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of former teachers, raymond carver, and hammers [Jan. 30th, 2009|07:55 pm]
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[music |earth--pentastar]

Recently, Facebook has brought me back into contact with some friends from my Chewelah youth, friends who I lost touch with but missed throughout the years (I don’t worry about folks from that era I want to avoid finding me; I’m relatively sure those folks aren’t computer literate. Cruel, but true.) One of these friends informed me that Mrs. B., our College English teacher, is now in jail after murdering her mother with a hammer.

Mrs. B. is the teacher that introduced me to one of my favorite writers, Raymond Carver. We did one of his short stories in the class, I believe it was Cathedral, and she hated it, constantly referring to her dislike of the story as we studied it. I fell in love with the story--one of those moments where something just clicks, and a piece of the puzzle falls into place. She had a book of his and she gave it to me, saying she had no use for it and didn’t want it. This book, Cathedral (containing the story of the same name), changed my life. This is not a melodramatic overstatement--it is one of the few books that did indeed change my life. Ever since then, Ray has been a constant companion, and there are a few of his stories I’ve probably re-read more than any other literature in my life thus far.

I don’t find myself that shocked that she murdered somebody. She was a repressed person, and quite religious. Those two things together are never good. The funny thing is, her husband was just the complete opposite of her. He had long hair, a beard, and from what I could tell on the few occasions I met him, was a bit of a loopy hippy. They didn’t seem like they really got along, those two--she always looked horrified by his behavior (which was not, near as I could tell, all that odd. He was goofy but not uncomfortably so.) They had two daughters--might have even been twins, my memory is failing me a bit here (and those years are a bit, uh, blurry.)

Mrs. B. always gave off an odd vibe…she was the type of person you could imagine murdering their mother with a hammer. I retain a total fondness for that class though. You see, by that time, I was barely going to school, ditching a lot of classes and doing other things that were…educational…but not in a school-approved way. However, I never missed College English, because we were reading modern, current literature and writing short prose pieces. It was the only class I ever had in Chewelah that suggested there was more to literature than Where the Red Fern Grows (which was what we were assigned my junior year of high school so the teacher’s son wouldn’t flunk out and not be able to play football.) We even had to do public speaking. I can’t remember what I lectured on but it was good for me, a terribly shy person unless I was not sober, to be forced to do that. Without College English, I might have just ditched my last year of high school and not graduated. Mrs. B. also taught the class that made the school yearbook, which I was nominally in, but as it was at the end of the day, I mostly skipped it (I remember on one occasion drinking half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and then going back to the class…I don’t think anyone was the wiser but I had a hard time not laughing at everything.)

Mrs. B. isn’t the only ex-teacher of mine to be involved in sordid goings-on…there was a case involving an ex-teacher of mine that I got called about shortly after I was married. I was asked whether I’d be willing to testify in a trial. I won’t go into the details on that one (they are complicated and simply not pleasant, and they involve a friend who passed away six years ago whom I still miss.) I never did have to testify, which is probably good, as my memory from those days isn’t real reliable. I will say that the accused were acquitted, and since I wasn’t around to witness the events, I have no idea if justice was carried out or not. I do remember one thing when I got the call, said by my now-deceased friend: “You made it out of here. None of us thought you would.”

The will to survive is a strong one. There comes a time when you decide you don’t want to go down the drain anymore and so you work yourself up and out. I’ve never claimed to be very smart. But my will to survive has always been strong. Sometimes, that’s enough.

I don’t know what I think about the Mrs. B. story. Mostly it’s just one of those “huh, how about that” things, I guess. You notice it, ponder it for a few minutes (or one LJ entry) and go on with your life. Ghosts and whispers that pass through time. Thanks, Mrs. B., for the Raymond Carver book. I appreciate it, whatever comfort it may bring you now.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jainabee
2009-01-31 08:03 am (UTC)

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I like to think that I helped inspire that post. And I"M reading these!
[User Picture]From: trailofstars
2009-01-31 04:22 pm (UTC)

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Well, the truth is I'd been pondering it for a couple of days...but you go ahead and think that! :) I have another post I've been pondering for a week, but when I sit down to write, I always want to work on my stories, so LJ gets the short end of the stick.
[User Picture]From: jainabee
2009-01-31 04:28 pm (UTC)

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Well, good for you! I've been letting my novel languish unattended for too long.
[User Picture]From: jtglover
2009-01-31 02:50 pm (UTC)

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I've got an important English teacher in my background as well, as you could guess. A bit eccentric, he was, but not kill-with-a-hammer eccentric, to the best of my knowledge.
[User Picture]From: trailofstars
2009-01-31 04:23 pm (UTC)

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I always wondered what brought her to teaching English in the first place...near as I could tell, she didn't like any literature. Funny how a teacher like that can inadvertently change your life, whereas some of my teachers that I do remember with fondness did not, in truth, make much impact.
[User Picture]From: hiner
2009-01-31 06:41 pm (UTC)

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it's been too many years since I read carver. Would a thinly veiled short fiction on her be too easy a revenge/act of gratitude?
[User Picture]From: trailofstars
2009-02-02 12:11 am (UTC)

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An intriguing idea, though I get uncomfortable if I use too much directly from my life in my fiction. Somehow I suspect her essence will end up in a story somewhere, even if the character is quite disguised. It may be called fiction, but I still only write what I know.