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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

“Class of Luck”

By Linda H. Barnette

Reading about how teachers are once again heroes makes me appreciate them more than ever.  It also causes me to realize just how important teachers are to their students, not just by teaching a subject, but also as adults who take care of their charges in many different ways. Teaching online gives teachers and students a chance to see each other every day even though they are not together in a typical physical classroom.

All of the things that teachers are doing naturally bring to mind my own 30 years of teaching.  For the first few years after graduate school, I taught English to the girls at two private colleges just for women. However, when we moved to Fayetteville in the 1970’s, I took a position teaching English at a senior high school.  I felt sure that I would be overwhelmed switching from a college setting to a high school, but at Pine Forest the teachers and the administrators were very helpful and highly professional people.  In no time I felt at home there and loved my job.  The students were respectful and hard-working, not really what I had expected from students so different than the ones I was used to.  There was a lot of talk about “Army brats,” but mine were not in that category at all. Most of them seemed to connect to me quickly as an authority figure, and I enjoyed all of my classes.

However, as time passed, there was this one special class that I still recall 40 years later, most by name.  They were my last afternoon class, and we met daily for 75 minutes.  We were studying American Literature, and that group seemed to especially enjoy the poets that we read, people like Longfellow and Dickinson, and others.  Realizing their enthusiasm, I assigned them an original poem for the next Friday class. What they wrote was amazing!! Each student shared his/her work with the entire class, and everyone’s poem was greeted with quiet applause.  As it turned out, those students loved writing poems so much that we did that every week, and every Friday they shared what they had written with each other. One afternoon, Mr. Marable, one of the assistant principals, came in to do one of my observations and thereafter dropped in on several Friday afternoons!!

Near the end of the year, unbeknownst to me, my students typed their poems and had someone in the office run them off and put them together to make a notebook, which they presented to me at the end of the year.  They titled the notebook “Class of Luck.”  It was a precious gift and proof that I had made a difference in their lives and they in mine.

Several years ago I shared the notebook with my son, who typed all the poems again in lovely black ink, not the purple Xerox, and made a notebook for me for Christmas.  It sits on the table in my foyer in a place of honor, and when I pass by, I think about Gwen Sykes, Beth Barnes, and several others in that group and wonder if they remember me as I do them!

“If My Mother Were Alive”

By Stephanie Williams Dean

We’d be discussing our weekly Bible studies.   Mom and I would be sharing our favorite recipes. Every night before going to bed, we’d be talking on the phone and reliving the day’s events.  She and I would be talking about the good books we’re reading.  We’d be celebrating birthdays and holidays together – and planning big family reunions for summer.  This spring, we’d be boarding a Caribbean cruise ship and going shopping on the islands.  We’d be heading out on a road trip to Daytona Beach to take in the sun and surf.  I’d go home more often and my stays with her would be longer. And while there, we’d bake bread together. She’d be my best friend.

If my mother were alive, we’d be doing all those things there was no more time to do. I moved out of state. Time flew by. And before I knew it, God had called her home. The time was gone. If you are fortunate and still have time with your mother, cherish the time you have.

“What Does this Reveal?”

By Kevin F. Wishon

“Sometimes, I think these things happen to show us something.” It’s been nearly twenty years since my Dad made this comment to me a few months after 9-11. I’ve thought about his statement off and on over the years. Now, with the recent situation, his remark is once again resounding in my mind. Moreover, I feel I’m beginning to understand a little of what he was referring to all those years ago.

    For most of us, choices and distractions fill our everyday lives, which cloud our minds and make finding a clear direction difficult. We struggle to focus on what is truly important in our lives, and also, what is wasting our resources. We are blessed with a wealth of choice but cursed with the inability to see what is best for us. This is where tragedy, trials, and trauma cuts through the obscurity and opens our eyes to what we need. It’s when reality is kicking us hard that we wake up and see our lives with clarity.

