How literature saved my life
Blends criticism, anthropology, and biography to celebrate the power of literature, concluding that the fundamental truths found in literature render it an essential component of life.
Write Your Story
Join our senior library member Bruce Haase and write your memoir. Bruce is a life long reader, he now writes memoire-based, creative non-fiction. These are informal meetings to support each other and organize your thoughts for writing. Sharing is optional.
Meetings take place the third Tuesday of the Month
May 19, June 16 and July 21 ….1 — 3 p.m.
Please bring your pen & paper.
For more information: Bruce Haase, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Union City Library 510-745-1464
Location: UNION CITY BRANCH –Get Directions
the following text is submitted by Bruce Haase
“Cuyahoga:” ‘Following Mr. Kooke’
by Bruce Haase
fiction April, 2015
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A month after Mr. Kooke’s suicide, he wasn’t in the news anymore. The people in the Collinwood neighborhood were still talking about it though. That didn’t bother me, but all the jokes about him did bother me, a lot. Ok, So he was an embezzler, and a bigamist, and was about to be arrested and exposed. They said he took a cowards way out, and would burn in hell for it. Well, some people said that anyway, most just made jokes about the three wives and eight kids. Even some of the people I liked told those stupid jokes. Both kids my age and adults said all of that stupid stuff, I lost some respect for those people.
Mr. Kooke had been a friend of everyone, he made everyone feel good and laugh. It didn’t matter if you were 7 or 70, he talked to you like you and your opinions were important to him. He was happy to see you and he was always generous, we had thought he was a very successful traveling salesman, I guess his personality is what made all of us see him like that.
It turned out that it was all an act, I still couldn’t totally believe it all. It was true though, but he was still a friend, and I missed him. I didn’t make any silly jokes about him or his three families. His first family was still on my Aunt’s street, his first son, Brandon, was still our friend and we saw him now and again…
At school I must have seemed upset and Diane Hall and Nojocks were concerned about me. They thought that I was too quiet and withdrawn. Diane planned on the three of us going to the Library and talking to Miss Thomlensen and The Professor. Both of them thought that I needed to emotionally unload to the smartest people we knew.
We got to the Library right after school, in 9th grade, we got out a little earlier; so we’d have about an hour and a half before I had to deliver my afternoon papers.
The five of us sat at the table that was off by itself. All of us knew the whole story about Mr. Kooke, so I got right into how all the stupid jokes and the stuff being said was getting to me. Miss Thomlensen explained that many people didn’t know what to say when things bother them, so they said stupid things to escape their pain and confusion. I hadn’t thought of that before and felt better. I decided to give all of those folks a little, “benefit of the doubt.” I smiled to myself when I realized that was an escape for me too, me being upset with other people’s discomfort wasn’t helping me, but understanding and forgiving them wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Then we all started talking about Mr. Kooke, and why he went so far afield from the norm. We all had something to say and finally the Professor gave his opinion. He was always quiet and reserved, but when he spoke with his heavy Balkan accent, he had the silent attention of everyone. He was “The Professor,” and the real thing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He told us about a middle-aged, male bird, a Robin, that lived around the big lawn in front of the sewage treatment plant. This Robin hated his position in life, the cards he had been dealt. Searching for worms after a rain or when the sprinklers turned off frustrated Mr. Robin. He had a high opinion of himself. He had dreams and goals; eating worms was demeaning, at least for him it was. The other Robins seemed content with worms, but he knew he was better than them.
When he was a young Robin, he had seen a mighty Hawk take out a huge Seagull over the lake. He was enthralled by the power and speed of the Hawk, he thought of the grand meal the Hawk would enjoy and not even finish. The Hawk would eat what he wanted and leave the rest for lessor creatures. A mighty Hawk would never lower himself to be a worm-eater. From that day on, Mr. Robin would dream and fantasize that he was a Hawk, a top predator taking what he wanted.
Most days this Robin would spend some time trying to fly faster and higher, trying to make his little eyes see prey, and plan on how he would take it, if he wished. On one fateful day he was at his maximum altitude, his small wings struggling to soar even higher on an updraft. His concentration was so complete he never saw a real Hawk diving out of the sun.
In a blinding flash of pain he was hit from above and behind. His left wing and spine were both damaged. Out of control he spun and fluttered down. He suddenly realized that he was not a Hawk, he was just another one of the multitude, a worm-eater. Off to his left he spotted the Hawk lining up for the kill. Mr. Robin knew his fate, but looking down he saw salvation. A cabin cruiser with a great polished fore deck was waiting for him. He tucked his wings and legs and feet in tight. He dove faster than he ever had before. With a few tiny adjustments he was on target. With pride he puffed out his brightly colored chest, leaned his little head back and smiled. Filled with the joy of controlling his own destiny he hit the deck, snapping his fragile neck and dying instantly. Someone on the boat took a bucket of water and with a flourish, washed the small bloody smear and body overboard.
Mr. Robin’s body was in the water only seconds before a couple of Northern Pike ripped it to shreds. Since he was dead, Mr. Robin was spared the shame and indignity of being dismembered by fish. Only the most pathetic of birds get eaten by fish.
We were all silent for a bit, Nojocks spoke first, “So you think Mr. Kooke was a Robin that thought he was a Hawk?”
Always clever, Diane said, “No, Mr. Kooke was a man who couldn’t abide with his true position in the pecking order of life.”
They all looked at me, “Thinking about it all, I guess that Mr. Kooke was sort of a vain, preening sort of guy. He thought he deserved more than he had, and he did what he did to get it.” It was time to deliver my newspapers, so we broke up.
As I walked along, with my two canvas bag straps crossed, bandolier style across my chest, and my hands mindlessly folding papers, I thought about what I had learned. I still liked Mr. Kooke and I’d miss him. Maybe I understood his suicide better now. I was 14 and he was my second suicide already. I hoped there wouldn’t be too many more.
I thought about Miss Thomlensen and The Professor, two of the smartest people that I knew. They were Hawks soaring high above. The worm-eaters were walking far below, heads down, looking down for a scrap…
I realized that Miss Thomlensen and The Professor had spent their lives on “that famous path less traveled”, their path lined with bookshelves, and that had made all the difference. Smiling to myself, I thought I’d write that one down, (proud of my use of the poem) so I could show my friends. I wished that I could have shown it to Mr. Kooke, he would have laughed heartily and punched my shoulder… (end)
A chapter from the book, “Cuyahoga” that I hope to finish by Spring 2016…