A PLACE I WENT by Kevin Litwin
Alone I sat at dusk that one December day, staring at dull gray walls inside a dilapidated library that was closed to everyone except me. My eyes scanned the secluded corner of the library where I sat uneasy, noticing a nearby black granite bookcase stacked with tattered classic novels.
Suddenly, an eerie mist materialized from which a balding, long-haired gentleman with dark beard and mustache appeared in Victorian garb. His presence startled me.
“Are you Kevin?” the man asked.
“Y-yes. Who are you?”
“I am William Shakespeare. I hear you’ve an appreciation for some of my plays.”
“I do, sir. Macbeth is one of my all-time favorites. The murders, the intensity, the despair. I like macabre literature.”
“Macbeth is one of my most primal tragedies,” Shakespeare said. “Would you like to discuss the play with me?”
I paused in shock and then answered.
“I would love to speak with you, sir, but I already have an appointment with another amazing author I’m meeting here tonight. Could we talk some other time?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Shakespeare said. “You must talk with me now or never. To be or not to be.”
“I’m saddened to hear that, but I regret it’s not to be.”
With that, the great bard faded into the dreary haze, but only seconds later did another mystical aberration visualize from the smokiness. An eccentric-looking man in a dark purple overcoat stood before me, staring into my eyes.
“Are you Kevin?” the man asked.
“I am Edgar Allan Poe. I hear that you favor several of my short stories.”
“I certainly do, sir. The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death. They are brilliant.”
“Which do you like best?”
“No doubt: The Masque of the Red Death,” I said. “The madhouse setting and psychological horror. It’s genius.”
“Would you like to discuss the story?”
I sighed with grave disappointment.
“I wish that I could, sir, for it would indeed be an honor. But I have an appointment tonight with another fantastic writer, so could we chat some other time?”
“No,” Poe said. “Speak with me now, or nevermore.”
“That is truly a shame because you rank at my summit of spectacular writers, but I cannot break my engagement with the author I’ll be speaking to tonight.”
At that, the great Poe disappeared into the ominous mist, but only a few seconds later did a third form take shape. A dapper, elderly gentleman with white hair, white beard and glasses, and I immediately knew he was the person for whom I had been waiting.
“Dr. Seuss,” I said. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“You wanted to speak with me?”
“Yes, sir. I read one of your books today and it now ranks among my favorites. It is splendid.”
“Which is it? The Cat in the Hat? Green Eggs and Ham? Horton Hears a Who?”
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” I said.
“Really? That book isn’t as famous as my others.”
“My boss at work, Greg, once read it aloud at a company meeting and then my other boss, Bob, reminded me of the book via email a month ago. So I read it again. I even purchased two copies for my kids.”
“How old are your children?”
“Andrew is 9 and Jenna 7. Jenna is a bit young to fully understand the message, but after I recited it to Andrew, he declared, ‘Dad, it’s the best book you ever read me.’”
“And you, Kevin. Why do you like it?”
“Because the message applies to anyone ages 9 to 99. The journey of life and its challenges. The roads a person can choose. That life isn’t easy and doesn’t always bring success.”
“Ah, yes,” Seuss said. “I’m sorry to say so, but sadly it’s true, that Bang-ups and Hang-ups, can happen to you.”
“You also acknowledge that slumps occur during the course of everyone’s life.”
“Correct. When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
“Then you disclose that many humans spend much of their lives in The Waiting Place – just waiting for things to happen instead of exercising ambition. Waiting for the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow. Or waiting for a yes or no, or waiting for their hair to grow.”
“No! That’s not for you!” Seuss bellowed, quoting from his book. “Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. Oh, the places you’ll go. There is fun to be done.”
“You also cite, sir, that life can be full of loneliness, for if you reach any level of accomplishment, there are always those people who try to bring you down.”
“Yes, but continue to persevere. On you will go, though the weather be foul. On you will go, though your enemies prowl. You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act.”
“The book – it’s a soul-searching read for all ages,” I said. “A grown-up message in a children’s book. Terrific.”
The phantom apparition of Dr. Seuss began to fade, and I knew his short time with me was expiring.
“Dr. Seuss, it has my pleasure speaking with you this evening.”
“Nice to meet you, Kevin, and suggest to young Andrew that he re-read the final page of that book from time to time. You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!”
With that, the revered author voiced his goodbyes and disclosed that he would now journey that same adventurous night to meet with Shakespeare, Poe and Fitzgerald. The venerable writers planned a spirited chat with one another about their countless literary accomplishments.
“Oh, the places we have been. How rousing it’ll be to reminisce once again,” said the superb Seuss with a smile, vanishing into the curious mist.