The Ink and the Inkling

Beneath the bones of my skull, embedded forever in my brain, lie the hardened fingerprints of the many teachers who shaped me. But the deepest impressions of all were made by one Innis Northington Camelot Korser, otherwise known as Mr. Ink.

He was my father. 

I was three years old when he introduced me to James Weldon Johnson’s greatest poem, The Creation. We memorized it together. But one line was my favorite above all others: “He hurled the world!” I would yell it out whenever we recited it.

My father taught high school English in my early years. Above the chalkboard in his classroom was a strip of cork, two feet high. Across the length of it, he tacked black-and-white pictures, artistic sketches of the greatest English writers of all time. Dead center, precisely between Shakespeare with his mustache and Milton in his blindness, he affixed one last image: a matching-size, full-color photograph of me.

Every year, Mr. Ink took his high school seniors on a five-hour bus ride into Stratford, Canada, for the annual Shakespearean Festival, where magnificent actors performed on the finest of stages. Bouncing along in the bus, right beside all those soon-to-be high school graduates, was one five-year-old boy: the image from the photograph come to life.

My father assigned to me the best soliloquies of Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, and King Lear. So I memorized them. He had scores of his favorite quotations; if he started any one of them, I was expected to finish it. “Always read,” he said. “Never leave home without a book.” And I never did. 

In the afternoons, after teaching school, my father would recover from his labors with a nap. He’d call me into his bedroom for my one job: to read to him from the newspaper, with perfect inflection, until he was fast asleep. “Unh-unh,” he would say, if ever I mistakenly tried to escape before he had fully drifted off. Then I would read some more. Very softly. 

Now his final sleep has come, and I’m still reading. He talked about writing his books but then left the task to me. Perhaps he liked people too much; he could not bury himself in the writer’s solitude. But I enjoy the stillness. I can finish the work for both of us. 

At his rolltop desk he penned thousands of missives by hand, sharp vertical scrawl on blue-tinted paper. He liked to be different. That desk is now mine.

He’s close by when I write. Whenever my sentences bead with sweat and stumble in exhaustion, I hear him from beneath the covers. “Unh-unh,” he says. “Try it again. You can do better than that.”

He was my teacher. He could be severe, impossible to fully satisfy. His eye was heavy upon me, often more than I could bear. But at the end of all our reading and writing exercises, he would give curt praise if improvement could be found. “Better,” he would say. “Much better.”

Note: My father’s name was different from the one chosen for the essay; all other details are accurate.

-Troy Thompson

Troy Thompson

Troy Thompson

Troy A. Thompson, M.D., is a family physician practicing medicine in Stevensville, Michigan. At the age of 20, he developed fibromyalgia, a complex disease of overwhelming pain and fatigue, far more commonly observed in older women. He has since escaped his prisons of agony and regained a high-quality life, but it took him decades and left many scars. Countless others remain in similar dungeons of despair; the only ones who might lead them out are ex-prisoners, those few who escaped, and then dared return for the rest. Through fantasy, the author hopes to address severe pain syndromes in a delightful and comprehensive way, giving hope to those yet in agony, in part by finding meaning through suffering. In the author's first novel series, only those who suffer the most save the day.


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