Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Junk in the Trunk

Last night, I went into an old trunk looking for buried literary treasures to see if anything was worthy of being added to the Laws & Loves collection. I was looking for my first story that had ever been published as if it was the holy grail of my writing. It felt like James Cameron going to the depths of the ocean in a little submarine. I didn't find any valuable jewelry in any shipwrecks this time, but the journey was half the fun.

On the top level of junk, I found a crumpled copy of "Trial Date" a published story from ten years ago that I had long  forgotten about. It had appeared in my column in the East Mountain Independent and was about dating a woman, discovering that she had been charged with a crime and watching her trial. I had changed the details so much to protect the innocent that I could no longer remember the real details. After a quick read, I tossed it back.

Below that story, I found "Interviews from Hell," which had appeared in a forgotten publication called the New Mexico lawyer. It contained stories about bad job interviews of other people. I can now reveal that every story was about MY interview from hell. It was a fun read, but it would take too much to make it my story all over again.

I kept going deeper and deeper into the heart of a literary darkness.

I then found a keeper, a story from twenty years ago that had also appeared in New Mexico Lawyer called Planning Profession pales compared to law" it was about my adventures as an urban planner in Chicago. It has one of my favorite lines I've ever written "a green belt is something an urban planner wears with a gray suit." I don't know, why but that line still made me laugh. I'm going to have my assistant type it up.

The trunk got messier as I got to the bottom. I mixed up articles I'd written with articles written about me. I also had some term papers at school, including one that got a C. I finally found what I was looking for, what I considered the first real Jonathan Miller story. I was the editor in chief of the law school newspaper and my final column was called a "Third Year Looks Back." The story needs some pruning as there were inside jokes about professors that had long since expired, and expressions like "just a tad," but damn it, it was good. You can indeed see where the writing began.

I then decided to go even deeper. I realized that I wrote nothing of consequence in college. I found a few poems from high school that had received a C plus. Reading those poems now, I realize a C plus was generous.  I finally came to the base of the trunk and found an "organizer" notebook with football players on it. It contained the handwritten novel I wrote in seventh grade. Don't ask how long ago that was.

It was a science fiction book about superheroes. It was called Star War, and was written before Star Wars. I could not read my own cursive handwriting. However, I realized something, I started my journey as I scribbled those lines about an interplanetary war. It will never be published, but that isn't the point.

I spent another hour organizing the trunk, and then I closed it. It was time to come back to the surface.

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