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All Peaceful Like

by TheGodfather 

Posted: 15 July 2004
Word Count: 2471
Summary: I am really working on developing my writing style and skill. Thanks in advance for reading it. All comments are welcome.

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I T ‘ S a summer class that I was sitting there waiting for. I only had a couple more to take until my credential. I’d already been teaching a few years, but life sometimes doesn’t work in the right order. I had to start early, so I could get married, beautiful girl. I was waiting for was some intercultural, multicultural education class where they were going to educate me on some things I would never use at my private school. I’ve been told it is all just hogwash even for the public route. You’d be surprised how many people are utterly pessimistic toward the prospect of the education of students.

They say the more education you get, the less you can make a difference in life. I guess that might be true, but I don’t really have a preference, private or public. Every year our students have higher test scores than the public schools.
It was only ten minutes until it was supposed to start, and no one was here. It was starting to worry me a little. I had to have this to get my credential.

See, I just plum forgot that it started last week, so I missed the first two days. I got here early, hoping to talk to the professor, to make amends. I would apologize to him for my being irresponsible and mercilessly beg, if I had to, for him to let me stay and catch up on the assignments.

Class was supposed to start thirty seconds ago. The problem was I was the only one there. I wondered if it had moved to another room. It was summer, and sometimes professors moved rooms for the sake of convenience or something.

It had been at least an hour since I’d got there, and I had already finished two of John Updike’s short stories. My students always tried to make laughter out of his name before they even get to his stories. It was sort of a shame. But “they” would say “anything to get the students connected is good.”

I walked out onto the balcony to read some more. I was tired of being inside. An hour had already passed, and it appeared there was no session today.

The breeze on the balcony was pleasant. The good thing about my spot on the balcony was that I could look down the hallway to see if anyone was coming. No one would come though. That is how it always seems to end up happening.
My cell phone rang. “Hello?” I answered, packing my bag up after the frantic search for the phone.

“Hey James. What are you up to?”

“I’m sitting outside of my class that never showed up. I’m beginning to think that maybe the professor changed the start time for today.”

“What are your plans later today? Me and a couple of the guys were thinking of checking out Turns tonight, that new place down on 4th Street.”

On the stairs of the next building over to the left, I saw something moving. It looked like a plant or a large pine cone or something rocking because of the breeze. I wondered what the moving mass of something was until I recognized it as a kitten, small and white, licking itself, legs spread out wide on the steps of a college building. It stopped and took a long stare to the side and began meowing. I could hear it from where I was sitting.

Nobody had walked up those stairs in at least two hours, so it kept sitting there, staring to the side, and meowing.

“Yeah, sure. Let me check to see what I’m doing and give you a call back. Hey, random thought here, but there really are a large number of places on a college campus for someone to disappear to if they wanted to. You could probably sit some place for days without ever being bothered,” I said, flicking an ant that had made its way up to my arm without me noticing.

“I guess so. You’ve been sitting there bored for a while haven’t you? I don’t start thinking about things like that until I’m real bored,” he said.

“It might be that, but it took me sitting down here quietly for a while, just watching what goes on around here to start getting thoughts. I’m not keeping you am I? What are you doing?”

“I was just calling you to let you know the plans. Give me a call back and let me know if you’re going or not,” he said, obviously wanting his way out of the conversation to do whatever it is people who aren’t waiting for a class to show up are doing right now.

“Kay,” I said.

“See ya later.”


People pulling backpacks on wheels were walking below the balcony. Other people rode bikes or gas-powered scooters or just sat at the bus bench. My watch showed 1:48. Heh. “Halfway through,” I thought.

I needed to get a hold of the professor, but he didn’t have a campus phone number. He was one of those adjunct professors. I tried emailing his temporary email address that I found on the school website, but he hadn’t emailed me back. “Maybe he’s on a faculty trip and canceled class for today,” I thought.

As the third hour lapsed, I looked over and noticed the cat was gone. I never noticed it stop whining, maybe because I was on the phone. Maybe it just gave up meowing at whatever it was meowing at.

T H E class never showed up on Monday, so I decided to test out my theories on Wednesday. I thought maybe it had been canceled, so I checked at student services early before the alleged start time. It had not been canceled, and I was still enrolled in it. Luckily, the professor, Dr. Daniels, had not dropped me yet. Whether anyone would attend was a different story. I arrived twenty minutes early Wednesday to an empty room again. How long I would wait today I still hadn’t decided.

