Thursday, November 16, 2006

Longfellow of the Lake

Howdy, Wilbur here, dictating to Bailey as usual.

So one day last month I'm sitting here on my stool (first one at the counter, mind you) mostly minding my own business, when S-Man walks in with his shirt half untucked and laptop bag slung over his shoulder. "Hey S-Man, when you gonna have that book of yours written?" I ask him.

He looks me over, trying to gauge whether I really care or if I'm just hasslin' him, I'm sure.

"When it's done," he says.

Now I look back at him, me trying to gauge whether that's some kind of writer answer or if he's hasslin' me back. Before I can open my yap, S-Man hands me a sheet of paper. "Take a look at this."

It was a printout for a poetry contest. Some place I never heard of: Dragons, Knights and Angels Magazine.

"What, where's your entry?" I asked.

S-Man grabbed the biggie coffee Bailey started pouring when he walked through the door. "Don't have time to enter, gotta write my book. Thought maybe the Longfellow of the Lake could do something with it."

I don't know how he found out my old nickname, but from the snort Bailey gave from behind the counter I have my suspicions. [Bailey: Honest, wasn't me. Wilbur once told me the only reason he took Trudy to see Dead Poets Society was because he thought it was a murder mystery, so S-Man's comment took me by surprise.]

Still, top prize was $75 and I was running low on fly-tying supplies. So I sat down and started working on a poem. Nothing fancy like a sonnet, I was too rusty for something like that. Something simple. A half hour later I was done. Except it wasn't quite right.

Forty-five minutes later I had it fixed. Almost.

Okay, maybe just a haiku. Five syllables, then seven, then five.

My first six tries were all a syllable long or short. Number seven was fine until Bailey stuck her nose in and pointed out two words that were misspelled, and when I fixed 'em the line ran over the limit. I grabbed the contest sheet and the stack of napkins I'd been scribbling on and went home.

Didn't come back to Java Joint for three days. I still wonder how everyone survived without me. But the poem was done, sent in two days before the deadline. That was at the end of September. The winning poems were announced just before Halloween. Mine wasn't among them. Guess I was rustier than I thought. If anything good has come of this (other than having gone ahead and bought the fly-tying supplies to salve my wounded pride because I didn't win) it's that the old nickname doesn't bother me much anymore, and I remembered what fun poetry can be. Not prissy moon-balloon-June-swoon garbage, but really robust stuff. I'm thinking of asking Bailey to sponsor an open-mike poetry night here at Java Joint.

If I can find the right rhyme for coronary bypass, that is.

[Bailey here. I bent Trudy's arm until she fessed up about Wilbur's nickname. Okay, I went over for tea and wouldn't leave until she told; I'm not a violent woman. Seems Wilbur was quite the romantic once upon a time and wrote poems to court Trudy. Some of his male friends found out and came up with the nickname. (Poor guy; almost feel sorry for him.) Trudy got a little mad at the memory; like it was a good thing those boys weren't in the kitchen with us just then. Then she pulled a worn and yellowed sheet of paper from the lining of her purse and handed it to me.

"This is the second poem Will ever wrote me."

Shall I?, by Wilbur Hucks

Shall I compare thee to a large mouth bass?
No. For though thou art wily and elusive--
Hard to hold and harder to catch--
I have learned that women do not like to be compared to fish in poetry.
Ever since my first attempt, which revolved around a play on the word flounder
(though perhaps it was my misspelling of grouper that left you with the wrong impression).
Nevertheless I love you very much.
And request that you go out on the lake with me this Saturday.
Please respond by Friday evening,
As I will have to dig nightcrawlers in the morning,
And need to know how many to get.

What a smoothie.]

Posted by ~ Bailey Truitt @ 7:00 AM
Here's one for you, Wilbur. Shall I? write some more poetry?

Posted by Anonymous jake tremaine : 8:37 AM
Jake, that was mean.

I was thinking back to your last post, Wilbur, about the bumper stickers. You ought to make one up that says:

Shall I show you my scar?
Posted by Anonymous fred wiley : 8:39 AM
I'd never have thought Wilbur would use the word "shall."

You're gonna get teased a long time on this one.
Posted by Anonymous burt laroy : 8:40 AM
Sorry to hear you didn't win. But I knew the contest would get those poetic juices flowing.

As for how I knew... I'll never tell.
Posted by Blogger S-man : 2:12 PM
Wilbur, where have you been hiding all this immortal talent as a poetic Romeo? Nightcrawlers. Now that's romantic talk.
Posted by Anonymous r.j. hager : 11:16 PM
Oh, my, I so enjoyed this post. Wilbur, you always make me laugh.
Posted by Anonymous elizabeth monty : 11:17 PM
Thank you, Elizabeth.

At least SOMEONE out there's got some class.
Posted by Anonymous wilbur hucks : 12:08 AM
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