    Once wide-awake from the fog of variety, our minds can focus on what is vital and dearly significant to us. The rest is secondary, at best. Did we really need that thing that adds no value to our lives? Did I need to attend that event I actually dislike? In the wake of difficulty, we see the value of our time and substance for what it is; limited resources that must be deployed strategically. The current situation may have forced us to do without something we did not think we could lack. Then to our amazement, we are shown that we really didn’t need it.

    In this difficulty, we may discover one more thing. It is the direction we must go. What previously had been obscured or had us indecisive is now a telescope zoomed tightly in on our intended destination. It seems strange and counter-intuitive that adversity can bring about such lucidity. While tragedy accompanied by loss, sorrow, and regret is undesired, we can be grateful that amid the current trial, we are receiving clarity in our personal lives.

“UFOs”

By David R. Moore

It was in the early 1960’s on the west side of the Franklin Mountains of El Paso, Texas.  Fine sand whipped into the sky by recent winds, colored the sky with hues of red from the setting sun.  My home was part of a small neighborhood built into the side of the mountain.  Paved roads weaved through the contours of the mountain side and connected the loose subdivision.  From the large kitchen window, I could view the Rio Grande River meandering through the bare valley below.  The grandeur of the river was long gone.  The Cabello and Elephant Butte Dams, upriver, had turned the once flowing river into a small, muddy creek.  Across the river, the desert hills were cluttered with adobe homes of those living in Mexico.  Looking up river into New Mexico, on the northern most peak of the Juarez Mountains, the 40-foot monument of Jesus, atop Mount Christo Rey, glistened white.

In the previous few weeks, UFO sightings had increased, but I never imagined that I would ever see a real UFO.  On that late afternoon, as if coming out of the red glow of the sun, I saw six objects flying slowly in formation.  The objects were not planes, but seemed to be large, vertically oriented, metallic cylinders that glimmered in the light of the setting sun.  My entire family hurried outside to view the unusual spectacle.  Since the objects were in the sky, we could not estimate the size of these curious objects.  We could distinctly see a light at the bottom of each cylinder.  The next day, local TV news and newspapers reported hundreds of citizens saw the alien invasion force as it flew over the city and into the desert.  Those, with binoculars, claimed they even saw aliens looking out of the portholes of their huge spaceships.

We were mesmerized as the formation became more dispersed and approached the peaks of the mountain.  All crossed over the 7000-foot high peaks, save the last one which crashed into the side of the mountain above our neighborhood.  It was odd that there was no explosion, fire, or sound of eruption.

These desert mountains are bare of trees and bushes, except where there may be a rare water source.  Only prickly pear, barrel cactus, and yucca grow in the sandy sedimentary and igneous rock.  Being a boy, I had thoroughly explored the sides of the mountain, looking for fossils and lizards, but had never climbed to the jagged top.  For me, the upper part of the mountain had a vertical slope I was not comfortable in attempting to climb.

I had to investigate the crash site that was just below some distinct rock formations.  Almost running, I soon passed the highest house of the subdivision and started the ascent of the mountain.  Using the mountain’s rock structures for guidance, I knew I could find the area of the crash.  Being tired and out of breath, I finally reached my desired destination.  However, I did not find any wreckage.  I carefully checked my position on the mountain and seeing my home far below.  I reexamined the various rock outcroppings and felt sure that I was in the right region.

I started, what I imagined, was a systematic search by exploring the area using a grid-like pattern.  I eventually found a plastic bag with a balsa wood structure taped to its bottom opening.  The remnant of a candle was in the center of the wooden support.  With much disappointment, I slowly realized that unknown persons had created a small fleet of hot air balloons using plastic bags from a dry cleaner, balsa wood, and candles.  Light reflecting from the setting sun gave the plastic the illusion of being metallic.

I carried the evidence back to my family at home. My older brother told me he had heard the rumor that some graduating seniors were planning to prank the entire city.  Well for now, I am able to say I really saw UFOs, at least until, they were not.