A few years ago I was going back to college and trying to get into writing. Now, I had written a couple novel-length stories (never submitted for publication) and a number of short stories (also never submitted) but I felt I needed to refine my skills in this area. So, I submitted my novels to Prof. Chris Leland at Wayne State University hoping to be accepted into the 2800 block of creative writing. Now Chris (as most of us have come to call him) skimmed through my manuscripts and told me that he didn’t feel that I was putting myself into the work. However, he also suggested I take the 6800 block, skipping over a few levels. Now, I was very happy to get into the far more advanced level of creative writing, but I didn’t really get what he was talking about. Putting myself into the work?
Now, anybody who has ever known me for more than 10 minutes can tell you I am a terminal wise-ass. Always was, always will be. So naturally, I wrote a longish short-story (I have since been told that shorts should be 20 pages or less) about a secuity guard in a hotel. The guard was a dead ringer for me in every way. How’s that for putting myself into my work? Now, I filled the hotel with teen-age partiers, devil worshippers and the odd vampire or two to make it interesting. I submitted the story to the class and it went over well. I also got some great pointers for making it better (I love peer-review!)
Unfortunately, I never really grasped what Chris meant about putting myself into the work. Until now. This was the hardest thing I ever wrote. Not in terms of technical skills or length, but in content and how it affected me, personally. I will likely expand on it later and add it to the book my mother is writing.
Chris, if you are out there, I think I finally got it.
I Always Hated Sundays
I always hated Sunday mornings. Instead of sleeping in or watching cartoons my mother would get us all up and make us go to church. Interestingly enough, the parental units didn’t go with us. My step-sister Linda and I would be fed, dressed and bundled off to Bethesda via another church member and his family who would come and collect us.
My younger sister April was too sick to go with us, and Raymond was too young. On this particular Sunday Raymond was off at my grandmother’s where we often took turns spending the night. April had been getting worse so she didn’t go much of anyplace except to the hospital, doctor’s office, or wherever my mother went.
In a way I envied April. She didn’t have to go to Sunday School or even regular school. But then she wasn’t going to need an education when she grew up. She wasn’t going to grow up. April had Cystic Fibrosis. Back in the 60s children didn’t live long with CF. A lucky few actually managed to live to twenty-nine years old, like my cousin Max. My mother had told me a few months earlier that April wasn’t going to be one of those lucky few.
Sunday School was the usual monotonous grind. Get spoken down to by some well meaning Bible-thumpers that had no interest in my questions about other belief systems followed by all of us being herded over to another building where we would be crammed into an amphitheater and listen to Brother this-or-that drone on for an hour and a half. As usual, the kid with the glasses next to me passed out about ten minutes into the oration. I sometimes envied him, too.
After the services were completed, we would again be herded out to the street where our respective rides would collect us and take us home. Half an hour in a too crowded car and we would be home again to pursue our secular activities.
Except this week.
When we pulled into the driveway behind the ambulance. Linda, with her usual tact, said, “something must have happened with April.”
When we got out and the car drove away my step-father, Robert, told Linda and I to go down to the Wolvin’s house down the block. When we moved out to Sterling Heights from Warren, the Wolvins were among the first friends we made. Larry, a couple years younger than I, was April’s friend. He had an older sister, Sandra, who was friendly with Linda but never spoke to me if she could avoid it. Rye, his father was a little scary but Joan, Larry’s mother, was always nice.
Larry and I went into his room to play with his Shrinky-Dink. We talked a bit about April, figuring she was real sick and being taken to the hospital again, though this was the first time an ambulance had come to get her.
It was an hour or so later when Robert came over to get us. He sat down on Larry’s bed with Linda on his left and I on the right. I no longer remember the exact words he used, but I think he said that “April has gone to Heaven.”
I still hate Sundays even after 40 years since that day.
This was not a Wolf Rant.