Thursday, January 8, 2009
Billy Ray Barnwell here, Udella Mabry helped me sign on, if I were going to write me a novel, which I’m not, please note the subjunctive mood, which my old English teacher Mr. D. P. Morris back in Grapevine Texas said indicates an impossibility as in if I were you, which I also am not and could never be, I might call it Fifty Ways To Love Your Loser or something equally catchy but I sure wouldn’t sit down to a computer like this one and start pecking away at the keys like some Banty rooster trying to get his daily supply of corn kernels, no sir, no ma’am, no way, Ho-zay, and as the late great Tennessee Ernie Ford used to say on the TV, bless your little pea-pickin’ heart, no, I’d get me a big stack of yellow legal-size pads with blue lines and go out on the screen porch with a nice glass of sweet tea and proceed to do it using pen and paper the old-fashioned way, after all if it was good enough for President or rather ex-President Bill Clinton, the part about the yellow pads, I mean, not the screen porch and the sweet tea which he prolly can’t get either one up there in Harlem, then it’s good enough for me, and speaking of the old-fashioned way, how he could think of anything to write about except Monica Lewinsky is beyond me, it’s certainly what all the rest of us think about when his name comes up, and the kindest thing I guess we can say about that is at least it kept his mind off Hillary.
Wow, would you look at that, 274 words already and that was just the first sentence. I could learn to like this, I bet my novel will just fly by on this computer, not that I’m going to write one, novel I mean. You know, I learned so much from Mr. D. P. Morris, he wrote really helpful notes in red ink on the top of our papers, one time in the ninth grade my friend Bobby Clyde McWhorter got a paper back from him that said “Bobby, you need help in the areas of spelling, grammar, sentence structure, thought, reasoning, punctuation, and penmanship. It also would be nice if you researched your material” and another that said “The only reason I gave you the 60, I knew this had to be your work, because you could not have possibly copied it from someone else” and another that said “Someday, you will understand the reason for this grade” and another that said “Bobby, I know you have a talent for writing, I hope you find it before your senior year.” Whoever is going to be editing this book, do not add any commas in the previous sentence, I know where you think they belong but I like it better the way it is, I think it has the ring of au-then-tici-ty, plus its length is right nice too. Bobby Clyde was a true friend, even though there was that one time in the tenth grade when he tried to get me to cheat during an algebra test and give him the answers, which I of course refused to do and he wouldn’t talk to me for about a month, he was also really good at playing basketball and after we finally graduated from dear old G.H.S. I heard later he went into the army and became a guard at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C. for a while but I eventually lost track of him. All the papers I ever got back from old D. P. as we called him, not to his face, said “Great work” on them or if they didn’t I have blocked it out.
Mr. Morris, if you are listening somewhere up there in English teacher heaven, I have already written over 600 words and am still in the Preface so I feel that I am well on my way to fame and fortune, and by the way when I got to the university I took some kind of a test which they then let me skip both semesters of Freshman English and go right into Survey Of World Literature at the sophomore level taught by Dean Ruth Ferguson who was the local big deal because both of her two sons had been presidents of the local chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order, whatever that is, but one thing that still irks me about that whole experience is they wouldn’t give me but three hours credit instead of the full six, the university I mean, not Dean Ferguson’s two sons, which I still think was grossly unfair, I think if you’re going to let a person skip both semesters then you should let him have the credit for both semesters, don’t you? and if you’re still listening, Mr. Morris, what I loved most about your class was when we diagrammed all those sentences but I have heard they don’t teach English that way any more, well it’s their loss, but thanks for your expert tutelage.
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It is now the next day and I have to say right off the bat that my total output yesterday was 666 words which gave me pause, what with that being the number of the Anti-Christ and all, so I went back and added some more stuff in there this morning to get around such an unfortunate start, after all Ann Landers the famous advice columnist said if life hands you a lemon make lemonade, I underlined the added part and I promise I will try not to do any more adding in the future and just let each day’s output stand on its own. Since this isn’t going to be a novel, maybe it will be my autobiography instead with the names changed to protect the guilty, ha ha ha, that’s supposed to be a joke, either that or a journal of personal reminiscences, I read that phrase once in a magazine, or wouldn’t it be a hoot if it turns out to be a scientific treatise or some sort of historical romance or maybe I’ll just try my hand at a few poems or some nice short stories. I can hardly wait to see what it turns out to be. It just occurred to me that Mama used to get a funny look on her face sometimes in the middle of our conversations and say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, I often wondered why she did that, but I have always believed I might could maybe make a 50% cotton, 50% polyester purse out of just about anything if I put my mind to it, so anyways I will just plunge on ahead and give it my best shot and if I am successful or rather I should say when I am successful you may be reading these words somewhere ages and ages hence, as the famous poet Robert Frost might say, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.