Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A snippet.

I've been trying to return to my writing lately, sitting down at the keyboard and banging away in the mornings before work. It's been sort of working; although I'm still quite rusty, the things that are beginning to appear have some promise. This is what came out this morning.

There are reasons, I suppose, why everyone does everything – even the worst thing.

When I was fourteen, my grandmother made me a promise – that if I could go for a week without uttering a single swear word, she’d bake me anything I wanted. You have to understand that my grandmother was no slouch in the kitchen, and that I had a mouth gifted with a knack for blue language. Anytime anything ever went wrong, it was f– this or g-d– that, only with a more poetic flair for interpretation. Allusions were made to genitalia of both sexes, along with extremely explicit instructions as to what could be put where, often involving animals that may be living or may be dead. I’d made swearing a sort of hobby, which was understandable since there was so little else to do out in the neck of Florida that my parents and I called home.

I took my grandmother up on the bet, of course, and, of course, I’d lost within six hours.

What that made me realize is that I had a problem. Fourteen was a little early for this kind of introspection, but I was a weird kid. Even my mother used to look at me funny when I was having one of what she called “my off days”. I’d wander around in a kind of haze, looking at things and wondering what they were, why they were, why they weren’t something else instead, and how they might be turned into something else. Like all kids that age, I was all neck and elbows, but instead of the normal kind of teenage boy fumbling-stumbling, the gait of a foal learning its legs for the first time, I had spent an afternoon sitting still on a giant rock in the neighborhood park, staring at my arms and legs and thinking about them. When I got up three hours later, I was a little stiff but I was suddenly gifted with a kind of grace that even the basketball coach called supernatural. I was suddenly being drafted by everyone from the basketball team to the Florida state ballet, but I had no interest in any of that. Such extracurricular activities would have just gotten in the way of my off days. Understandably, the one-two punch of my being weird and turning my back on both the sports and the arts didn’t make me any friends at all, which I suspect is what led to my knack for cursing.

When I lost the bet, I returned to my grandmother and owned up – I may have been weird but I was also a good kid – and then instantly suggested a double-or-nothing. Two curse-free weeks, two choice baked goods. We shook on it, I took my leave, and I headed for my rock in the park. This time it took a little longer, but I was armed with more than just my thoughts: under my arm I carried the dogeared, battered unabridged Webster’s dictionary that had been gathering dust in the living room since Mom had received it as a high school graduation gift decades ago. This time I sat and leafed through the pages until it was too dark to read, then headed home, went straight to bed, got up with the sun and headed back to the park with my dictionary. I stayed there, meditating on the different types of language, until it got too hot to bear and then I went home and took a nap. When I woke up, words worked differently for me. I no longer needed to swear. I no longer needed to say a lot of things. The more mundane words, like like and awesome and cool tumbled from my vocabulary like the scales from my namesake’s eyes. They were replaced largely by silence, a smaller form of meditation that was actually just a patience for the right word to arrive.

I chose pies. My grandmother made the most amazing apple and peach pies.

My name is Saul Jonas Shane, three first names for the price of one, and this is how I did the worst thing...

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