Please welcome Sue Marie St. Lee to the Writer's Journey Blog!
With fingers curled in fist-like fashion around Dad’s fountain pen, I readied for the most important writing of my five-year-old life — I carved my name underneath the word “Pink” on Mother’s mangle ironing machine cabinet.
Stepping back, I looked upon the creation with tremendous pride. Yes! Staring back at me were the two most wonderful words in my little life — the name of my most favorite color in the whole wide world and my name: “Pink Sue”.
After finishing the masterpiece, I yelled for Mother to come and witness my work of art. Although I do not remember the screams, curses, and her hands hitting me, I do remember feeling crushed that someone I highly admired — actually detested my artwork. Sigh. That feeling would be the first step of many disappointments on the journey I began as an artist — a writer. It was also the last time, up until now, that I have written those two words together. So, now, for the little girl inside of me, here’s to you: “Pink Sue”
Not long afterward, I started first grade. From first through eighth grade, the nuns at my school taught English with fierce dedication and corporal punishment/embarrassment for dummies. Yes, we were all called “dummies”, I grew up in the days long before anyone’s sperm contained and fertilized the idea of “politically correct”, or “emotionally abusive”. But, getting back to the nuns… sure, they taught all the other required subjects, but, the importance of English ranked highest, and it evidenced itself when those of us who survived the Gestapo-like atmosphere of Catholic schooling graduated to public high school where the majority of parochial survivors were placed in Honors-Level English classes.
I remember all of my high school English teachers; three of them made the deepest impressions upon me. Mr. Grumpleton (pseudonym) moonlighted as a mortician on weekends and would share his grotesque experiences with the class while searching for facial reactions to the horrors he told. I tried to remain invisible to him but, for some reason, he enjoyed poking fun at me for my lack of worldliness. It didn’t bother me, heck, he couldn’t hold a candle to the nun’s masterful infliction of psychological torture upon young minds.
One day, Mr. Grumpleton came to class wearing a black eye patch and the right side of his face could not move. He explained that he had contracted Bell’s Palsy. That one hour of watching and listening to him… no, I wasn’t listening at all, I was making up stories of him in my mind, very interesting and weird stories. Yet, as of this writing, none of my horror stories were based upon a man such as Mr. Grumpleton … English teacher by day, mortician by night, and weekends.
Mr. Harriman loved being an English teacher to head-in-the-clouds high schoolers. His enthusiasm for literature was contagious. I’ll never forget the passionate conversations we, the class, had with him regarding the book, Kon Tiki. I loved that man’s energy and how he led the class on amazing journeys with the books we read and on which we reported. On the last day of class, he told us not to be in such a hurry to grow up, that we were living the best days of our lives. Not one of us believed him because, of course, we knew better.
At the end of my Junior year, I, along with my best friend, enrolled in summer school to take our Senior year’s English class. Ah, the brilliance of our tactic! By taking English classes in summer school, we evaded the hard work required in Honors classes since the summer session was only offered at the “normal” level. Hooray! Our Senior year would be one less class load and the year would be a care-free breeze.
Summer school classes began with Orpha Welke (real name, not misspelled). Miss Welke looked like a suspicious middle-aged woman from an Alfred Hitchcock horror film. No, she wasn’t ugly, didn’t have hairy warts on her face or green, broken teeth. She maintained an elegant height, wore her hair pulled up tightly into a bun upon her head where one or two pencils made their home. Sounds pleasant enough, eh? Oh yes, she was very pleasant but, when she would speak of the Masters, a far-away look shone from her eyes and she mesmerized the entire class with her orations. She captivated every one of us, even the kids who hated school. She taught. We listened. We learned.
The institution of school ended a lifetime ago for me, while another lifetime of important lessons began. Throughout my existence, I found solace in writing. I learned early on that writing gave me control in a world where I had none. It offered a release, a safe place where I could write poems to loved ones, cry-out-loud on paper, tell stories with happy endings… and, years later, write corporate training manuals, business proposals, bids for properties, on and on…
After retirement, I began ghostwriting and sold a few articles for a few hundred dollars. Those articles were sold with full-rights to be published with someone else’s name as the author. Even though the dollars looked good in my bank account, I felt like a whore; I quit ghostwriting and answered the call for drabbles with a new Australian Press.
Since that time, a number of my horror stories have been published with Black Hare Press and elsewhere. My last horror story, “Rhapsodie de Claire Elise” featured in a small anthology, published on Edgar Allan Poe’s 171st death anniversary. I consider that story my magnum opus and have since put down my horror-writing-pen.
I know that a new door has opened and I will continue spinning fictitious tales during breaks from writing the memoir of my late son — by far the most difficult of anything I have written or will ever write. I must force myself to write something, if only a few lines, every day in that memoir for no one knows the length of our lives or what the future holds — it is, however, only a breath away.
Okay, that last line would have been a nice conclusion to this little story but after recollecting Mr. Grumpleton, I may consider writing one more horror story with him as my main character. I can be so fickle.
Links to Sue Marie St. Lee’s pages:
Poe-ish Tales Forevermore: https://amzn.to/3a6Nt9e