Lester curled his lip and tapped the paper with his new Number 2 pencil. Had he heard right? The teacher sure didn’t look like any teacher he remembered from thirty years ago. This guy needed a haircut and shave. He wore a levi jacket straight from the job site. Now he wanted the class to just start writing. Writing what? Free Write, the esteemed laborer-turned-professor, called it. Free??
Nothing free about it —150 bucks on his credit card —already charged. Lester had checked. He’d thought about bailing before the first class. The Raiders were on TV. His wife Elizabeth had advised otherwise.
Free write. How ridiculous. Where was the teaching in that? Lester signed up because he had been told he had good stories to tell and he wanted to learn how to write. But what the hell was this? He could scribble at home. He could make up shit on his own.
Others in the class had already started. He heard their pencils moving. The gal next to him who worked at See’s Candy was practically carving her pencil into the desk as she wrote. The smug kid who’d dropped out of Brown and parked his rusty two wheeler in the classroom tapped away on a silver computer slim as a cigarette case.
Lester hadn’t thought of cigarettes in years. Or the girl who’d sold candy and cigarettes at that club in Virginia, where he’d gone on his first leave in the Navy.
That girl had become his first love, though he’d never said Hello. But he’d watched her all night. Watched as the officers with money bought stuff from her they didn’t need just for the chance to see her smile.
Lester decided that one day he would have money to do the same. Money and the means to stand on his own, not be dependent on anything or anyone . . . well, he’d almost made it; he thought of Elizabeth, wife now for 44 years, how she was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and how even now, he wouldn’t be sitting in this chair remembering or writing, without her . . .
Had someone called his name? Lester looked up as if from far away. The teacher smiled. The See’s Candy gal leaned over the aisle as if to copy his answers. Even the hipster from Brown with the ridiculous neck beard gazed with interest from across the room through his round intellectual glasses.
And when the instructor asked if he would like to share what he’d written, Lester cleared his throat. Looked down at his paper now mysteriously filled with words.
“Well,” he answered, “this isn’t the story I intended to write, don’t even know where it came from, but sure, here goes . . .”
Guy Biederman lives on a houseboat near San Francisco with his wife and two salty cats and teach low fat fiction. His work has recently appeared in Carve, Third Wednesday, Flash Frontier, Gathering Storm, daCunha, and Exposition Review — a Flash 405 contest winner. “Third Wednesday included his story on their blog as poem of the week, which amused him!”