Creative Writing--Combining Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" & Smith's "The Happy Memories Club"
While taking Literature, my Professor loved to challenge and inspire her students to think outside the box. One of the assignments/challenges she assigned was to combine two short stories into our own creative work.
We had to quote from the original stories as we molded into our own story, hence the page numbers. The Bibliography will be posted at the end.
I chose to combine William Faulkner's tragic story "A Rose for Emily" as well as Lee Smith's witty short story "The Happy Memories Club."
I hope you enjoy reading what I titled "Literary Wisdom".
In the beginning, living in Marshwood had little joys. I suppose most retirement homes do not; “they want us to become children again. “ (591) I chose to be here because I never wanted to burden my children and especially now that I was confined to a chair. Fortunately, I met Solomon and as I told my sons, “Dr. Solomon Marx, is the joy of my life.” (588) We had a passionate affair until he had a stroke which to my dismay paralyzed him “below the waist.” (589) He was not the first love of my life; I have had many. Perhaps he would not be the last. Very few (above all, my sons) wanted to know about my sexual romps, my passionate affairs, the great loves that I have had. Little did I know, that was about to change.
Wednesday started out like every other. I awoke to the sounds of nurses making their way room to room, children (meaning other residents) fussing over taking their medication, and light thumps of tennis ball bottomed walkers making their way down the hallway. I was eager for 3:00 p.m. to arrive for that is when I attended a writing group; after all, I was an English teacher “in the days when it was English, not ‘language arts’.” (589) Oh how I loved to teach and like many English teachers before me, I too thought that “I might like to write.” (591)
My writing group consisted of mostly women, including, dare I say—Martha Louise Clapton, oh how she loved to run things and whom I was told had an infatuation for Solomon prior to my arrival at Marshwood. Martha Louise passed out copies of our writing and as usual, each of us read what we wrote since the last meeting. After the meeting adjourned, Shirley Lassiter, who thought herself “as a belle” (591)and judging by what she wrote I would declare her a brainless wonder, quickly approached me. Bent down towards me, in her usual pose, “resting her jeweled hands on her enormous bosom”, (592) she whispered, “Ms. Alice, do you have a moment?”
I wanted to say, “Of course Silly.” Instead, I simply nodded. Although I spoke my mind, I did not want to impede my own ability of the English language.
“A friend of mine is having problems starting her own family. I’m not a teacher so I was hoping you could help her. ” (Again, “Clearly she did not have a brain in her head.” (592) I was an English teacher. ) Nearly leaning down far enough for her breasts to be near eye level with me, “She will be here later this evening and I told her about you she seemed quite excited that you were a teacher and that you could help her.”
Motoring backwards and slightly amused by her wanting me to advise her friend, I told Shirley that her friend could meet with me after dinner. We parted our ways and I eagerly sped my way to visit Solomon. The entire ride, rapidly past all of the insolent yet, well behaved (or just heavily medicated) children, all I could think of was that perhaps, finally, someone would want to listen to my passion filled stories of love and lust—need I mention I also know quite a bit about raising a family.
I had my dinner with Solomon and then sped my way from his room to the sitting area—ragged well used furniture carrying the aroma of decay and a small console television with the raspy reception that only rabbit ears (old antenna) could manage. Across the room a small card table sat with softly padded metal as well as slightly rusted chairs. Not glamorous by any means, however, it would make due for my guest. I spoke to one of the nurses and asked to have tea ready for Shirley’s friend’s arrival. The old grandfather clock chimed 6 p.m., and then 7 p.m.; I anxiously began to wonder if she would arrive.
The night nurse arrived; visiting hours were officially over. I bribed the nurse with a twenty dollar bill and explained that I had a visitor due to arrive at any moment. She graciously accepted. Moments later a young woman around her thirties entered Marshwood. She was rather pale and gaunt. Her hair noticeably short and her overall appearance seemed “sort of tragic and serene.” (91) She carried herself with an air of nobility; her nose slightly pointed upward nearly snubbing her surroundings. Her long black dress appeared slightly dusty and carried the scent of moth balls as “a thin gold chain” (92) descended “to her waist.” (92)
Her lips slightly pressed as if she had her first taste of a sour candy, “Mrs. Alice Scully?” I nodded. Sitting down in the chair, “I am Emily Grierson.” Now appearing quite comfortable as her nose twitched to the pungent smell of the sitting area; a smell that nearly seemed known to her, “Excuse my late arrival. I had to make a stop at the druggist before arriving here.” For just a moment I thought of my husband Harold; before his death, he “owned and ran the Trent Riverside Pharmacy.” (589)
Staring at her “cold, haughty black eyes” (94) my mind raced—her name seemed all too familiar. Where have I heard that name before? As I reached from my chair to pour the now cold tea, “Shirley told me that you were having a problem in regards to a relationship. How can I help you Miss Emily Grierson?” Miss Emily Grierson? Miss Emily? The name pestered my mind as I tried to remain focused on the conversation.
