Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Story - A Word

I have mixed feelings about A Word. There's no question that I'm proud of that story, and that it was included in an anthology of short-short stories that now resides in our nation's national library. Who wouldn't be proud of that? However, I do take issue with the fact that "they" got both my name, and the story's title wrong ('Word' by Chuck Lovall). Not only that, but "they" felt free to edit my work without permission (and edit it badly, in my opinion) to the point of taking the lustre out of the story's essence.

I suppose that I could have blocked the anthology from proceeding, but that would have meant denying other writers the fruits of their own endeavours. So now that book sits on a shelf in Ottawa with a looseleaf apologia explaining the inaccuracies to "A Word".

Every writer is aware of the effort that they put into a story, and the impossible odds that are overcome to its being accepted. To see that all erased at the eleventh hour by pure incompetence, is something that I hope no one else has to experience.

                                     A Word

I am.
It is the beginning, and I exist - a dab of dark ink on white filaments of paper.
I am the letter ‘A’ - high cased - the beginning of a sentence, a first utterance of thought.
I am alone. There is space on either side of me so I know that I am also a word.
I am the word ‘A’.
To my left come the sounds of what might be the scratchings of a pen’s nib on paper. In its wake, there are soft murmurings, astonished utterances of the self-discovery of Becoming. I cast inquiries and receive hesitant replies.
“I am ‘d’”, says one with awe.
“I am ‘a’”, says another in tones of hallowed recognition.
“’y’” comes a third, and with only a moment’s reflection, absorbs the accumulative voicing of their Selves, then cries, “We are ‘day’!”
There is a luminescence of awareness. Ignorance is pushed back, and I can see that myself and they are “A day.” This excites us and we begin to murmur amongst ourselves.
“Shhhh!” cries ‘y’, “I can hear something.”
In the distance, emerging from where the scratching of the pen recedes, I can hear something as well, but it is too far away to tell what it is. They are voices, but this is all I know until ‘d’ whispers to me that there is  ‘s’ and ‘o’ to their left.
Then, at that very moment, the distant strains of the pen stop.
 The silence is deafening.
I am puzzled. Perhaps I am troubled as well. Is this all? But that can’t be….can it?
We had been something, but now we are incomplete. Before, we had been ‘A day’. Now we are ‘A day so’. It makes no sense. We lack meaning. Without meaning, there can be no direction. Will this be our eternity - life without meaning? Our excitement gives way to anxiety, and as the terrible silence stubbornly persists, time passes with no solace for our fears.
Then suddenly, as though waking from a timeless slumber, the sounds of the pen are renewed. Terse, breathless whispers, agitated with tension, come down the line that there is to be more.
“More what?” I ask. My own anxiety reflects the strain. My relief at hearing the writing recommence is quelled by the unknown. What is the substance of those distant, unseen others to which I am bound? What will be my meaning? Will there be any meaning at all?
Again and again I beg a response, but receive none.
I fret.
In agitated time, rumours come. ‘It is a big word’, a ‘great word.’ There follows an elongated pause before it comes to me that it is ‘a vast word’!
Anxiously, I wait.
Then, slowly at first, but as the meaning of this vast new word begins to acquire substance, more quickly the identity of the letters come to me until, anxiety forgotten, it becomes a veritable river of information - “b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l”!
Indeed it is a great word! Even in our infant knowledge we know there are few greater than this. Our joy and relief shines pure upon the page for, not only have we regained meaning, a still greater significance has been given us by my freshly minted kin, and – oh! – what meaning it is!
Then even in our rapture the information trickles in that ‘a-s  t-o-d-a-y’ is also appended to our world. It seems our excitement can know no bounds.
‘A day so beautiful as today’…
What greater existence could there be for a humble letter than to be part of such a wonderful philosophy! ‘A day so beautiful as today’ shines clearly in our collective consciousness and we thrill the page with our pride.
Still, from below, the nib continues to scratch.
The tumult of our happiness begins to subside, but gone are our feelings of uncertainty and fear. We take assurance in the knowledge of what we are – a collective of hamlets and villages, and yes, even towns and great cities; each comprised of individuals that have joined and formed a society of thought - that today is beautiful! What can possibly be more noble?
Tingling with excitement, we wait while our cousins below are enlightened with their own self-discovery. In due course, we introduce ourselves and trade information, until we are all aware of our destiny.
‘W-a-s  s-u-r-e-l-y  m-e-a-n-t  f-o-r  t-h-e-e’
A vast, incredulous sigh rises from us all, as mist might arise when greeting the morning sun.
With reverent gratitude we realize that we are to be something profoundly magnificent – something so fantastically wonderful that none of us has dared hope it might ever come to pass.
 We are to become a poem of the holy trinity of Beauty and Love and Truth! We are all to be part of the greatest, most pure thoughts that ever were!
 Oh, what a priceless gift. There can never be another more precious than this.
While the sounds of scribbling come from further below – pausing here and there as each word is chosen with delicate care – we settle happily into the paper like so many dreamers in repose.
Because for the eternity of our existence this is what we will be; any who might look upon us will be moved – yes, even if it be for a thousand years. Individuals will take us away with them in their hearts and make their lives more beautiful. Perhaps they will tell others and theirs will become more beautiful, as well. Maybe they will even come like pilgrims to a holy place to pay us homage. Possibly, one day we will grow to shine throughout the world, perhaps even to other worlds beyond - even to the very outermost reaches of the most distant star!
 Every sheet of paper and every pot of ink have the potential to do all of this; to set in line an odyssey that will last forever.
I am the beginning…that first bold step.
I am ‘A’.

                                             The End

                                                                        CW Lovatt – 29/02/08

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