Death of a Poet

Monday, October 26, 2015

Horror is not my genre. I don’t even read Stephen King novels. But several years ago I wrote a short story for a Halloween-themed Highland Writers’ Group meeting. I recently dug it out for a flash fiction contest and then decided not to enter. Rather than just file it again, I decided to use it here. And since it doesn’t come anywhere near the intensity of a Stephen King story, no warnings are necessary to keep children away.

Death of a Poet
Kathryn Page Camp

It was getting dark on the Pacific island of Tongatapu, and the poet lit a lamp before tucking his feet under him. He rested his notebook on his lap, wet the lead tip of his pencil in his mouth, and went back to his writing.

A bird in the hand gave me
The hair of the dog,
And a horse of a different color
Bled like a stuck pig.

Not bad, he thought. Back in the States, he always seemed to have writer’s block. But since he had moved here, the words just flowed. It must be the more laid-back atmosphere.

It was a bitter pill to swallow
As I watched the pot that never boils,
And she held my feet to the fire
As she read me the riot act.

I was at the end of my rope
Until the drop of a hat
Hit the nail on the head
And showed me the writing on the wall.

He lost track of time until he heard the smoosh of the rain on the thatched roof and the plunk as it hit the dirt floor in the corner where the roof needed fixing—someday. Grabbing his drink, he went outside and soaked in the salt smell of the sea and the warmth of the rain. The he lifted his head to watch the show in the sky.

Lightning flashed and touched the earth where the poet stood. His cry was drowned by thunder, and all that remained was a pile of ashes.

* * *

On Mount Olympus, two gods bowed their heads as the clock hit the final stroke of midnight down below.

“October 31 has ended all over the world for another year.” The younger god raised his head and shook his unshorn locks. “Thank you, Zeus, for granting my wish and giving me this one day when you use your thunderbolt to strike down the worst of those who dare to call themselves poets. I just wish you’d let me eliminate many more.” He shuddered as he thought of some of the pretenders still out there.

“Enough, Apollo,” the older god replied. “If you had your way, there would be none left.”

“That’s not true,” the other said. “There have been a few good poets over the years. Homer and Shakespeare and, uhm, ah . . . .” He sat down and started making his list for next year.

I wonder if you’re on it.

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