Dr. Mark Hayner is a literal genius.
"Writing is a way to open doors in the human psyche. In reading novels or poems people voluntarily explore philosophical thought as opposed to involuntarily getting their faces shoved into philosophy textbooks. It's like you can make people think things without them knowing that they are being subconsciously influenced. It's because you're showing and not telling. Now if you're going to write, it needs to be important. So it needs to be something that inspires you and can inspire others. Your midterm is to be inspired and to write something important-something with the capacity to change the world. It can be anything-a novel, a poem, a short story, whatever-but it needs to have passion and a higher sense of thematic weight. Alright. Get out of here."
I stand up and prepare to leave the classroom when Dr. Hayner calls me over.
"Troy. Can I talk to you for a sec?"
Raising my eyebrows expectantly, I edge around a pack of students and walk up to the front of the classroom. Dr. Hayner smiles and waits for a couple of students to get out of hearing distance.
"You're a bright guy, Troy. I can see that you love literature and creating it but I don't think your readers can."
"What do you-?"
"Just let me finish, Mr. Holden. May I ask you some questions?" I nod. "Why do you write?"
I grit my teeth and look at the wall behind him as I realize I don't have an answer. "I don't kn-"
"Yes you do."
"I guess I want to leave something behind. I want to have some sort of permanent impact. I don't know."
"You have important ideas to be shared. That's true. What else?"
"Okay my mother-Anna Karen Earnshaw-she was a writer and she's gone now but she didn't publish the majority of her work and I'm afraid people will forget her and I'm afraid people will forget me too."
"Troy, you shouldn't write so people will remember you. It should be because you have an idea that-"
"No that's not it. Okay. My mother used to say that-that a poem is like a fishing net for memories. I guess I write to-I write to keep her memory alive. God, that sounds disgustingly cliché..."
Dr. Hayner chuckles. "I knew it! I bet Professor Ward twenty bucks that you had a soul!"
I curl my lip and twist my face into a grimace at the memory of what I just said.
"Now Troy, I want your readers to see how motivated and passionate you are like I just did. I don't know how you are going to do that but I trust that you are capable of opening up to them like you just did to me." I nod. He starts. "Oh! I have something for you!" Dr. Hayner opens a drawer in the desk behind him and pulls out a book. "I recognized your name but didn't say anything until now. I don't think you-well-um-" He hands me the book. I look at the cover.
Seeds: Selected Poems by Anna Karen Earnshaw
I look back up, confused.
"I was her editor for almost ten years."
I stand there looking blankly at Dr. Hayner's face for what feels like a million and a half years until I can finally speak.
"You were her-and-what-what is this?"
"This was her last book. It was going to be published in 2004 but then...you know... so this is the proof copy of the manuscript. Your dad didn't want us to publish it."
I can't move.
"It's yours, Troy, if you want it."
I nod rigorously.
"Good. There's a bookmark at page 83. It's my favorite." he smiles, "Now go home. There's another class in here in five minutes."
I almost want to hug him. "I just-are you-thank-"
"I know." He pats me on the back and I leave the room without another word.
Once outside, I drop onto a park bench and flip to page 83.
seeds: For my son Troy
if i had a seed for every time i
thought of you
, i could plant an endless garden.
and if the
burgledeegook of the world ever hugs me too tight
i know you can hug me tighter. and its good
i could skipple
my garden path
ignoring the yucky roses and hurimphing the yummy
gardenias(i love gardenias) knowing
its you and you
and always you.
i dont fear splashing through puddlewonderful glosh
because it waters our
and how many are yellow
? we can hold hands if you want and
watch paintbrush clouds up in the up there.
while our happy seeds race each other
under our happy toes.
I run home, throw myself down at my typewriter and don't move until my heart is on the pile of papers in front of me.
Days later, Mark Hayner receives an email at 2:09 am with no subject, bearing the words :
"I want us to publish the book. There's some stuff I want to change though. Can we meet?
* * * * * * *
A knock at the door pulls me out of book-signing mode. I put down my fountain pen and current copy of Seeds: Poetry of a Mother, her Son, and their Reflections on Memory, Love, Art, and Life by Anna Karen Earnshaw and Troy Campbell Earnshaw Holden. I push my glasses up my nose as they have slowly drifted to the very tip and are currently threatening to fall off. I had forgotten how much I needed my glasses and had sentenced them to a lifetime in their case until recently. Shaking out my hand, sore from signing, I hurry to the door, pull it open, and grin at my editor Mark Hayner and my dad, Robert Holden.
"Nice place you got here!" My dad exclaims as he strolls across the doorstep and over to the grand piano by the window.
"See dad? I wasn't lying last year when I said I lived in the penthouse. I had just forgotten the date."
Dad laughs sarcastically and accepts a shot of whiskey from Mark who has just filled three shot glasses in the kitchen.
"It's time to toast Troy's nomination for the Griffin Poetry prize and his new penthouse!" Mark starts.
He hands me a glass but I refuse.
"I don't drink anymore." I explain.
"Jesus! Who are you anymore?" Dad splutters.
"I'm happy." I answer.