Melvin Haggins, Part IV: Teacher and Member of The Forlorn Writers Group of Western Oklahoma
Melvin Haggins: Installment 1-3 & 5
Welcome to Part IV of the 5 part Melvin Haggins comedy. As alluded to in the previous installments, this is a fictional tale written in a mock journalism styling. Though most of the locations are real, the characters and events are not.
In Part IV Melvin gets out in the real world and continues to try to make a name for himself as an internationally acclaimed author.
A great help to any writer
If You Can't Do, Teach
Either due to the job opportunity, the need to be on his own, or his self-imposed commitments, or maybe another reason entirely, when Melvin graduated Southwestern with a 2.3 GPA after six grueling years for both himself and those who attempted to educate him, he took a teaching job at tiny Hydro, about five miles east of Weatherford.
He would go back to visit his parents often, but to Beatrice’s dismay, never to stay.
One of my personal favorite reference materials
Melvin Has a Captive Audience
At Hydro Melvin would teach English for twelve years, never missing a single day of work. With the help of his father, he would buy a modest home on a modest plot of land.
Melvin was a well-liked instructor by most faculty and students. He did have problems with being a bit of a pushover, though.
Former student Jill Rigsby explains:
“Mr. Haggins let us get away with murder, but he was always there to try to help. We would push, and we knew we could probably push even further, but it just wasn’t fun to keep punching something that isn’t capable of punching back.
He really wasn’t a very good teacher, if I’m honest. He knew his grammar fairly well, which was helpful at times, but stylistically he was clueless. He also imposed all these archaic ideas about the way writing should be.
I’d love to say it was him who inspired me to become an English major, but it wasn’t until I got to college for a few years that I discovered language can actually be interesting.”
During these twelve years at Hydro Melvin would continue his methodical production of writing, often subjecting faculty and students to his works. Fellow teacher Phil Janson recounts:
“He would always read the stuff he wrote to us. I was just a history teacher and coach, but even I knew it wasn’t very good. Hydro is a small school. You couldn’t hide. He would corner you and just start reading. We’d always try to think of ways to avoid him. For the most part, nothing worked.
One day here was Melvin, some writing in his hand. Well, I had the trots something awful. I’ll be damned if he didn’t just follow me in the bathroom and read to me while my butt was goin Vesuvius.”
Coworker Melanie Burton adds:“It wasn’t just us he’d make listen to his stories. I remember walking by his classroom, and there he’d be, reading to sleeping students. He did it to show them an example of the ‘correct’ way to write.”
Melvin Fights Immorality
In addition, Melvin also was a charter member of a writing group. They called themselves The Forlorn Writers Group of Western Oklahoma. They met most Friday evenings at Southwestern’s library, an appointment Melvin, predictably, would never miss.
Some of their members would go on to have moderate success, getting published now and again. One member even had a book published by a small printing firm. Melvin, on the other hand, would never have even modest success.
Member Hank Porter relates:
“The main function of a writing group, really, is 5% creative feedback and 95% building one another up. It’s hard to stay motivated at it. Melvin didn’t really have that problem. He just kept writing, and he always had a new project to read us. But it was really taxing to continually find positive things to say about his writing.
Here he was, wanting to be the next Bill Shakespeare, and my eight year old could do better. We felt sorry for him.”
Below is a short story that Melvin wrote during this timeframe:
Sly drank from his glass full of alcohol. He took a puff of his cigarette. “We need money for more drugs,” Sly said.
Slick responded, “Yes. I need more drugs because I am addicted to them. We should rob a bank.” Slick emptied his pockets to show Sly he was out of drugs.
Sly answered quickly, because when you are on the drugs you do not think things through. “Yes, we will rob a bank so we have enough money to buy all the drugs we need.” Sly punched the wall and trembled. “Man, I need drugs now,” he said.
The men cased the bank in the town they were in. Sly and Slick were high and drunk. Sly pulled a ski mask over his face and said, “When you wear a mask it makes it easier to not get in trouble.”
Slick said, “I do not have a mask.”
“Well,” Sly said, “I am so crazy about the drugs that I do not care.”
Slick and Sly ran into the bank with guns. They pointed the guns and said, “This is a bank robbery!” The people were scared because they could tell Slick and Sly were on drugs.
The clerk at the bank gave Slick and Sly the money. Slick and Sly ran for the door. When they exited, policemen shot them.
Slick and Sly were bloody and dying. Slick said to Sly, “We should not have become addicted to the drugs.”
Sly responded, “Yes, using drugs is wrong and will make you do mean things to get more drugs.”
“We are bad people for doing amoral things,” Slick said. “We should die.” Then they died.
Most of Melvin’s stories during this period of his life concerned some moral vice. They were in their depth, at best, morality tales, but even morality tales can be apt and poignant. Melvin’s, however, never were.
Forlorn Member Heather McCullough gives the following summation:
“Poor Melvin. He just never really got it. You know, round characters and description. He worked so hard, and was always so excited, like what he brought us was the next big thing. In a writing group, you don’t want to crap on anybody’s parade, just try to politely move on to something relevant.”
Member Kevin Harold adds, “I know it’s mean, but in private circles we’d joke about it a lot.”
Melvin is Broken
It was in the Summer of 1982, a year after losing his father to heart disease, that Melvin would also lose his mother to pancreatic cancer. It was a trying time in Melvin’s life, a time of reflection, and perhaps the only extended period of doubt in his aspirations of becoming an internationally acclaimed writer.
Have you ever met anybody like Melvin?
“Yeah, I remember when his mom died. I wasn’t working officially then, so he would come by my place, put his money on the TV just like always. Before he’d always read his stories to me after.
He quit the readin for a while after his mom died. Would’ve been fine, but I knew him long enough…something was wrong. Few months after that, we even quit doin the deed. Just take off our clothes and kind of lay there.”
It is as though the death of Melvin’s parents caused the clouds to part and bring the terrible light of reality to his fanciful existence. Where once he would fawn over his rejection letters, read them over and over, try to garner knowledge from their feedback, he could now see they were simple form rejections that only meant “We don’t want you.”
Coworker Melanie Burton recounts, “He didn’t chase us down in the hallways anymore. You know, the staff was all happy about it at first, but before too long we were chasing him down, asking for our punishment. I don’t know, you get used to a thing and it goes away; it makes a person worry.”
Members of the Forlorn Writers’ Club divulge similar accounts. Everybody wanted Melvin to write, not because it was any good, but because that’s what Melvin did. They cared enough about him to endure the ramifications of support.
Did this installment make you laugh or feel sad more?
Melvin Haggins: Chapter IV
- Melvin Haggins, Part V: Rebellion and Death
Chapter V, our final installment of the "Melvin Haggins" comedy, in which Melvin fancies himself a rebel and finishes his time with us here on earth.