The thought entered my mind, “What if no one ever shows up but me. Do I still get credit?” I had missed three periods already. That worked out to a quarter of the summer session. I hadn’t been able to get any new information about it either. The department didn’t know if the room had changed. As far as the school knew, it had not been canceled. It was a peculiar situation.

I decided to wait. Another interesting thing in my mind was the posters on the wall of the room. The walls in college classes are usually as bare as a hospital patient’s rear. This one had butcher paper posters still up on the wall.
One was titled “Equality vs. Equity” and had a list of financial comparisons. Many people theorize that a reason many ethnic students do so poorly in school is because of the amount of money their school gets to educate them. It’s a vicious cycle – less performance – less money – less performance – less money, and so the cycle goes.

“I wonder how people get out of cycles like that,” I thought to myself. I picked up a blue marker that this group had apparently left on the floor. The same blue marker was on the poster.

The door shuddered for a second and drew my attention. It shuddered again as a man finally got it opened. He had a green fishing hat on with various hooks hanging from the grommet holes around the brim. He was dressed nicely, slacks and a shirt. He backed through the doorway somewhat, and his white-tipped cane was the last thing that I saw.
There were about 10 minutes left until class was supposed to begin, so my spirit was lifted a bit actually seeing someone in the room.

“Hello, sir,” I said.

“Oh, hey young fella. I didn’t know anyone was in here,” he responded. He struggled a bit to find a spot to hold himself up on a chair while he took a seat, laying his walking stick across his lap. He stared off towards the wall and asked, “What’s your name?”

“James,” I said, walking back to my spot on the floor where my bag lay. “Yours?”

“Walter. Walter Johnson,” he said.

Walter sat like that for a few minutes quietly with his hands on his lap holding his stick and looking towards the wall. I had sat down and was just about to resume reading when he spoke again.

“Places like this make a person gets to wondering sometimes. I’ve thought before that I could sit down against some wall somewhere to rest and end up dying right there like that with my hat over my eyes like I was sleeping all peaceful like, and people might not go bothering me for a week or so. Maybe more. I’d probably have to start to ripening first. Even then they might just see me a vagrant and wonder why I fell asleep on their college campus here. ‘Damn bum,’ they’d probably go to say. It makes you wonder sometimes what people are thinking about you when they look at you. I remember how I used to look at some people. I was always thinking something about them. You know what I mean?” Walter asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It makes you think a little.” I wondered if I was socially required to look at him while he was talking since he was blind, out of politeness and all that.

Walter turned his head toward me still balancing his can on his lap and said, “My father told me, ‘It’s the same grass grows on both sides of the fence, and both sides gets weeds.’ Just like that he used to say things to make me think about things. It worked sometimes too, but it wasn’t till I got older that I got to thinking more. More often anyway.”

I amassed the nerve to ask him. “So...how did it happen?”
“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You said you used to be able to see. You used to watch people.”

“I was in construction for about 10 years. Right out of college I picked up a part time job that turned full time. It paid the bills anyway.”

“It paid pretty well then?” I asked.

“It was enough.”

I had decided that I would look at him while he talked. I noticed that he had good posture. He sat practically erect, back straight up into his neck, which was just as straight. He had not removed his hands from the cane on his lap. They remained shoulder width apart resting on his knees and holding the cane.

“We had got to putting the frame up for this building downtown, the World Financing Center. I was busy guiding a beam into place and lost my balance. Just lost my balance, that’s all. The strange thing is construction workers just don’t do that. We don’t. It gets to be second nature for us, walking on beams. I could probably have made quite the career as a gymnast or something like that.”

“You fell?” I asked, just trying to carry the conversation along.

“Sure enough. My foot missed the beam beneath me, and I toppled right off the edge. Dropped the beam I was guiding and everything. I was around the corner from the other two men working with me. They were helping with the beam. They didn’t know I had fallen for a while. The doctor said I struck my head on a beam on the way down.”

“That’s terrible,” I said, pausing for a few seconds to seem reverential. “Must have been devastating.” I took the gamble, knowing that my statement might full well feel intrusive to him.

“For a while. You’d be surprised how you adjust after a tragedy like that.” He sat quietly for a few moments, and I didn’t do anything to disturb him. He looked like he was thinking deeply about something.

