SADDLEBAGS, Trunks, and Tombs: By M.J.Mays
The remnants of the brilliant golden light disappeared into the wind as the lone figure vanished into the moonlit southwestern desert.
I believe that I have been a writer since the day that I was born. What others would consider the “starving artist” life of a writer had become a cherished way of life to me. I never really cared about the money in it, I just had to write. My need to write is like others need to breathe. No matter, I am by no means starving anymore. In the far corner of my flat, the corner I call my office, are a couple of unfinished novels. I have plans on finishing them one day and making the millions I know I will make when they are published.
Does that sound arrogant to you? I apologize if it does, but I know my wares and I know how they will fare when I get them out in the market. But for some reason it just has never seemed like the time to cross the road into being a published novelist. The millions would give me nothing that I truly want anyway. I have never missed a meal, my head is covered and my body clothed. So what if the pages full of words aren’t novels yet that can be sold in local bookstores around the country? Nonetheless they are novels and novellas to me.
I have numerous articles that I have written over the years. It is the articles that have kept bread on the table. It is the articles that have kept my life and my art alive, but for the first time my thoughts upon this path falter. Honestly, I am bored. I need something new. A new scene, a new story, something that will set off an explosion in my mind.
My name is Jonathan W. Cole, the “W” standing for “Watcher”. Well, not really, actually that would be ‘Walter’ but I like to refer to myself as a watcher so I scrapped the ‘Walter’. It is actually an explanation of how I write. I watch things. People, trends, ideas, everything and once I have observed it, I write it. Simple as that.
I have lived on SE 13th street in Sellwood, Oregon for most of my adult life, in a one bedroom flat above an antique store. I grew up in sunny Southern California but even before I was a teenager I knew that California was not where I belonged and not where I would stay. My mother told me, not too long ago, that from the very first time my father had brought us to the Pacific North West on a camping trip, when I was 3 years old, that I would tell her that I lived here.
She wasn’t happy when she realized I was never coming back to Cali but she wasn’t surprised either. When I was in my senior year of high school I applied to Oregon State University and got in on a basketball scholarship. You want a laugh? I hate sports but I knew I wasn’t going to get in on a journalism scholarship so I followed the old adage, “Get in where you fit in.” Once I was accepted, I did what I had to do on the court while pulling double majors in literature and journalism. The rest is history. I have considered myself an Oregonian ever since and my bio tells the same story.
Well let me tell you a little about my place, it could be important later. As I mentioned earlier my place only has one bedroom. I haven’t needed more than that so why move? There is a huge picture window in the living area that faces that Willamette River. Never a dull moment I’ll tell you! The only time you can’t see the river well is in the spring. The trees here get so thick with flowers and foliage that you can just glimpse the sun off the surface of the water if you’re looking for it. If you could see through my eyes, you would see that downtown Portland is virtually a stone’s throw away. Portland is definitely the place for the budding and mature artist.
As artsy fartsy as it is, (their words, not mine. Don’t believe me? Look it up in a traveler’s guide!), I have decided that it has no appeal to the true artist, but calls to those who choose to pimp their talent in an attempt to get rich quick. Thankfully there is a place for everyone and Sellwood just happened to be the place for me and my stories. In my world the true artist is the art. The sculptor is the sculpture, the singer is the song. I am a writer, a storyteller. I am the story waiting to be told, the story that only I can tell. My riches are forever at my fingertips should I so choose to reach out and grab them. But my true riches, the ones you can’t see, lie in the telling, not the selling, of the stories.
I know you want to get into this story and are probably tired of my rambling but humor me for just a moment more, it will all come together soon. There came a day that I was standing at the picture window gazing at the fishermen on the riverbanks, just below Oaks Park, knowing that what I have seen, what I have experienced, could change my life forever should it ever leave this room. Yes, I said I needed something a change but damn, nobody would have wanted what I eventually got! No one!
This new, unexpected story gnaws inside me, wanting to be told, trying to scratch its way out, but I am unable to let it go, unable to sacrifice my life, such as it is. The story didn’t see me, as it’s equal. It thought to completely envelope me, to use me to make its entrance into this realm. It never considered my life while it was using me to attempt to bring breath into its own dust filled nostrils. It seeks to take my life. My solemn dinners alone, filled with Greek delicacies and fine wines. My steaming cups of Kona blend coffee in the morning and my snacks of organic melons and gourmet cheeses at night.
My other stories have always been like family to me, but not this one. Though it has tried to feel familiar to me, it has more sought to trick me into freeing it from its dusty prison, a time long forgotten. Oh wretched window!! Why have you cursed my watching eyes and my writer’s heart? Why have you allowed me to be trampled upon? Now that the story is done, my hunger depletes silently each day as I grip the story that once asked, then begged and now demands to be told.
Friends, there is but one chapter left to be penned, the final chapter. I would not want you to believe that it has not been written, for on the contrary it is branded in my existence as I have lived the last chapter, not sat in my home and watched it through the picture window the way in which the rest of the story unfolded itself to me.
If I put it on paper the book will take its first breath, but will I still have mine or will it be my last as I have come to know them? The ancient browned letter sits open on my coffee table exactly where it has lain for the past year. Gentle patrons, I now turn to you, imploring you to examine what has been shown, what has been written. I am putting my life in your hands as you shall soon see. Tonight I will have a glass of wine and maybe even rest my weary eyes while I await your analysis and hopefully your decision, the decision I have pawned off on you, the decision of my fate.