I received a letter from a 7-year-old girl in Delacroix, Maryland last week that read as follows:

“Dear Chad,

When will Fantasia Forest be available as an eBook? I want to read it ever so badly.

I am afraid of trashcans, as they clatter so when mother and father empty them into the dumpster in our driveway. I need a soothing balm for my troubled soul, and your book is the only thing that can provide any solace.

I am also afraid of clothespins and yarn. I do not want to be afraid anymore. But if I am going to be afraid forever, I would like to be afraid with my hands clutching your book like twin clams. Please tell your wife Becki I said ‘Hello.’ One time I bought a pet yam named Herbert at the grocery store with my mother. I have to go to the bathroom.

Hugs & Kisses,

Mary Lou Gossamer

P.S. Do you think you could send me a lock of Oliver the cat’s fur?”

You see, I wrote a “book” called Fantasia Forest in 1990 for one of my 7th grade classes at the age of 12. I gave it to my sister Alyssa as a present, which is why her name is scrawled on the book’s inner flap. I was so moved by Mary Lou’s letter that I decided it was high time for me to make Fantasia Forest available to the world as an eBook. Of course, the original copy – the only copy in existence, I might add – is quite delapidated. The story itself is laughable at best, and awful at worst.

To Mary Lou, you clam-handed damsel in distress: I would send you a lock of Oliver’s fur, but cat fur comes in tufts, not locks. Would a tuft suffice? Be not afraid of trashcans or clothespins or yarn. Be afraid of more reasonable things, like robot clowns or politicians or the jug of milk that sat out on the counter all night long, unrefrigerated (Should you drink it? Should you not?). For your enjoyment and comfort, peruse the flip-book version of Fantasia Forest below (Note: If you click on one of the corners of the page and hold down the button, you can turn the page at your own leisure. Fantastiche, no?). If you like what you see, download the PDF version of the book, and read it by the fire tonight on your Kindle. Use matches and lighter fluid to start the fire, and wads of crumpled newspaper as well if the matches and lighter fluid are not sufficient for the task. As a last resort, you may fashion a crude blowtorch with your daddy’s Zippo lighter and a can of aerosol hairspray. This is sure to set the logs in the hearth ablaze. When your parents ground you, remember: Your parents are only locking you in your room because they know you like being in there.

A few things about Fantasia Forest that are worth mentioning:

1) The protagonist has a mullet, and is wearing a Michael Jordan basketball jersey, apparently. I, too, had a mullet in 7th grade. Spiked hair on top, long in the back. I also wore a silver chain around my neck. I was “bad.” With regard to the sports jersey, I was an avid baseball fan and card collector through 1994, but I never followed basketball. But I do recall that Michael Jordan did briefly play for a minor league baseball team, so perhaps this is why my hero is clad in Jordan’s jersey. Baseball players were larger-than-life heroes for me in 1990. I still have my baseball card collection, but I suspect it’s worth, well … bupkiss. I am still fond of baseball, but I am hardly a sports fan. “One of the teams is going to win,” I always say. “Big mystery!” But in the 7th grade, apparently the baseball diamond belonged in the Holy of Holies.

2) On page 7, the art apparently depicts an armor-clad person who is either a Robocop lookalike or a pencil sketch of a Big Mac, with all of its layers. Hamburger or helmet? You decide.

3) On page 11, there is a kingly character who resembles Burger King’s mascot. This is interesting, as I have always preferred Burger King’s flame-broiled hamburgers to McDonalds’. It may be, then, that the “Big Mac” on page 7 is actually a Whopper. It is really difficult to tell though, as you can plainly see.

4) On page 12, the pipe organist (Yes, there was a pipe organist in my book. Am I a minister’s son or what?) has a problem. His posterior is lopsided. One buttock hangs lower than the other. In 1990 there was apparently no plastic surgery available to correct a rear-end inequality of this variety. The text says the organist was around 90 years of age, so I suspect he is long gone by now. Otherwise I would call him and say, “There is hope for you and your lopsided backside!”

5) The sphinx on page 16 is probably the product of my dad reading me C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was but a child.

6) Samson the cat, who is mentioned on the book’s rear inner flap, passed away in 1998. He was an ornery fellow, fiery and furry all at once. Alyssa and I used to thank God for him at the dinner table every night. Mom and Dad seemed to think we did not need to thank God for the family cat, but we did. We showed them. We kept right on thanking God for Samson, and I can only hope he appreciated me name-dropping him in this book.

7) Finally, my agent Jenée says she especially enjoyed the blurbs on the back of the book. All real, my friends. From the source’s mouth. Promise. Scout’s honor.

Enjoy the brief, mind-boggling read, my friends.

Fantasia Forest eBook (To Download, Right-click and “Save as”)