The wood of my desk is the color of a deer’s hide but not as soft. I set my laptop on the sturdy wood. It is an old MacBook Pro that has lost its shine. I open the computer and wait for it to start. I check my wristwatch. It is only half past nine. I sip black coffee from a tin cup. I wish the coffee were whiskey. I don’t believe in drinking before I write but I am not here to write, but rather to teach others to do so.
I log into Zoom. I am the host of the meeting. I consider a virtual background to make the scene more beautiful. I don’t use one. Life as it is is the best background. You can’t tell the truth plain if you don’t even look at it. I don’t check the box to enhance my appearance. My rugged face is unshaven. It is a very good face.
I begin the meeting. I wait for my students to make themselves known on the screen. I want to sit across from them at a bar and drink a nice cold beer together. We would have a fine time.
I wait in silence. I do not know what they want to learn. I figure that they will tell me when they are ready.
A blonde raises her hand.
“Is there an agenda for class?” she asks.
“No,” I say. “The agenda is to write.”
“What are we supposed to write about?” the blonde asks.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence,” I say.
My students stare at me on the screen. I sip my coffee, satisfied. I have told them the one true thing I know.
“How do you know that your writing is good?” asks a man.
“You write the best you can,” I say.
I wait in silence. I hear laughter. It is a deep laughter. None of my students seem to be laughing. Suddenly a slide appears on my screen. It is not my slide. I watch as the letters appear: FAULKNER RULES. I am angry. I do not understand.
“We are being Zoom bombed!” says a blonde. “You must kick them out.”
I get control of the meeting and remove the hooligan. The slide disappears from the screen. It remains in my mind. My heart is racing. I have shown great courage.
“That was scary,” a man says.
“Soldiers did not fight over Zoom during the war. They spilled their red blood on the field of battle,” I say.
These students fought their own war today, I think. They fight their battles behind a screen. They can never go home and be the same. It is my job to teach them to wage war with the pen and fight using the Google Doc. It is a noble job.
“Let us return to work,” I say.
A different blonde raises her hand.
“How did you learn to write?” asks the blonde.
“I was born this way,” I say. It is none of their business that I had to learn to write. Let them think I was born this way.
“Writing is telling the truth,” I say. “I write my best.”
It is true. Sometimes, I surprise myself and write better than I can.
A blonde raises her hand. I notice her but see that a man is also raising his hand. I call on him first. The blonde looks despondent. She wanted my attention. I am sorry I could not give it to her.
“How do you know you’ve finished a story?” he asks.
“A good storyteller tells you the truth right up and through death,” I say.
My cat wanders across my laptop, pressing many keys with her many toes and spills my coffee. My students can see this. They laugh. I catch the tin cup in my large, bare hands. The hot coffee scalds my skin. I wipe them on my rough blue jeans.
My students stare at me. Most looked bored, even the blondes. I know the feeling.
“The best way to write is to write,” I say.
I want to end the meeting. I cannot find the button. My students look on. I can see the amusement in their eyes. By the time I find the button and click it, my students are gone and I am alone. It is better this way. Teaching writing feels like making love. It is sad and happy and then you are alone. I am sure I have done a very good job.