I watch others come in and go out. They go on. I stay.

October 27th, 2009

Dear Trevor,

As for watching, I fear that I was a watcher too much of my life.

As I read your letters about this Will and Misty, I’m not sure who is the villain and who is the hero. I guess from my point of view, as the third-hand reader of your second-hand narrative, that Will is the obvious villain—the one you’d expect to be the bad guy in a movie. But I think Misty Lee may be the real villain.

The trick is, she’s only the villain in this little chapter. In the next chapter—and that turn of the page from one chapter to another happens second by second—she may be the hero or the damsel in distress. One moment, she may be playing one boy against another like a kid poking ants with a pin. The next moment, she may be in the class of that teacher of yours, Mr. Schick, where he’s shaming her for some harmless part of her nature.

When I got out of the service and went to school, I was sure as could be that I wanted to be a writer or an English teacher. That’s what I was meant to do, I’m pretty certain. I’d saved enough in the service to go to college and I made it three-and-a-half years through Seattle U before my uncle talked me into going into the real estate business with him. So I did that. Opened up the office, started signing papers and scratching out a little money one weathered house at a time.

I spent as little of the money I made as I could. Like your mother says, I am naturally thrifty. But I always managed to take a little money to the bookstore and buy books. It drove your mom crazy when we’d go weeks at a time without stepping into a restaurant, but books would show up in the mail. Faulkner, Stegner, Greene, Roth, Vonnegut, Bellow. I would cut off my left arm for a little case of their books right now, where short, sharp sentences nearly set the book paper on fire.

My own rambling writing in these letters here always works shyly around the corners, taking these four paragraphs to get to the point. Here it is: Those men—certainly greater men than me—they did what I wanted to do. They put pen to paper and made their living at it. I only dreamed about it. I only watched them do it. The only writing I did was real estate closing documents and believe me, no one ever reads more than a few words of those.

I’m still a watcher. I sit here in this seaside village of watchers. I watch others come in and go out. They go on. I stay.

Let me know what happens with Will Mudgett. If I was there, I’d be watching, too.

Dad

    About

    Letter Off Dead is an actual transcript of letters sent between a 7th grade boy and his dead father. It covers the subjects of life and death, faith and doubt, fathers and sons.

    The textual transcript has been edited and presented here by Tom Llewellyn, a writer from Tacoma, Washington. The illustrations have been edited and presented by artist James Stowe, also from Tacoma. None of the content has anything to do with Tom's or James' beloved and very separate employers.

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