar (he plays the bass flute) was in a flute duet with Fern.
Next to Sable-Joseph, Buster was playing the Tiger Rag on his tuba. Another wrong note on his bass; Sable-Joseph was getting agitated.
"Buster, I can't concentrate! You know how hard a piece Henze's Double Bass Concerto is?"
"Why don't you start with something easier then?" Buster asked as he stuffed a mute into the bell of his instrument.
"This is college! You don't 'start with something easier' you had time to do that at Lakewood and in middle and high school!"
"Baxter!" the music teacher exclaimed. "Czardas!"
"Oooh, you're in for it," Sable-Joseph said. "That's one of the hardest tuba solos I know!"
Buster ignored him and started playing.
"Velneks!" the teacher said when Buster finished. "I'd like to hear Dievs, svētī Latviju! from you!"
"Y-yes sir!" Sable-Joseph sputtered and began playing.
The scene transitioned again, to a lawn where Molly was introducing Sable-Joseph to her fellow Tough Customers. "Binky, Rattles and...Slink."
Sable-Joseph started to laugh, showing his powerful sharp teeth.
"Hey, what's so funny?" Rattles demanded.
"Slink," Sable-Joseph continued, still laughing, "your name means 'lazy' in Latvian!"
Slink grabbed Sable-Joseph by the collar of his shirt and lifted him up. Sable-Joseph was unable to see his eyes due to a large pale brown fringe (he wore his hair in a similar style as Molly) but he could tell he was pissed. "Listen," he growled. "I don't appreciate being made fun of! You wanna see how lazy my fists are?!"
"Hey, put him down!" Molly said.
"Hey, put me down!" Sable-Joseph said at the same time.
Slink dropped him, and he fell unsoftly onto the grass. "J...just a joke," Sable-Joseph said subduedly. "Hehe..."
The camera panned to various angles of him walking with the Tough Customers, and the scene transitioned yet again, to Sable-Joseph's dormitory. He just spotted Oscar and Fern entering the dorm on the other side, and was studying the list of roommates when Buster walked in. "Hi! Arthur got paired with Francine, so I'm gonna be your..."
"I know, I know," Sable-Joseph interrupted.
"Did you say goodbye to your parents?" Buster asked. "I said goodbye to my mom!"
"Uh...yeah!" Sable-Joseph uttered.
At that moment, Sable-Joseph woke up and became human again."
The accompanying illustration I drew of Joseph waking up is directly modeled off the final picture from "Arthur's Underwear" (the book)
..."Well, vacation's over, so we'll need to start practicing until the second half of kindergarten begins...Joseph, where's the dictionary?"
"Dictionary?" Joseph asked. "I have a better way - where did I put 'Arthur's Really Helpful Wordbook'?" He began rummaging in his bag. "Where did we leave off? Ah, here!" He opened it and started reading. "Winter," he began. "It's a snowy day, and the whole world is covered in white. But there are also some bright red things that stand out. How many can you find?"
Camilla pointed to a hydrant. "The hydrant!"
"Very good. Can you spell me that?"
"Good. Wanna do another one?"
"All right then," Joseph showed her the book. "What are these?"
"Can you spell them?"
"Great1 There's one more object left for you to find!"
"Valentine! V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E. Valentine!"
"Right. And how do you spell aardvark?"
Camilla rolled her eyes and they sang in unison, repeating:
"Will you be still be watching Arthur after you go to college?" Camilla asked. It was September 4, 2000, and he was watching the Season 5 premiere of the series with his sister.
"'Course," Joseph answered. "Me and Jerry are gonna watch it as long as it runs."
"Who's Jerry's favorite character?" Camilla asked.
"He likes Buster best," Joseph replied, "because he thinks he can relate to him."
"Oh," Camilla said. "So Jerry does nothing but eat and sleep, neglects his schoolwork down to the last minute and keeps on having crazy alien theories?"
"That's not really what I meant...And he likes Francine too. As for me," he continued, "I favor Molly, as you know. Buster's my second-favorite, though. He's so ridiculously unintentionally funny!"
The prequel, set between January 1997 and July 1998, doesn't leave out any Arthur references either:
In the first book, one of Joseph's fellow students mentioned during the goodbye speech ceremony is named Alexander Dennis (in reference to the bus company of the same name) and in the prequel, we find out he is nicknamed Alex for short. It is then stated that Alex is "a minor troublemaker, one of the lazier students in Joseph's class, fascinated by Tyrannosauruses and worst in class in geography."
Alex then states that he'll join the geography elective as he "longs for a better grade"...
The epilogue is as follows:
It's October 15, 2005. Joseph, Jerry - who have recently moved to Santa Monica - and Oscar - who returned from his Estonian exile two months ago - are now twenty-somethings at the Boston Children's Museum; of course, the only thing that interests them is the then-new Arthur exhibit. They've taken a quick break from recording that year's album and are visiting the museum in the early evening, when all the parents and their kids have gone home, so they have the exhibit all to themselves.
They tour the Read's kitchen, go to the movies and have their pictures taken with their favorite characters.
I drew pictures of Oscar "on the train" with Fern (his favorite character, who he can relate to the most, hence he is based off me) and Joseph with the Muffy and Sue Ellen cutouts at the entry.