We moved to an older house in a woods when I was a teenager. The prior owners, an elderly couple, left an amazing library of books. Among those books were pieces of several unfinished manuscripts, fragments of stories, some typed and some handwritten, set in Chicago. My parents held these documents for decades until they mailed them to me a few months ago. I started to flip through them today and was struck by this page. It’s funny how some of the same themes exist in society today: classism and elitism, the preponderance of writers, and too many parking tickets. From time to time I’m going to pick a page and share the anonymous author’s words. The text begins below.
They had a moment of apprehension as they came out on the walk. A cop was standing at the curb, one foot on the running board of the old car, and writing on a pad against his knee. But the professor took the situation in hand.
“My good man,” he said to the cop, “it’s a bit cold outside for writing a novel, isn’t it?”
“I’m writin a ticket, bub,” the cop said, not looking up. “Huh, what’s that you said?”
“I say it’s alright to starve in a garret, and all that sort of thing, but it’s carrying it a bit far to write your immortal works on the streets of Chicago at twenty below zero.”
The officer, a huge fellow with a red face and profane eyes, swung his foot off the running board.
“It’s a well-know fact,” said the professor. “Everybody and his brother is writing nowadays. Why not you?” he demanded with the injured severity of a writing school ad.
“Look,” the cop said quietly, “you in on this writing racket?”
“I’ve done some,” said the professor. “I’ve taught many to do more than I ever have.”
“Look,” said the cop, “I gotta daughter, see. Wants to write, whatever the hell that is. Moonin around. Won’t work at nothin. Just writes stuff. Just puts words on paper, by God! All day long. I ain’t kiddin. You wouldn’t believe it. She dint have the brains to get through high school. Now I ask you.”
“All right,” the professor said. “You asked me, and I’ll tell you. The world is full of writers that dint have the brains to finish high school.”
“That a fact?”
“That’s a fact,” said the professor, motioning the others to get in. He slid around the front of the car and got in himself. The big cop leaned over Daryl for at least one last word with the professor.
“You ain’t kiddin?”
“Honest to Gawd,” said the professor.
The cop tore the ticket out of his book, crumpled it, and tossed it into the gutter. “I feel better about it,” the cop said. “But don’t park under no more parkin signs.”
“Thank you, officer. And good luck to your daughter. And you might as well learn to live with it, because what she’s got she can’t live without.”
This story starts at page 62 and concludes on page 116 with the words, “Sic transit gloria.” I wish I had the beginning.