Neither the grey sky nor the steady rain could dampen Rene’s thoughts any more than they already were. The train would be leaving soon. Coming home wasn’t what she expected. Nothing remained of what once had been. She knew things would have changed but she wasn’t ready for what she found. Dementia comes on slowly; but for Rene and her mom, it had been a lifetime.
I wish I could tell you that I had known Rene and her family for a long time, but I cannot. We met on the long train ride home after a trip. We shared a compartment, just the two of us. Rene needed to talk. I was willing to listen. By the end of the journey, I knew all about her childhood, her brothers and sisters, her drunken father, and her dementia laden mom.
We shared space for a time…and time forever. Rene and I never kept in touch, perhaps she was embarrassed for exposing so much of herself to a stranger; or maybe I was needed only for that moment in her life. I’ll never know nor does it matter. I will always recall the telling and the feelings it evoked within me, especially now, on my journey home.
A journey reflecting what is or isn’t – allegory taken to the extreme. This is being written in segments yet posted as a whole each time. Dates in bold show when the previous segment was posted. This is segment three…
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.
“Hi, I’m Bradford Bunny,” the splotchy skinny bunny called through the fence. “Would you like to be friends?” The bunnies hanging around the clover patch inside the rabbit farm stopped eating and hopped over to where Bradford was sitting.
“Bradford? What kind of name is that for a bunny?” the soft orange bunny with the white ears asked.
All the bunnies began to laugh.
“Braaaaadfurrrd…are you a girl or a boy?” the dark brown bunny teased. She was laughing so hard she could barely speak. Of course that sent the other bunnies rolling.
“hahahahahahaha”…the laughing went on for what seemed like forever to Bradford.
“I’m a girl,” Bradford said trying to be confident. “My mother named me Bradford because that was the name of the warren from where she came. She loved her home very much and she loved me too.”
“bahhaaaahaaa…a mommy’s bunny,” a large white and black bunny managed to get out.
Bradford turned and quickly hopped back across the grass to the woods. She could hear the sounds of laughter fading as she went. Tears began to fall.
“I tried to be nice. I tried to ask questions. Still no one wanted to play with me” Bradford Bunny wept more.
When she finished crying, she hopped to the edge of the pond to drink and wash her face. She leaned over and caught sight of her reflection.
“I’m so ugly,” she thought. “I’m brown speckled all over with a huge spot on my nose. No wonder they don’t want to play with me. I don’t want to play with me either.” Bradford began to cry some more.
“Oh, why doesn’t anyone love me? Those bunnies have a nice home with friends and plenty of food. If only I could be like them.”
Bradford went back to the edge of the clearing to watch the bunnies from a distance. She heard the sound of a big truck. It pulled around the farmhouse and stopped in the barnyard. A man spoke with the farmer then went around the truck to open the back.
She heard the little bunnies squeal. “Oh! We’re going on an adventure,” they shouted with delight. All the bunnies happily hopped up into the back of the truck and settled into the tiny packed cages. The door closed.
“An adventure,” sighed Bradford. Tears welled up in her eyes.
His body arched as he breathed his last breath. There expelled a moan so intense it pierced the air and mingled with the wind. The wind latched on and rolled like thunder over the landscape…wave upon wave, the sorrowful sound reverberated against the mountain tops. The earth groaned. In the fields, ripen grain bent low and all plants dropped their fruits in sorrow. Bereavement became the babble sent down the brook into the valley. All creatures of Penuel mourned; their hearts wounded for they knew the struggle had ended. They had lost…and the little grey lion was gone.
They wondered what would become of them. The grey lion held their hope, their destiny…their promise of a new beginning. Now nothing…nothing but greyness of mind and soul. A winter’s landscape filled with sunless sky and biting wind and echoes of loss and lost. Time moved slowly, a begrudging trudge. Every new day brought sameness – hunt, eat, sleep, wake…die.
and the legend begins….
artwork by jeremiah morelli
Title: “in the woods”