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Mr. Swardson’s Last Day

by Tyra Walker

Artwork, “Modern Fruit” by Mitchell Price


“Its about storytellin’.

I mean, tell Me a story. As I look at all your piss poor excuses for storytelling in a high school level class, I guess its my fault, for not tellin’ you what storytellin’ is. Last night, I sat down with a nice Merlot, thinking I’d lezer-leisurely read about half. I read ’em all last night. They were so bad, I couldn’t stop looking, for…for—for something better. I got to the end, and I wanted to just end it all. I finished off the bottle, and I really considered it. You poor kids almost do not have a teacher today…But I had to stay on this God-blessed earth, for the sake of the Story. Keepin’ hope alive…

Sooo, ahh, lets see, what do you think a story is? No Jenny. Put your fucking hand down stop tryin to answer every goddamn thing give the slow people a chance to feel good about themselves and validate their self-consciousnessexistence too…that was a rhetorical question…I guess I’ll have to explain those too…but anyway…y-you got me all sidetracked. DAMMIT JENNY ITS ABOUT STORYTELLING…

You, you…I am the reader. I am the audience! I am the reason for your writing. You dance your little pen around for me, do you got that. You do this for ME. I theoretically throw money and time at you, and you serve me. If you write something that isn’t for me, or the audience, what the hell are you showing it to me for? If you write something for you, keep it locked up in your little diaries and journals and what have you. Get your heads out of your own asses and think about me, and what I had to read last night. I mean, its selfish!

You all wrapped these goddamn things up like they’re—like its negative 50 degrees outside. Then you bring ’em inside…And they die a terrible, slow heat stroke death while I’m forced to watch. Oh…she she she fucking woke up when the alarm clock rang and…I will throw that wall clock at the next person who starts a story off like that!

I want you to seduce the reader. I want you to start off like, its positive 50 degrees. Have on a good layer or two. It’s a little mysterious, but not clunky and uninteresting. Paint a picture, but don’t make it the same size as Guernica.

Bring em inside, to the audience club. I want you to make that little story strip. Slowly, but not too slowly, or we get bored. Not too many things at once, cause we wanna enjoy the unraveling and every last piece that’s thrown off to reveal this beautiful…content… underneath. Tantalize, tease the reader. You know they want it, give it to ’em erratically, so they’re always on their toes, bit by bit, all through out. Don’t M. Night Shamalan that shit, hint at me; make it a smart fucking twist if that’s where you get your kicks. But don’t give all of it away, either, and I’ll get to that right now: I’m insulted if you tell me every goddamn thing your story is about. I have a brain. I have an imagination. Keep your fuckin clothes on, cause that’s desperate. Don’t be like fuckin’ Jenny. Give me a chance to understand, but give me good clues. Do a little roleplay, pretend your me so you can see the story as me, and not you. Its about the audience. Egotistical.

And keep it classy. I want to be able to take this story on a date. I should look and say, this is beautiful, in its own way. She’s got scars, but so do I, I can relate to hers on some level, makes me feel like a human being, makes me feel better…

Make the audience FEEL SOMETHING, goddammit. Ughh, my fuckin coffee. Well, collateral damage, and pro tip, how old are you guys, 13? 14? 14. 14. When you start drinking, which if not now, will probably be in a couple years—Steven, based on your lack of being able to apply yourself and write cogent, coherent sentences, I’d start sooner rather than later—coffee does not help hangovers; nothin’ does. The only thing that helps a hangover is getting’ right back fucked up again, which is why I feel great right now.

If I don’t feel anything, what was the point? Ya done bored me out my mind and insulted my intelligence, like she’s, like she’s a Jenny. Or ya done stripped it almost bare, I’m at the edge, thinking maybe there’s a point to something in this hectic and crazy, unfair life, and ya end it, by giving some shoddy bullshit excuse, values, or a 90 day rule, or some shit, a peck on the cheek, and leaving abruptly and awkwardly. NO, seduce the reader. Completely. Don’t lead him on. Your story should be the best little goddamn story on the corner. You wanna make money don’t ya? Or are you too in love with being a starving artist?

And that doesn’t mean it has to be sadness all the fucking time. That’s lovely. That’s basic. That’s beautiful! That’s missionary! Change it up! Maybe your reader, after reading so many vanilla fucking sad stories, feels a little bored. Wants something a little kinky. I wanted to go read some old stuff from my advance classes after this…You made me cheat on you, your stories, I was bored with ’em, like I’d been married for ten years, and I’m sorry, but it’s your fuckin’ faults! It’s not me, its you. Do something a little different. Please! Don’t just kill the character off cause that’s what everyone else is doing. You’re weak-minded, and you, Kevin especially, I can tell. You’re not Shakespeare and all your stories are not some neo-Hamlet fan-fiction.

But I give credit where credit is due. Godfrey, you gave me some incomprehensible science fiction magic ghost bullshit. But it was eerie, funny, and I ‘dug’ it. I went along for the ride. But you went nowhere with it. Ya can’t leave me with the job half-finished. I’m all worked up, ready for that end, and then…everyone just stands on the roof and looks into the fucking sunset. I guess that’s marginally better than afterwards everyone just jumping off the fucking building. Or maybe not. No, take care of me, the audience, and then finish right.

Gently lead me along, or violently, shockingly, whatever your story’s about. I won’t judge you. I encourage you. Play with form, explore. Alls I’m sayin’ is, if its shocking, make sure its justified. Will the hurt I feel from you killin ’em off make me grow as a person? Will you deconstruct my perceptions about life? Will you move me so deeply with a thematic statement that I quit my job and decide to go live in Alaska with a pet moose next to my own frozen Walden? Will you help me deal with some deep-rooted cognitive dissonance I’ve been dealing with? Will you bring up a tough issue or one I had never considered and put it in a form I can handle and allow to me to explore it through your writing? Is it quietly revolutionary? Is it funny and fun, make me feel good, make me forget or delude myself for just a little while that this life is not completely terrible and pointless until a disappointing death? Make me think there’s something beautiful here, even if its just death? Or are you just peddling soft-core sadness for me to cry on, cause you think that’s how it should be? How all the greats are? If I wanted to just be sad, I would watch the fucking news.

I’ll know if your just playin’ me, ’cause real hurt, it comes from somewhere. It comes from, oh God, Jenny, stop crying…But ya see, I didn’t have to kill a family member of yours or your dog for you to be hurt. Glad I’m teaching ya something.”


Published inFictionChapel Hill