Harper Lee is dead…

She slipped the note under the slightest of cracks. The door to my writing hollow hangs as fixed as recovered memory. The windows are shuttered fast.

How long has it been there?

Winter howls. Outside. She howls in spurts and scowls.

A Qualicum wind, an erratic but aggressive wanderer, slams the clapboard, whistles through air pockets on the tin roof. Rain seeps in through errant channels, raw, craving arteries of surreptitious entry.

The waters pool, seeking the most undemanding course.

I bend down to retrieve the missive. Even that impulsive act might unsettle me.

I have given strict instructions. I always give unequivocal directives. My process is immaculate.

The light from my one lamp barely sheds sufficient illumination.

I unfold her communique.

Brief. Stark. Sharp.

I am an elevator, plunging down the shaft.

The cable has snapped.

It is as if a limb has been severed.

Harper Lee is dead.

Nelle Harper Lee. This unexpected weight crushes down. As a writer, a scribbler, I have always expected, have fought to be in control of my emotions, to harness them, shape their emancipation.

I have abandoned lovers, misplaced friends, ignored the well-spring of my conception, parents as old as, or older than, Nelle Harper Lee.

But I have known them. I can still see the hair flaring like static on the ears of my father, his spirit distilled as he struggles with a contrary ratchet; in the heat of summer, watching midway on the basement stairs, his tongue licking dribbles from his lips as he works on the Reliant, the cool concrete pacifying his turbulence.

My mother. The progression of her years. And then, that rapidly debilitating descent. How I avoided that. How cowardly I was.

But I am a coward who recalls her smile, her laugh, both as rich as hot chocolate; her creases, furrowed, soft to the touch, yet reptilian hard, like dried soil, and deep, a testament to her troubles and her times.

Harper Lee is dead.

I am in retreat. Withdrawal. Sense less. Burrowed into myself, wanting, coveting the bright interior beam of evocative cleverness to ignite.

The clutter pollutes the stream.

And now, Nelle Harper Lee’s demise overwhelms my writerly meditation.

The book and the film sprocket through my minds projector. I cannot separate the two. They are as one, the power of the language, the imprint of the images, the voice

 

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

 

I am not as strong-minded as I would wish to be.

How indomitable she must have been.

How odd it is to think that lessons learned, while some surely came from the stoic renderings of my country-bred parents, my cynical, self-assured and solitary father, the tough-as-a-nut life teachings of my occasionally detached mother, that when I focus in on the specifics, my moral self is much more linked to Mockingbird and a few other film and literary works.

Harper Lee is dead.

I have quarantined myself in this austere cell for a week. I must learn to be able to stay within myself, to harvest how I, only I, can interpret the world to which I belong, that I crave to capture, as if it were mine to trap.

I see the boy that I once was, that guileless nineteen sixty-two teen, untested, having read Mockingbird, seeking out the film, the pure, thoughtful curiosity of Scout, the lessons to be learned, the horror and the heights.

I see the man I am. The age. The times. The biting, bitter twitter-twang, the electronic folly of gracelessly constant revelation.

I convulse under my self-inflicted weight.

Can it be that anything I have to say has already taken flight into the wild and willing wind?

Is this what it means to know thy writerly self?

Harper Lee is dead.

Is there now a room for me?

Was there ever?

 

This tale was written for FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #14  The prompt and expectations are as follows:

You’ve just been handed a message that makes you drop to the floor, trembling uncontrollably.

 

  • No more than a Word Count of 600. (SUGGESTED)
  • Using the above scenario, create a scene of what the note is about, and why it makes you react the way you do. (REQUIRED)
  • No external dialogue for this scene. (SUGGESTED)

 

The death of Harper Lee on Friday, February 19th 2016 clearly inspired this exploration (if that is what this reflection is.)

I certainly mean no disrespect to Ms. Lee. I am but one of a legion of readers and writers who have been blessed to bear witness to her world view. My narrator is not me, although we share some similar characteristics. I do want to point out that I rarely hunker in and disappear. I do have a room where I write but it has no door. Harper Lee reportedly wrote on a door that served as a desk.

A door for my writing chamber is, of course, on my quite uninspired bucket list.