Those who have followed this blog over the past few years(all three of you) have been subjected to my curious interest in a ratherobscure New England writer-poet-essayist-short order cook named Thomas JohnMcSheey, who lived from 1899 until his untidily death in 1935 when he choked ona piece of dark chocolate in his very messy apartment.
Presently, I am at work on a biography about this strange,secular, scribbler of sentences, who throughout his short life found himselfquestioning the meaning of life, the meaning of death, and the meaning of allthat which lies in between.
In my research at Stoneycliff University, which holds thepapers of T.J. McSheey, mainly because no other college or university wantedthem, I came across a number of the writer's journals. I provide here anexcerpt from one such journal, it being the 110th anniversary ofMcSheey's birth.
The following was written in 1934, the year before hisdeath, in pencil on a pad of yellow lined paper ...
"I was born in Boston, Massachusetts -- Dorchester to bemore specific -- on September 4, 1899, at 10:44 in the morning, just in time forbrunch. If I recall, I had the vegetarian omelet with home fries and rye toast,and a small orange juice. The coffee, if my memory serves, was cold.
"My father was a seamstress, and my mother was aprofessional wrestler who went by the name "The Sultan of Southie." Orperhaps it was the other way around. Father spoke four languages, all of thembeing English. Mother wrote poetry, but did not believe in the "th"sound, which caused havoc with such words as "the,""think," "thank," and "thiophosphate."
"I was an only child until I reached the age of twelve.During that year, upon one morning, as I went down the hall to use the bathroomto brush my teeth before school, I discovered the bathroom door shut andlocked. It was then that I realized I had a sixteen-year-old sister. I neversaw the inside of the bathroom again.
"Meanwhile, my father, concerned about the completelack of crime in the city, decided to move our family to the suburbs. There I had a paper route for a number of years, butby some mistake I always delivered the previous day's newspaper.
"My first interest in writing manifested itself duringmy 15th year. My uncle, a farmer by trade who lived in theneighboring town, was killed in horrible fashion when he wastrampled to death by his prize turkey. Investigators discovered his bodyoutside the barn, with the telltale word "Tommy" etched into thedirt. A manhunt, or rather, a turkey hunt commenced, and Tommy was eventuallyapprehended along Washington Street hitching for a ride. At his trial, Tommyclaimed temporary insanity brought on by the nearness of Thanksgiving. A juryof his peers -- three turkeys, two roosters, five hens, a warbler, and a grouse-- found him guilty of first-degree murder. Whether or not he was guilty in thefirst-degree remains uncertain, but he certainly was delicious!
"So, after my uncle's death, I wrote this little poem,which first displayed on paper my questioning of life, death, God, and myfascination with the written word (and the letters which form such words):
Saw a hearse along the byway,
It was travelling due west,
Into the setting sun,
Wearing his Sunday best.
For we are just a short trek,
Down the road to the village plot,
In the Creator's mind,
We're just an afterthought.
For we are nothing more than,
Mortal flesh upon mortal bone,
Adrift and all alone,
Upon the cosmic sea.
We're just an alphabet of life,
An alphabet from A to Z,
And sometimes the letter Y,
And, of course, I before E,
Except after C."
Next time: McSheey abandons his Catholic upbringing tobecome a pagan after he falls for an oak tree.