By Dona Fox

It was Friday night. I fought my way across the campus through special effects left over from a Grade-B horror movie. Lightning shattered the sky as I entered the building. Thunder rumbled as I opened the classroom door.

He was slouched on my desk, legs crossed, elbow on knee; chin in palm. He gave me a smile I hadn’t seen since I met my ex-wife’s lawyer. He had been following me for the last two days–ever since I had lectured my creative writing class on the evils of rhyming. I first saw him in the cafeteria and caused quite a disturbance. I was sure that if I could see him so could everyone else, or at least someone else. But of the twenty or so people I pointed him out to, not one would admit that they saw him, too.

The Dean wants to talk to me next Monday. Creative writing teachers are expected to be eccentric, but claiming to see Edgar Allen Poe in the cafeteria was cause for a conference with the Dean, maybe a sabbatical, possibly early retirement.

I don’t make enough money to live on at full pay; I can’t afford to make any less. It would depend on what he saw in my eyes and manner and if he received any further reports of strange behavior. Poe had only hovered at the edge of my vision since the cafeteria incident so he had been fairly easy to ignore. But tonight the storm had added to the phantom, he was more substantial, increasingly disturbed.

I glanced across the classroom at the Dean’s daughter. She was talking and laughing with some of the other students. A few of the students were reading. Not one eye was fixed on the apparition on my desk. No questioning looks demanded explanation of me. No sly smile indicated complicity in a prank.

I crossed to my desk and laid my books a few inches from Poe’s left buttock. He turned just enough to give me the full force of his glare.

I called the roll. Poe paced in front of my desk with his head down and his index finger resting on his bottom lip.

I picked up one of my books and found a slip of paper that marked a poem by Carl Sandburg. I began to read, hoping to find comfort in Sandburg’s homey style. Poe broke into derisive laughter. The students were staring at me attentively so I continued to read, fighting the shade of Poe with the words of Carl Sandburg.

A raven hopped onto my desk. It picked through the torn pieces of paper that marked poems I planned to read from other books. After finishing its survey the raven flashed me a disdainful look. It flapped across the room to perch on the head of the Dean’s daughter. She gave no indication that she felt the weight on her head or the claws digging into her hair.

I tried to write on the chalk board but my hands were shaking, I turned back to the class and slipped my hands into my pockets. Someone chuckled; the chalk was still in my hand. I took it out of my pants pocket and laid it in the chalk tray. Maybe the chuckle had broken the spell; Poe and the raven were gone.

I took off my glasses and cleaned them with my handkerchief. When I put them back on everything was clear and normal. I breathed in deeply, breathed out slowly and continued my class.
These students wanted to be writers. I asked them if they talked to themselves if they saw poetry in the storm outside the classroom window, if they often let their imaginations run wild.

I began to relax as I read a long poem by James Dickey. When I looked up Poe was back. He was kneeling at the side of the room carefully laying bricks in a circle around me. After he finished the first line of bricks he hurried back to his starting point and began a second row. The trowel scraped and the bricks slapped into the mortar in brisk rhythm. My bulky blue sweater grew warmer as the wall encircled me.

 

Dona Fox is a poet/short story writer currently living in California. Recently works have been published with Dark Chapter Press (UK) and J Ellington Ashton Press (US). James Ward Kirk Publishing (US) has released two collections of her short stories both available from Amazon, “Darker Tales from the Den” and “Dark Tales from the Den” also available from Barnes and Noble.

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3 Responses

  1. E. V. "Beth" Wyler

    Critics denigrating rhyme and meter don’t understand poetic beauty. Now is an appropriate time for classical poets to stand united and support one another.

    Reply
  2. James Sale

    Very much enjoyed this story – it’s short but you keep the suspense up, and I love the idea of the ghost of EA Poe remonstrating in that strange way.

    Reply

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