Saturday, April 6, 2013
Sydney's 3-Minute Fiction
The following is my good friend Sydney Reichman's submission to round 10 of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction. NPR asked folks to submit a short story in the form of a voice mail message.
"She’ll Know Where to Find Me When Iʼm Gone"
by Sydney Reichman
Sydney, this is Monroe. Whiddlerʼs gone. Heʼs done left us. He ainʼt coming back. Found him in his old van. Been eatinʼ some canned sardines and saltines. Must have been workinʼ on a song too cause he was laid over his ole guitar. Pages scattered everywhere, bits of poetry and lyrics. He was more Tom Waits than the man himself, but he wadnʼt gonna do nothinʼ with ʻem ʻcept sing ʻem to the few still come around. He could barely play no more nohow since all yʼalls land savinʼ and sculpture ruint all his body parts and strung ʻem into a situation that just wadnʼt gonna end right, if you know what I mean.
We took all his sculpture; the cherry, catalpa, and ironwood, even the sassafras and sourwood. Piled ʻem up into this beautiful form. And then he lit it all. It was ʻbout last September Harvest Moon, and it was a helluva show. Broke my heart in two. Hell, he taught me everything I know about wood. But he seemed all o.k. and easy with it.
Whiddler was a vision against the flames and that orange gibbous moon. His face would keep changing into one century and then another. He looked like some Eastern Monk, then some Indian warrior. He looked like himself but as a boy, Huckleberry Finn, old and young and burning in hell and at peace. It was the damdest thing I ever witnessed.
Whiddler knew things most people didnʼt and he didnʼt believe in god neither. For a third grade education, Iʼd say he was more scientist than ignorant, more artist than sharecropper for sure. And he could let go better ʻn anybody I knew. At one point, I did see him crack though. He said he didnʼt belong to that world of buy and sell. Said you didnʼt either but you were still waiting in line even though he wished you wouldnʼt. Still wanting people to ʻpreciate your lifeʼs work. I think he found good humor in that one. Like I said, he just knew things.
I guess he loved you ʻbout as much as he could love anybody, but seems he kinda hated you too. Mostly for hanginʼ on and lovinʼ that damn piece of scraggly land you two spent a lifetime savinʼ. Yʼall did make it gorgeous, cause I remember it as a logged to death, swamp of a briar patch. Said he had to do somethinʼ with his life, and that was ʻbout as good as any. Cause I know better than that. He gave so many of us a chance out here in these woods. Taught us to make a livinʼ with our hands, and did if for the pure act of givinʼ. Made him old though, to work so hard for everyone else and not get nothinʼ ʻcept maybe the satisfaction of givinʼ yourself away.
Somethinʼ happened a little strange. The Dollar Boys came up from Alabama to claim the ashes and get his stuff. But no one could find the ashes. They cremated him right away but nobody knows nothinʼ ʻbout it. We went back to his van and right there where I just know it wadnʼt there before, was a note written in his handwritinʼ and in somethinʼ that had the look of pokeberry juice sayinʼ, “She'll know where to find me when Iʼm gone”. Donʼt know if that means anything to ya, but just thought it might.
Well Hon, Iʼm real sorry. If you ever need anything, give us a call.