She lifted her tea cup with her pinky slightly raised, “I am a woman nearly out of season with an august name, and I wish to have a husband and a family of my own.” She went on about her childhood and how she did have suitors yet, her father felt “none of the young men were quite good enough” (93) for her. She spoke of how her “father had loaned money to the town” (91)and how she never had to pay taxes—it was the towns’ way of paying back the money. Taking another sip, “Regardless, it is my duty to pass on the autumn name and have a family.” She spoke to me as if she had been isolated from nearly everyone and forgot that although in her world she may be of local nobility, here in Marshwood, she was nearly a visitor.
Her childhood was quite different from my own. I started to tell her of my childhood and told her of my father, “who was in the oyster business, killed himself when I was six” (592)and how my sister Rose—(Rose…Emily Grierson, this was seemingly more familiar to me now)—and I had to help my mother with the boardinghouse.
Miss Emily Grierson rose her hand to her mouth, with a slight yawn, “Yes well, honestly, what does this have to do with my problem?”
Her haughtiness and self worth began to annoy me. I barked, “Sex, Miss Emily Grierson, Sex!” Her cold black eyes widened from shock as I continued, “You do not need to have a husband to have a child, just Sex with a man!” Now with her attention captured, I continued to tell her of my own desire for a man. I told her about Carl Redding Armistead III who came from a well to do family.
A mere smirk befell her face, nearly chucking, “This reminds me of my dear Homer Barron. He is laborer and I am from an autumn name.” Her voice seemingly more sinister, “He is the one that I have my eyes on and one I intend to keep—to death do us part.” Her eyes narrowed malevolently as she regained her arrogant composure. “Please continue.”
After a considerable feeling of déjà vu, I continued to tell her that Carl was my first love and I spoke in detail of first kiss and how the “scent of the roses was everywhere.” (597) (Rose? Roses? Emily? Druggist? Homer Barron? It would soon come to me. I remembered everything.) I was quite candor and told her of our lovemaking sessions, and how sometimes “my back would be red and bleeding from the rough black sand and the broken shells on the beach.” (597) I also told her of my eldest son and how I never told Carl of our son born out of wedlock. I told her of my other loves/lovers, including Harold, and the joy of my life, Solomon.
The time sifted swiftly as the old grandfather’s clock chimed 9 p.m. Each detail of my passion filled life seemed to intrigue Miss Emily Grierson. The night nurse stood from her desk, glaring towards my direction, she tapped her watch and rubbed her greedy fingers together as to ask me for more money.
I cleared my throat and took one last sip, “In short, you do not need a husband to have a child, nor do you have to wed.”
Miss Emily Grierson rose from her chair, brushing off her dress. A thin layer of old dust permeated the air. She inhaled deeply with her nose as to catch the scent she found most welcoming—the pungent smell of decay. She nodded towards me, “Farewell, Mrs. Scully. I have much to do.” Without a Thank-you or even a comment, she walked posh like towards the reception area, her head slightly bent back with her nose even held higher than when she arrived.
Her hips swaying from side to side in a very lady like manner. Stopping for just a moment at the nurse’s desk, she glanced at a glass vase filled with just a single rose. She elegantly plucked the rose and then continued on her way. I sped in her direction. My mind raced with fragments of my days as an English teacher. Rose? Emily? Homer Barron, was he a boarder? No, he couldn’t have been for she was a woman in her thirties. Each story that I ever read seemed to sprint through my memories “my head was so full of the people and places of the past” (591) and my mind just “waiting, waiting, waiting” (599) for the euphoric moment. Any second now, I would remember.
Ding, Ding, Ding
Her hand reached for the door. Just then it occurred to me. I was not having moments of déjà vu; I knew her story as well as I knew my own. “A Rose for Emily,” I nearly shouted. She stopped dead in her tracks. Raising my voice even louder, “Miss Emily, I have one last piece of advice. Regardless of what is to happen,” I paused as if it were a dramatic climax to a story, “on no account ever lay with a dead man.”
The nurse looked appalled, “Mrs. Scully, show some dignity!”
I cautiously neared Emily yet keeping my distance. Her right hand wrapped around the rose, dangling it upwards as if she was ringing a bell (ding, ding, ding), then glanced over her narrow boney shoulder. Her eyes twinkled, slightly amused by what I stated, “Shirley did mention you were an English teacher.” Her cold black eyes worked up to a wink as her mouth twisted into a nefarious smirk. For just a moment she twirled her hair with her left hand. And then out the door, she was gone. On floor beside the entrance the nurse and I saw “a long strand of iron-gray hair.” (97)
Strangely, I felt at peace for my story was told. Finally, there was one who wanted to hear each detail that others would cringe. As for Emily, I am not sure if I spoke to a ghost from a literary past, or if her story appeared so familiar that hopefully I gave her literary wisdom. Although I was no longer an English teacher, I could still teach others—either from my own life or that in the infinite stories that I taught when I was a teacher. “It all connects. Everything connects.” (599) “I may be old, but I am not dead” (588) and although my soul is near ready to depart my body, my passion filled life and my stories can sail on to the great beyond—through the eyes of those I touched and those who knew me.
Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: St. Martin/Bedford, 2011. 91-97.
Smith, Lee. "The Happy Memories Club." Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: St Martin/Bedford, 2011. 588-599.