Saturday, January 14

Chapter 42:

In Which Josh Ran Across An Entry In One of His College Creative Writing Journals from Spring of 2004, and Decided to Share It With You

Josh’s Journal: a hastily scribbled mind transcribed

It’s been a while since I really felt the gumption to write in this journal, because so much has been going on I haven’t had time to stop and organize or schedule life as I have been doing: get up in the morning, go to class, eat dinner, do homework, write, go to sleep; and instead am consigned to do what is necessary: eat dinner, do homework, go to class, repeat process.
I find that a journal -- especially now that we are done writing stories for class, and are only casually going over poetry for the sake of covering it -- is a hindrance to my creativity, because I don’t feel like writing anything because I am forced to write for classes (e.g., this week I had a 3,5, and 10 page paper due Tuesday, and am now sick of words).

I find that the journal, as such -- even just using the name "journal" -- is a hindrance to my creativity which, through training over the years, has been trained, at a moment’s notice almost, to give me writer’s block when I have to keep a journal. My writing process involves thinking up an idea, writing it out, re-reading it and editing, then, more often than not, saving it on my computer where it sits and rots. If writing for a class, I skip the rotting part, and hand it to someone else to mark up and hand back so I can decipher their handwriting and finally realize they were writing in an ancient, unused Chinese dialect transcribed in either Greek or runic symbols.

The point being: I don’t "journal." IN fact, I mistrust any guy who seriously "journals" just because it means he is unable to process his own thoughts in his head and has to put them down for his grandchildren to be embarrassed about when they find it after his death some forty-five years and two published novels later.

The main story ideas I have had over the last three weeks is based on the stories found in German song cycles, which use a basic plot. In the first song of the cycle, a girl is sitting with her sheep on a hillside and is lonely, but enjoying the nice, fresh air scented by sheep-droppings. She then sees, afar off - so far in fact, that she can’t exactly make out what it is -- a moving speck on the horizon, who she knows to be her love, coming for her, but it turns out to be another sheep. The second song in the cycle is all about the sheep dancing in the meadows, and how they are like chickens on the hillside, because it probably rhymes in German; then some large creature comes and eats all the sheep and the girl. The third song in the cycle is of the little shepherd boy who finds the wild beast - possibly a giant, man-eating gerbil, or a small duck - and kills it with his little bow and arrow, thereby releasing the girl from the beast’s entrails. The last song is the lament of the little boy that he didn’t get there before the girl had been eaten, and how the prairie is still beautiful and still smells of her hair... and sheep-droppings. My story would run a little different: the sheep would be rabbits, there would be no shepherd girl, and the large beast would probably be a trial attorney for the IRS.

Sunday, January 1

Chapter 41

Josh's Christmas Letter, 2005

The following text has been proven to be a from-letter. Caution is advised, as it is not in letter form, but is actually a two act play.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

ACT 1: Scene - In a one-room shanty overlooking London’s Upper East side – think Charles Dickens-esque hovel.
[Josh wandering up and down the room tapping his chin with a quill-pen: a single candle illuminates the room from a desk strewn with papers. The only other items of furniture are a small four post bed covered in a ratty green blanket, and a chair next to the open topped desk: Stubs sits at the desk with a quill and ink ready to take down the dictation. Stubs is dressed in a black frock-coat with slightly greying hair hanging loose about his head. Josh is in a long burgundy house-coat and tan slippers – also wearing pajamas with small yellow ducks as a pattern]

Josh: Take this down Stubs, "Dear friends and loved ones: Another year has come and gone, and another waits in the wings to begin..." How does that sound?

Stubs: Very good, sir. It has a very good beginning.

Josh: Thank you Stubs. I feel all good Christmas letters should have a good introductory sentence to set them apart from all the run-of-the-mill Christmas letters. If I were to start out saying, "the cat is fine, and I like life," it just doesn’t grab your attention.

Stubs: You have a cat?

Josh: No, I was only giving an analogy. To continue with my letter then, "I heartily wish to see you all soon" no, change wish to "greatly desire," Heartily shall become "most heartily" and change you all to "all of your shining faces." Got that?

Stubs: No sir.

Josh: [not waiting for an answer] "As this new year begins, it is my great pleasure to review the significant happenstances of this past annul..."

Stubs: Excuse me, sir.

Josh: Yes Stubs?

Stubs: How do you spell that?

Josh: What.

Stubs: Happenstances, sir.

Josh: H-a-p-p-e-n

Stubs: H-a-p-e...

Josh: P-p-e-n-s-t..

Stubs: Excuse me, sir, how many P’s are there?

Josh: What?