I wondered what I should do about this class, what it would be like to lose your eyesight. My mind was having trouble focusing on him. I felt like I should apologize or something. It was a serious subject we were talking about.
It was already late again. The system here at this college needs some fixing, I thought. “Are you waiting for a class to start in here, Walter?” I asked as I turned my body to find a different position on the floor against the wall. The tile floor had been forming a flat spot on the left side of my behind. I hadn’t noticed until now.

“No…no. I actually just stopped in here for a rest. Usually I can sit for a while before anyone disturbs me. Is that what you’re in here for? Waiting for a class?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is showing up again.” It was past the start time and no one else had entered the room. “I think I’m going to leave soon,” I said. “I feel like I’ve been trying to find this class forever. It’s supposed to be meeting in here. Something must be mixed up somewhere, but nobody seems to know anything around here.”

“Well if you must leave, then you must. Don’t feel like you have to stay around here on account of me. I’ll be on my way soon enough,” Walter said, taking his cane off his lap and leaning it up against a desk chair. “Who’s going to make a fuss about an old blind man like me in here anyway?”

As I gathered my bag and stood to leave, Walter’s cane started to fall, making a slight scraping sound as it began to slide along the side of the desk toward the ground. It clattered on the ground for a moment.

On my way to the door, I picked his cane up for him and set it on his lap. “Walter, grab hold of your cane here. It was a pleasure talking with you, Walter. It really was. I feel like I’ve been here all day though.”

He smiled and said, “Thanks. I was wondering how I would look groping around on the floor for it. I hope it all works out for you.”

I hadn’t noticed that I had left the bookmark in the back of my book instead of where I had left off, but I closed it and got up to leave anyway.

I swung the door open and walked shortly down the hall. As I removed my sunglasses from my bag and put them on, I wondered how long Walter would end up staying in there before someone might notice him. It was bright outside.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 08:09 on 16 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Godfather, and welcome to WriteWords. This is a subtle story, so much so that after finishing it I had to look to see to which group you'd uploaded it, as I thought it might be part of something longer. It feels less like a complete story than an odd slice of time, and there is, for me at least, a surreal quality about it. This might be something to do with the two slightly strange conversations, or the fact that the class he's waiting for doesn't ever turn up. There are questions that arise too, but that remain unanswered, the significance of the kitten being the most obvious, although on reflection I suppose the point is that your narrator remained hidden - like the kitten - without even trying. I found this a tantalizing piece for the reasons given above, but possibly the title is all-important here in communicating your intention. A few points:

There is a lot of repetition of 'class', 'classes', 'teach', 'teaching' , in the first few paras., later too.

I had some difficulty in deciding whether a few odd grammatical slips were your narrator's/character's voice and deliberate, or simply that - for example the tense change in the following:

The breeze on the balcony was pleasant. The good thing about my spot on the balcony is that I could look down the hallway to see if anyone was coming.

And the singular/plural discrepancies below.

There was about 10 minutes left until class was supposed to begin... (were about ten...)
“Places like this make a person gets to wondering sometimes. (get)

typo: viscous cycle (vicious)

I hope the above comments don't seem too harsh - it may be that your intention with this piece was to induce exactly those impressions on your readers. There's a haunting quality about it.


TheGodfather at 21:03 on 16 July 2004  Report this post

No, I completely appreciate your feedback. The only line that I didn't change was “Places like this make a person gets to wondering sometimes. (get) It's part of his speech. I was trying to give a sort of southern feel to him. Maybe it didn't work the way it is though. I don't know. I welcome everyone else's comments.


Becca at 09:33 on 17 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Jon, and welcome to WW. Much of what Nell says I do agree with. I picked up the slightly surreal quality to the piece as well. I felt you could have tightened up the telephone dialogue though. But, can I ask why your MC stayed there for three hours, and what the cat symbolised?

I haven't grasped what this story is about. Is it about lost things, lost time? Not seeing what matters? This is not very helpful of me, but I can't claim to have followed it. I do like the slightly 'reportage' writing style, and I love surrealism.

TheGodfather at 08:25 on 21 July 2004  Report this post

The overall thread is about being noticed. Does that come through or not?


Becca at 06:50 on 22 July 2004  Report this post
Hi God. Well I think 'not seeing what matters' comes close to the idea of being noticed, so I'd say yes.

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