Story A Day for May, Day 7



Kate’s grandfather entered the study carrying an armful of red spiral-bound notepads and moleskin notebooks. He dropped them with a thud on the oak desk. Slowly, he separated the red notepads from the moleskins. When the notepads sat in a stack in the far corner, he spread the open moleskins across the desk. From his satchel, he pulled a salmon. He took a fishing knife from the pocket of his corduroy pants and began to gut the fish over the open notebooks.

“What are you doing?” Kate asked. “Your notebooks!”

He looked at her, his eyes twin moons. “They serve no purpose,” he said.

“But your notebooks.”

He shook his head.

She held a red notepad in her hand and realized this was a dream.

“Open it,” her grandfather said.

A poem sprawled across the page. She could not make out the words. It seemed to be written in strange symbols that she couldn’t decipher. She studied the shape.

“That was meant for sharing,” her grandfather said, closing his eyes.

She didn’t remember the dream when she woke. She had that strange sensation of her attention still stuck in her subconscious, so she knew she’d been dreaming, but she couldn’t recall the images or the message. She felt the tile floor beneath her feet, the smooth, warm porcelain of her coffee cup in her palms. She inhaled the rich scent.

Her dog, Speckles, padded beside her into the study, and Kate picked up the latest moleskin she’d been working on while Speckles curled under the desk. Then she saw smeared across the open pages the fish head, the guts, the splatterings of blood, thin bones, and scales.

She dropped the notebook.

The dream rushed back, and she knew what she had to do.

Before the dream’s power faded, before she reasoned herself out of her resolve, she called the department chair.

“I can’t do it,” she said when Professor Steinhart answered. “Nor can anyone. It can’t be done.”

“It can,” he assured her, “it must, and you are the one only one for it.” He began to explain that her professional and academic qualifications, combined with her intimate knowledge of her grandfather’s habits and patterns of thoughts, made her the ideal editor of her grandfather’s unpublished journals, written religiously in the moleskin notebooks for decades during and after his tenure at the university. The complete edited work, published by the university press, would be gold to scholars of late Twentieth Century literary thought, and her prestige as an editor would be set.

She thought of her grandfather, scrawling in them, while she played in the hallway, and the wild look in his eyes, sometimes, when he came out of the study. He often spoke, under his breath, quickly, and she could tell that he wasn’t talking to her or for her. He was relieving a pressure inside. The moleskins were like that. They relieved the pressure, and that was what they were for.

“That’s not what I mean,” she said. “They’re not to be shared. They serve no purpose.”

“But your agreement! You can’t back out now!”

“It’s an agreement, not a contract,” she said. “And even if it were a contract, I’d break it.”

She ended the call as quickly as she could.

Three breaths and she relaxed. Oddly, she felt no guilt. It didn’t matter to her that she broke her agreement with the department chair. She didn’t care what he thought of her. It was of no consequence that the university press wouldn’t be publishing the notebooks. Her own swirling hopes about her future as an academic editor had blown away entirely. It was of no consequence.

What mattered was that she had acted on the dream’s message.

She walked with her dog along the beach, and the waves called her name and the wind blew through her.

After lunch, she packed up the moleskins, returning them to the crate where she’d found them, years ago, before she thought to approach the university about them.

After she lugged the crate to the closet, she found another storage box on the shelf. “Random Poems,” scrawled her grandfather’s hand across the label.

She tugged the storage box into the room and opened it. It was filled with red, blue, and yellow spiral-bound notepads. She picked out a red one and opened it.

On the open page stretched the poem from the dream. She could make out the words, though her grandfather’s script was rough and the pencil had faded.

It was a poem about the moon, the earth, the shifting spirals of movement through space, and music, and thought, and the combined thoughts of all the people on the planet, somehow forming together the structure of the reality which we share. It was brilliant, sad, profound–and in its enjambed rhymes she discovered a meaning meant to be shared.

She snapped a photo of the handwritten poem with her phone and then sat at the computer to transcribe it. When she was done, she emailed the transcription and .jpg to Professor Steinhart.

“Let’s work on this, instead,” she wrote. “There are dozens of these.”

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Prompt for May 7: “Pick one of the following 4 scenarios and explore: how would… [your character] deal with this situation?” from 

Author’s note: I didn’t feel that any of the four scenarios listed for the prompt fit Kate Elder, so I modified the fourth one (“Your character is obsessed with something. They think they will do anything to obtain it. The person they love most in the world stands in their way.”) to something that would fit her:  Your character has made an agreement to do something for someone who could benefit her greatly. Following through with that agreement would mean that she would have to betray someone she cares about.