|BWS Stories - Contest Winners|
Contest Winners - Death by Faulkner - June/July Winner!
Amy Mullis lives in upstate South Carolina with her husband and two teenage sons who cringe whenever she invokes the name of William Faulkner. Read more of her work in Chicken Soup for the Beach Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul.
Death by Faulkner - June/July Winner!
"Test tomorrow," Mr. Beason chimed as if announcing the school would be giving free chocolate sundaes at lunch or handing out twenty dollar bills to use as bookmarks. We groaned collectively, already thinking alike on the first day of class. I wasn't surprised by the announcement. The youngest of three daughters, I was following a family tradition of taking English from the strictest, most sarcastic, most demanding teacher in the school. He caused our teenage heart rates to increase, and drove thoughts of junk food from our minds for seconds at a time. His last name was Beason. As far as we were concerned, his first name was Mister, and he had a reputation for making girls cry. That the rumor proved to be only partly true. Before the year was over, more than a few glassy eyed jocks blubbered into the sleeves of their letter jackets. But if you wanted to do well in college, you put in the time in Mr. Beason's class at Greer High.
It was my mother, in infinite and omniscient mom wisdom who clued me in. "He likes to get a rise out of you, because he knows that means you're thinking." I pondered this statement with all the concentration a 16-year old can muster, and decided that since Mom had suggested this idea, it was wrong. But willing to try anything to survive, I packed my wit in with my lip gloss and hairspray when I went to school the next day. When the glib teacher lobbed a verbal harpoon at me, I caught it in midair like Tom Jones going after a motel key, and returned in kind. He stopped, looked at me, and narrowed his eyes. "I see you're sharp as a potato today." I was amazed at his response. I had stolen his arsenal and rendered him inane! I didn't even have time to appreciate the miracle that mom was right. After that, we challenged each other to excellence--the instructor and the apprentice--fencing for our honor with words instead of swords. The challenge existed every day, and every day I strove for victory. From that day forward, I dove into literature the way a Labrador plunges into the surf; to capture the Frisbee or die in the attempt.
Gradually these events produced an amazing and horrible transformation in me. I became literate. Not the kind of literate where you can spell your name without peeking at your birth certificate or count the number of flavors available at the ice cream store. This was a dreadful, permanent type of change. I began to read books that did not contain the words quivering, throbbing, or pulsating; books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. I could spell Yoknapatawpha without hoisting the big dictionary from the shelf.
I was branded with the worst possible title by my peers: Smart Girl. I became an outcast during my tender and vulnerable teenage years, left alone with only Shakespeare and his sonnets to keep me company at lunch. There was nowhere to turn for help. No twelve step programs existed for my particular brand of nonconformity. As graduation loomed before us, strange and peculiar things began to happen at my house. My mailbox filled up daily with college brochures and scholarship offers. Recruiters for colleges rang my telephone constantly, pelting me with attention.
Unfortunately there is no happy ending for this pathetic tale. I could not overcome my tragic flaw, and eventually succumbed to the dark side, accepting a scholarship from a local college. I studied hard, graduated with honors, and earned a special award for English composition. I'm employed at a company where I have full editorial control over the newsletter and am consulted on all things grammatical. I've had essays published in a national newspaper and in books and magazines.
And whose fault is it that these things happened to me? Obviously, everything can be traced back to that wretched Mr. Beason. I hope he is aware of the calamity he caused. If not, I may drop him a postcard from Yoknapatawpha County. Mr. Faulkner wants to say hello.