Thursday, November 3, 2011


I ran into him in the hallway of my old high school. He asked for my card. He told me that he enjoyed my stories very much, that he heard me speak at the last professional development and that he wanted very badly to hear more stories. He wondered how I ever cultivated so many stories, and I told him that it was really the only thing I knew that I wanted when I left high school. I wanted stories. He seemed sincerely interested in the answer, and asked me what then was my plan for that time when life left me incapable of collecting more stories. I thought it a strange question but recalled his strange teachings.

He was a curious man. He himself had lived through a period of intense change and challenge and had, as he almost ruefully explained, finished his novel...the one that had consumed his entire life. Now he was done chasing that story. I told him that we were never done chasing that story. He grew even more curious, and queried me once again. See, I told him, we the end...die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories. The stories...the story...never stop. It's how I approach my work, every day, every kid, every awful situation...every story. They're all stories, every one, and most are smack in the middle, if not the very beginning. I want to be a part of their stories, as we all should hope to be for each other. In the end, they're my stories too.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his trademark red pen, flipped over my business card and leaned over to scribble on it. I was expecting an email address...something that might connect us so that he might hear more stories, so that he might ask more questions. Instead, he handed me back my card, patted me on the shoulder, smiled. He said awkwardly that this was his last semester of teaching, that he was done, and that he had thought he might try to publish his novel, but that after listening to my stories he needed to re-write large parts of it. He paused, and patted me on the shoulder once more, shaking my hand with the other, and then turned and walked away. I watched him go and saw him look back over his shoulder down the hall and smile at me one more time, the former student he had taught how to cultivate a story, now apparently returning the favor. It was a nice moment, one I had never imagined happening, it was like it had fallen from some film. It felt kind of surreal. When I finally looked down at the business card he had returned to me I smiled wide. There on the back, in the same quick and slashing penmanship I remembered as a teenager, was an A+ scribbled in red, and the words, "Nice work Brian. Very nice work." I swelled with a little emotion. I guess I'd earned the grade, or so it seemed to him. At the very least he felt the need to give it. I'll keep that last 3.5 × 2 inch report card for the rest of my life, or at least until someone else needs to finish the story. When I go I'll still be in the middle of one. Of many. In medias res...always in medias res.


Blogger Beth said...


November 3, 2011 at 9:37 PM  

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