“Well, wonders never cease…look et yew!
Yer as tall as yer momma.
“Well, wonders never cease…look et yew!
Yer as tall as yer momma.
I never would have thought of myself as a writer. I dreamed about it when I was young – the next Anne Frank; a great poet, discovered only after death (Emily Dickinson style); the vocabulary and diversity of a C. S. Lewis; the wisdom of Solomon – but since I had no talent, and I was afraid to write anything down for fear of it being read, I filed this dream under fantasy; and there it stayed. When I went to college, one of the first classes I took was Composition 101 – a writing class. I was terrified, the rumors and all. But I loved it! And better yet, my professor said he liked my “style.” Style? I had style? How could someone with no talent have style, I wondered? Besides, my grammar stunk…on this point my professor and I agreed.
Years past and I had long since dropped out of school when I met my husband. He was an artist, a musician, and a writer of music and poetry – lyrics mostly, but still poetry. He read me his work, and the more he read the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I critiqued. The more I critiqued, the less he read and I began to write – lyrics at first.
Then one day a story appeared. Yes, I do mean appeared. I sat down to write, and it began to pour out. Wow! I had a story, a children’s story, and it was pretty good – only minor revisions were needed, it seemed to have come out whole. That was inspiring. I decided to take writing classes: Evening with Emory, Children’s Writers Workshop, etc., and more stories appeared. Some presented themselves with grace, while others were a bit shy, though, with prodding they did manifest. There were impish stories, deformed stories, and stories that just down right refused to come out at all.
But after acquiring a small collection, I felt it was time to take the next step – submission. I submitted. They rejected. A few had comments on them, and one editor even wrote on the rejection slip that it was definitely not right for their company. I thought that was tacky. It was bad enough to be rejected by a form letter, but a form letter with an added hand-written rejection, well, that was just rude. Later on, I learned that anything hand-written on a rejection letter is a good thing, not a bad thing. So I forgave him.
I moved on to try my hand at poetry. It seemed the logical thing to do as my writings tended to have a poetic quality to them. I wrote poetry. It was pretty good, too. Next, I joined a “poetry group.” They liked my poems. Well, at first they liked my poems. But my “poems” didn’t sound like their “poems.”
“Who do you like to read?” they asked.
“Read? You mean poets? Well, I like Daffodils. Was that Wordsworth or Wadsworth? I can never remember,” I replied.
“Read more poets and come back next time,” they suggested.
I began to read more poets. I found some poets a lot of whose stuff I liked – but not all of their stuff; so it didn’t seem to me as though I could truly say I liked them. With other poets I liked a little of their stuff – but not much of it at all. Then I found this poet almost all of whose stuff I liked – even what I didn’t like, I still did somewhat. Anyway, he was from Georgia and modern – which the “poetry group” preferred. He wrote in the fifties, though his work had the feel of the eighteenth century – which I preferred. Sad to say, he killed himself. What can be more poetic than that?
Armed with my pseudo-modern poet, I returned to the fold and announced I had found him. I had found my poet.
“Who?” they asked. But I couldn’t answer…all eyes were on me at that point.
“Who is it?” they inquired again. I couldn’t remember.
Well, I don’t remember his name,” I said, “but he’s from North Georgia and he was a farmer turned English Professor who wrote incredible ballads and they have a society named after him with a scholarship and everything. Oh, yeah, he killed himself. Shot himself in the heart one night after listening to his favorite tunes…tragic.”
“We aren’t familiar,” they informed me.
“I see,” I mumbled. And I did.
From out of that group, which I conveniently exited, I was introduced to an agent. She wanted to see my work. The leader of the ‘the group’ had recommended me. “Me? Are you sure she meant me?” I questioned silently. But I obliged the agent and mailed her my stories (I didn’t dare send her my non-poems). She liked them. So a time was set for us to meet for lunch…her treat!
It was terribly awkward, that meeting. While there, I entertained notions of riches/fame alternating with visions of poverty/martyrdom. These visions, combined with genuine astonishment that someone actually thought my work could possibly sell and the expectation that I would present myself as a level-headed individual capable of intricate literary negotiations, left me floundering, blubbering like an idiot. No, no, that’s too romantic. I was just plain goofy. But in spite of myself, she “took me on,” with minor adjustments to the stories of course. Naturally, I conceded.
Wow, I was a writer! I had an agent, and stories, and everything! But I didn’t feel like a writer. To be a real writer, one has to be educated in the classics and all, with poetry. I never heard from my agent. I thought about firing her, but what was the point? That would have left me agentless. I did go back to college and graduated with a degree in Film with a minor in Writing.
Over the years I’ve blogged a bit and written for online news outlets; and with each writing attempt, I’m encouraged, and yet, with each attempt I’m also afraid. Afraid that I’ll be found out, or worse, that I’ll find out….I’m not really a writer after all.
Only one booth was open when we walked into Ken’s Corner on Saturday morning for breakfast. We slid into the booth and grabbed the menus. We were hungry and the place was packed. Our waitress came over pretty quickly to take our drink order.
“Good mornin’,” she began, “I’m Kimberly Clark. What can I get ya to drink?”
“Really?” my husband responded.
“Yeah,” she replied, “I do this as a side job.”
I scratched my face in wonderment. I didn’t get it.
“I have all my millions stashed away,” she said laughingly.
Oh, now I get it.
“This is our first time here,” John continued the conversation with her.
“Well, where’ve y’all been?” she chided us.
“The place is packed,” I said.
“It’s real busy on the weekends…but that’s a good thing.” She left us to get our drinks and chat with some of her other customers.
Photos of the Blue Angels hung above the prep area. Originally, the place was a Huddle House. Ken Johnston owned it then and still owns it now.
“I heard someone ran their car into the restaurant,” I said when Kimberly brought our drinks to the table.
“No, not that I know of,” she answered. “I’ve been here ten years. I think I woulda heard about that. Are y’all ready to order?”
“How’s your sausage gravy?” I inquired. Coming from a family of Tennessee mountaineers, I know good sausage gravy when I taste it.
“Ya wanna try some? Here let me get ya a taste.” Off she went.
Meanwhile, John went to the restroom to wash up, having already ordered his meal.
“Restrooms are clean. And, they have hot water,” he announced when he returned..
Kimberly brought back the gravy sample…mmm, it’s good…gravy and biscuits for me.
A young family walked in. She saw them and greeted them as they walked in the door.
“I was just thinkin’ about y’all. How ya been?”
The family sat in the booth behind us. She chatted with them for a bit.
According to Kimberly, most of the customers are regulars. Some come in two to three times a day. She works day shift now; but, she has worked the night shift in the past.
“At night, it’s a whole different place,” she told us. “The bars (she points to the Village Market area next to Ken’s Corner) close and the people come in. They like their coffee and eggs after they’ve been drinkin’.”
Our breakfast arrived with our various idiosyncratic food preps prepared just as we asked – John’s burnt toast swimming in butter and my biscuits with a small amount of gravy placed in a dish on the side.
The food was good. My cholesterol rose with every bite…Ken’s Corner has all the makings of a fine restaurant.
She was born the grand-daughter of a coal miner and the daughter of a terribly mean alcoholic. I say this to explain the uncanny ability she has to maneuver well in dim light and avoid a scrap. I understand that not everyone believes these types of traits are passed through genes but I know it to be so. Take the night that Beverly Stikes got laid out on Tempest Street.