What if Faulkner, Hemingway and Robert Parker had a writing group?
January 16, 2012
At their weekly writers group in the land of eternal repose, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Robert Parker exchanged their submissions and drew lots to determine the order in which they would read. Their assignment was to write a paragraph from the prompt: Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
The lot fell to Faulkner, then Hemingway, then Parker.
Faulkner cleared his throat and waited for the others to quiet before he began. He put on his thickest Mississippi accent, read each syllable, slurring one into the other.
“Frothy the beasts lanolinesque, sheered snubby with bulbous eyes terrified switched without mercy an oaken rod ensconced in her bony appendage of discipline ill-deserved, less knowingly perceived, over thorny trails of basalt shards black, sharp, dull, cretinous, while a vernal mist infernal unwanted seeped ineluctably into her dark-rooted non-coiffure that bespoke seminal Yoknapatawpha debauched, bemused, Mary Absalom reclined, a Babel of baahs requisitioning.”
He waited in vain for the applause.
“A Babel of baahs?” Hemingway snorted.
“Lanolinesque?” Parker asked.
“Must each session leave me with the thought, ‘Pearls before swine’?” Faulkner asked rhetorically.
“Your turn, Hem,” Parker said.
Hemingway stood up, his paper in his hand. He paced as he read, spitting the words out like bursts of machine gun fire.
“In the late summer of that year, the troops marched along the river next to the aspens. When the plane came in hot and low, the men took cover among the boulders to escape the bomb. The explosion peppered them with shrapnel and the dust settled on the squad as the roar of the single engine receded over the mountain ridge. Near the stream, they found the dead shepherd girl, now surrounded by three of her sheep, the lost ones she sought. The famished men slaughtered the lambs, without giving thanks, and piled river rocks high on the carcass of the young girl. Soon they heard the drone of another plane and retreated into the forest.”
Hem sat down, hung his head and stared at the paper.
“And you think my stuff is depressing?” Faulkner asked him.
“At least the reader doesn’t need a dictionary to make sense of it,” Hemingway said.
“That’s for sure,” Faulkner said.
“Let’s hear Parker’s piece,” Hem said. He wanted out of the line of fire.
Robert Parker adjusted his reading glasses, re-positioned himself in the chair, leaned close to the written words.
Jesse Stone called Suitcase Simpkins into his office.
“Get down to the elementary school,” he said.
Suitcase grinned with his lips closed.
“Mary Pendergast again?”
“Five lambs this time.”
“Ms. Johnson’s class?”
“At least she didn’t bring the goats this time.”
Jesse looked at him. “She left them in the playground. They ate two backpacks and a first baseman’s mitt. Three of the kids reported the critters ate their homework, too.”
“And the sheep?” Suitcase asked.
“Ms. Johnson herded them into the music room.”
“Did she give them instruments to play?” Simpson chuckled.
“She said sheep songs were above her pay grade,” Chief Stone said.
“You think there’s a chance Mary’s IQ is higher than the lambs’?”
Suitcase turned to leave.
“One more thing,” Jesse said. “Take animal control with you.”
“The rooster, too?”
“Ten-four,” Jesse said.
Hemingway and Faulkner sat in silence, looked down at their hands and laid their pencils on the desk.
“How is that one paragraph?” Hem said at last.
“It’s as close as I can get,” Parker said. “Besides, it’s not any longer than your pieces.”
“Hmph,” Faulkner said.
“I’m really enjoying our time together. How about you guys?” Parker asked.
“What’s next week’s assignment?” Faulkner asked.
Hemingway looked at his list.
“Heaven and hell,” he said.
“Lord help us all,” Parker said as the men got up to leave.
(This blog appears in The Writers Collection)