Stubs: Well, I have H-a-p-e-p-p-e-n, but I think I may have gotten carried away.

Josh: We can fix that in editing later.

Stubs: Very good sir.

Josh: "By starting at the beginning of the year, we will first arrive at my trip to Master’s College with my classes for the Truth and Life conference, where I was driver and chaperone." [Knocking at door] Now who could that be. Come in?
[Enter Doris with the tea tray]

Doris: ‘Ello gov’nor, brogh yoh tie up ‘ere fo ye.

Josh: Thank you Doris.

Doris: ‘Ow was ye Christmas, sir, beggin’ yer pardon.

Josh: Oh, fine Doris, just splendid. Spent it with my folks up in the high country.

Doris: Ye don’ saigh...

Josh: Yes. Had a good four days there. Even sang at services on Christmas morning with my Patrai – didn’t sound half bad.

Doris: Wasn’a tha’ jus’ gran’ suh. ‘Jew loik creemnsugar?

Josh: No thank you Doris. Plain tea will be fine.

Doris: Ow’s bou you Stubs?

Stubs: Cream please.

Doris: Roit.

Josh: Now, where was I.

Stubs: Los Angeles, sir.

Josh: Ah yes. "However most of my days this past year were not filled with frivolity and merriment, etc., etc., but with solid work for both the school and the floral shop as delivery man."

Doris: Din’ ye jus’ do some’o at vis week, suh?

Josh: Last week, Doris. Worked up until Christmas eve, as it were. Cut a bit into my vacation, but it is always best to apply oneself to good labor, even while on vacation, isn’t it Stubs?
[Stubs sputters on a laugh and then nods gravely with a wink at Doris]

Josh: Yes. Now, back to the letter.

Doris: If you needs any’fin, jus ring me up then.

Josh: Thank you Doris. [Doris leaves with tea things] "As to the spring, while much of my time was indeed devoted to work, I began in earnest working towards perfecting my repertoire on guitar for performance."

Stubs: Did you then, sir?

Josh: Well, more in earnest we might say. "For I had the desire to be on the stage once again – which desire was fulfilled not a few times over the summer as I had the privilege of giving concert after concert..."

Stubs: I thought you only gave two concerts... and one was just you as an opening act.

Josh: Well, that is true, Stubs, yet we must needs pad our wording so as to maximize impact.

Stubs: You’re not counting the benefit concert as one, are you? You only did a few songs...

Josh: That will do Stubs. The point is that I want my readers to know I have begun my solo-career, and that it is picking up.

Stubs: It did pick up, but it also left off come August.

Josh: That will do! [knocking at door, Josh is frustrated] Come in!

Doris: Sorry to inn’rup, suh, bu ver’s com’ny woit’n dan’ allway for ye.

Josh: [Sighs] Send them in. [Voluptuous man enters wearing black dinnner jacket, top-hat, carrying cane, red scarf] Ah, Bruce, how nice of you to stop by.

Bruce: Yes. [plops himself down on the bed] Blasted night. Though I’d been done over for the fog, what. Not a night for the plays. Dastardly acting and directing. Had Hamlet wearing petticoats and such nonsense. Ophelia was played by a man named Jack, and the entire thing was set in Canada. I say, it was ghastly. You would have loved it Stubs.

Stubs: Didn’t you see that one sir?

Josh: Heavens, no. Last one I saw was about monks faking miracles and selling bones as those of apostles... "Incorruptible" it was called. Good acting.

Bruce: I thought the last one you saw was Richard the Third.

Josh: No, I’ve been to two since then. Without you, sad to say. Wonderful productions too.

Stubs: How many’s that make this year?

Josh: Four. Twice to different performances of Richard the Third, once to Measure for Measure, and one to Incorruptible.

Bruce: Well, I wish you had called me. Love those things.

Josh: Next time I will remember. Now, back to the letter.

Bruce: What letter?

Josh: Oh, Stubs and I were just taking down my Christmas letter.

Bruce: A bit late for that, isn’t it chap? Christmas is just two days away. The post won’t get it to all of your compatriots in time.

Stubs: Better late then never though, sir.

Josh: Well put, Stubs.

Bruce: Well, I don’t wish to keep you, but the theater is doing "King Kong" tonight, and was wondering if you would care to join me for it.

Josh: No, but thank you all the same. Already saw it twice.

Bruce: Good grief, is it that good?

Josh: Not bad. Not bad. You are welcome to stay for a bit then...

Bruce: Must be off. Show starts in forty-five, and what with traffic between here and there. Pip pip then. Can’t wait to hear the letter when you’ve finished. [Bruce leaves]

Josh: Right ho. Now, Stubs, back to the letter. "As many of you may not be aware, my collection of nieces and nephews is now totaling four from my brother. Two of each. The youngest was just born in November. Her name is... is..." What was her name again Stubs?

