Mudlark No. 56 (2015)

Clay Hall

Sometimes the ink’s not dry, and the fat part of his hand smears the page as he tears it off, slaps it on my desk. We’ve been at it so long like this.

He leaves the room as if he’s done a grand thing, as if the ink should blaze. But he knows it’s not there yet, as I say (Mom & Dad taught me to be kind), and I take a look. Pays no mind to what I’d planned to do that day; soon he’s back: Have you looked at it yet?

My God, hold on, man, I said last week, the pulp’s still wet—give it a chance to dry!

Then I’ll pull a line from deep down the page and put it first, switch one phrase for the next (he’s got no scale, this man—thoughts have rank, for God’s sake)—try to breathe some life into it—a kind of CPR.

He hates slash marks. Pouts for days when I strike out a mere half-page. So I’ve learned to leave the bad lines clean, but box them in—a soft box, curved at the ends, then write Cut?

Things get tense. I’ll hand it back, ask to see it when he thinks it’s done, and when I get it he’s wrecked the thing, gone out on his own, tin-eared, ten words when he needed one. What did you do? I say, take a breath, start in.

Why don’t you write? he says.

I have no need to write, I say. You do.

But for the most part it’s worked. Three kids, grown: our son gone east, both girls west. As to him, twelve books now. Next week we’re due down at Clay Hall, where they’ll give him a prize. Not for one book, but all—Life’s Work. The Dean sent us a draft of his speech:

Here we are in Clay Hall, named, as you know, for Dan and Jo Lynne Clay, who have been so good to us. And you could say that it’s well-named in more ways than one, for year by year the man of whom we speak on this fine fall night has shaped his thoughts the way Arp or Moore or Shaw might carve great slabs of stone or blocks of wood or mounds of raw clay to make art that will last—long past this age and the next...

His talk goes on like that. Too long, for my taste...

Then my man will get up, read his speech (rough stuff in first draft) and a page or two from his last book.

I love it when he reads. There’s a glow to him, as if he were made for this. I sit in the back, if I can. That way I can move my lips.

Gerald Fleming | Blind Like That
Contents | Mudlark No. 56 (2015)