Ken was affable but a bit paranoid. He was pleasant but a bit cynical especially about matters such as technology and trade policies. He was ardent in his belief that the world soon was coming to an end, a “prophecy,” he said. He asked if I might review some of his essays. I said writing demanded time, discipline, and purpose. He said he possessed all three.
Over the next eight or ten years, periodically I would receive a letter or two from Ken. They were mini-essays, handwritten, long, and passionate about technological eves-dropping and American democracy being destroyed. He still was convinced the world was coming to an end and soon! He signed his letters, “Peace.” He wanted to know if I thought his writings were publishable. Because I did not wish to explore his subject matter, I mostly reacted to Ken’s writing style, his vocabulary, and his singular voice. He then would send me a note thanking me for my insight, and I would not hear from him for another year or so.
His essays and letters were interwoven with quotations, arguments, and prophecies he had copied from newspapers and various “prophets.” I placed them with the others and kept them on a library shelf. They have remained there ever since. I do not know why I find it so hard to burn Ken’s letters. They have nothing to do with me. They are strange, eloquent, and passionate.
I still see Ken in my mind’s eye. He was blond, fair-skinned, and somewhat like Picasso in stature. He generally wore a straw hat. He always looked a bit flustered but happy. He often wore sandals. He was not a young man. His wife of more than forty years predeceased him, and he had several adult children. He said they were offended by his opinions. I liked Ken because he was who he was and didn’t pretend otherwise.
On the coldest day of January, as I was preparing to burn Ken’s letters, I showed them to my husband who also was imprisoned inside the house because of the frigid weather. He had wandered the house, cleaned the kitchen stove, practiced his cornet, and worked on Claude Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” at the piano. Telling him about Ken’s writings, my husband remarked, “He sounds like a man who was a bit stretched out.”
I went to the window. A flock of blue birds landed on the tree and began pecking at some berries on a nearby vine. Three brown lumps against the snow turned and stood up, white tailed deer, ready to forage. Newscasters and meteorologists talked about the deep freeze across the Midwest. I went to the library and placed the packet of Ken’s letters back on the shelf. There will be another day. So be it. Peace.