When Michael Scott Hopkins was born in Alameda, California, John F. Kennedy was still sitting at his desk in the White House, wondering what to do about Marilyn Monroe and yet to square off against Nikita Khrushchev.

For his part, Khrushchev was still fuming over being denied access to Disneyland and in retaliation began placing nuclear warheads in Cuba. In hindsight, much could have been avoided if Khrushchev had only been allowed one trip around the Pirates of the Caribbean. No communist dictator in his right might would have aimed nuclear missiles at the United States if there was even the slightest chance of hitting The Happiest Place on Earth, not if he’d been given a handful of E tickets and a Davey Crocket coonskin hat.

However, Hopkins was consulted over none of this, which made sense, since he was only ten months old at the time.

Because Kennedy managed to send Khrushchev and his missiles packing out of Cuba, Hopkins avoided nuclear annihilation and grew up in the San Leandro, California, though he was still subjected to “duck and cover” drills in elementary school, along with numerous earthquake drills and actual earthquakes. Earthquakes, it should be noted, are quite scary.

Since he grew up next to the San Francisco Bay, Hopkins had the Bay and the then undeveloped environs surrounding it as his playground. With his young playmates in tow, Hopkins personally oversaw the design and construction of any number of water vessels, rafts and amphibious landing craft for the most part, and stood at the helm for numerous launchings from impromptu drydocks. Invariably, every vessel sank, which explains how Hopkins learned to swim and discovered actual sharks live in the San Francisco Bay. It also explains why the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines rejected him as a potential recruit, and he was forced to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

A lackluster student in high school, Hopkins managed to learn the art of persuasion by convincing fellow students to let him copy their math homework. Yet Hopkins excelled in certain classes: Drama, Journalism, English, and Speech, all subjects leading to dead end careers and a life of unfulfilled hopes and poverty.

Directly after high school, Hopkins joined the U.S. Air Force, mostly because there was no Space Force yet. For eight years, he served, fighting back the Red Menace while complaining bitterly about having to get out of bed early to do jumping jacks.

Photo credit: Sarah Lupori

Eventually, Hopkins went to college and earned a Masters Degree in English, providing him with a skillset that left him woefully unprepared to tackle simple tasks, like changing a flat tire on the side of the road, but well-heeled when it came to writing angry letters to the editor.

Because he had a natural gift for pulling his reading glasses down to the end of his nose and looking at people with incredulity while doing so, and simultaneously pounding his shoe on the table (a trick he learned from Khrushchev), friends encouraged Hopkins to go to law school.

Hopkins is the author of The Things in Heaven and Earth, Gideon’s Sorrow, and Dr. C.M. Tinklebottom’s Great Big Book of Sex.