Stubs: It was a French word, sir. I think it means "small bit of cake" or something.

Josh: That’s the chap, that’s the chap. "Miette..."

Stubs: Could also mean table scraps...

Josh: What?

Stubs: Depending on context.

Josh: Ah. Well.

Stubs: If you don’t mind sir, I would needs refresh myself before continuing.

Josh: Well, Stubs. I shall take it up in your absence.

Stubs: Very good, sir. [Stubs stands and heads out the door] It should not take more than an hour, sir. Cheerio.

Josh: Right. Now... let’s see...

ACT 2: Scene - Josh’s apartment as at the last, but with loads of crumpled paper strewn about the room, so as to fill most the floor. Josh is now in his trousers and white frocked shirt and waistcoat. We find him with his head in both his hands resting his elbows on his desk.
[There is a knock at the door after a short interval, and Josh absently tells them to come in. Enter Sam. Young girl in her early twenties in the garb of the lower class, but with a winning smile and indomitable spirit]

Sam: Excuse me sir, Doris sen’ me up to clean a bit.

Josh: Eh? Oh, er, thank you Sam.

Sam: ‘Ow’s your Christmas letter coming, sir?

Josh: Terrible. Ever since Poor Stubs passed on, I can’t concentrate, can’t seem to write a line... listen to this [picks up crumpled piece of paper, unfolds, and reads] "Classes progress normally, and am looking forward to the next semester." Now tell me, what is it lacking? Stubs was an inspiration in my mind: good man.

Sam: Well, sir, you might try telling what you have taught.

Josh: What?

Sam: You have been teaching creative writing, isn’t that right?

Josh: Yes. Ah, a good class. You know I have wanted to teach creative writing since before I could write well... I think it was sixth grade when I had it taught me by my mother. To be able to teach others to create poetry, and then to hear what they have written is music to my soul.

Sam: Well, if’n you don’ mind, sir, I might say that would do nicely in a letter.

Josh: By Jove, you are right Sam. [Picks up quill and scratches out lines] And then for next semester’s classes.

Sam: Will it be the same as you’ve taught by now?

Josh: No, all new classes next semester. Art is the one I look most forward to teaching, and yearbook I feel the most trepidation over. The other two are Bible classes which will be fine – I didn’t get a minor in Bible and Theology for naught.

Sam: Oh, then you get a fourth class this year? Isn’ that grand.

Josh: Yes. Yes it is. Not full time yet, but a step in the right direction, what?

Sam: [looking at the crumpled papers about the floor] Would you want me take all these papers down as well, sir?

Josh: Yes, thank you, Sam. But could you possibly stay a bit and help me finish the letter first?

Sam: Aye, sir.

Josh: What would you put in your Christmas letter, were you to write on?

Sam: Oh, I would mention my friends sir.

Josh: Your friends?

Sam: Yes, sir. They’s a big part of my life, and done many grand things for and with me.

Josh: Ah yes. Like the Gragos who have had me over for supper every Thursday this year, and Annabelle who just got engaged, and such?

Sam: If you like, sir.

Josh: Not a bad idea. What else would you include?

Sam: Well, sir, I would also talk about me birthday.

Josh: Yes. But they come every year, like clockwork, and people know that you have them.

Sam: True, sir, but some may not remember your age, beggin’ your pardon, and want to know how it was celebrated.

Josh: Hmm. Not a very exciting story this year, I’m afraid. I had to work all day on my 28th birthday. However, I did get a rather interesting gift from my parents: they got me a collection of Edgar Allen Poe stories in a hardback with good illustrations, and an Edgar Allen Poe action figure as well. Looks just like the chap. Even has a raven on his shoulder. What do you think of that Sam?

Sam: Who is this Mr. Poe, sir?

Josh: Ah. Well, doesn’t matter. I’ll just say my birthday was industrious, and leave it at that.

Sam: Yes, sir.

Josh: Well, I suppose that will just about wrap up the letter then.

Sam: You might want to say some final words to ‘em.

Josh: Very good, Sam. "And so, thank you all for making this year more glorious than the last. May all the blessings of almighty God rest upon you throughout this coming year."

Sam: Tha’s a nice ending, sir.

Josh: Thank you Sam. Now, to mail it.

Sam: Yes sir.

Josh: You may go now Sam.

Sam: Thank you sir.

Josh: Oh, and Sam...

Sam: Yes, sir?

Josh: Happy New Years.

Sam: And to you sir.