Content now. For the moment. At last concluded a short story I’d planned to finish in September, and before that the prior October, and before that the tail end of 2016. Sometimes, a work is just not ready and we realize it, and I am always too distracted. Oddly enough, this new story references Treasure Island of all books. Though perhaps not so surprising as a recently finished essay referenced The Wizard of Oz, and I’ve not read that one.
But Treasure Island. A café is named The Black Spot. The proprietor is named Silva. A barista is named Red (this one’s complicated). Metaphors for cannon rounds crash through log walls and there’s much idle drawing of maps, all curiously lacking an X-marks-the-spot.
But somewhere in development, the fiction became about predatory storytelling, the appropriation of local legends, and the superposition of imagined narratives. Perhaps I even had something subconscious to say about Treasure Island’s noted exclusion of women, as well as the novel’s conscious borrowing of material from other authors: Kingsley, Irving and Poe, not to mention its cozying entrenchment in historical events and figures.
But this got me thinking, to actual great surprise, about the very first piece of fiction I remember writing. Certainly the first of pages-substance. Seventh grade, 12 years old. A school assignment. We were assigned to rewrite a chapter from a book—or, depending, perhaps just a scene. From what I remember, everyone chose different books—and I choose Treasure Island. I wasn’t such a big reader then, if I am now. I remember going back to the same few again and again like one does a pop-song playlist.
Not a big reader, but I sure loved buying books yearly at the local library’s fundraiser. You can fill a couple banker’s boxes when the paperbacks (Treasure Island included) cost 10 cents each. I don’t remember all the details, but the gist of my rewrite was to have Jim attempt to retake the ship—and there was a fair amount of sharpshooting from the rigging.
But the most wonderful thing is: I cannot, to this day, separate the narratives. What I wrote at the age of 12 remains more real to me than the original. Or at least inextricable. Adventure. Not so much a foray into fan fiction as a partial rewrite of a classic. Better memories.
More interesting then that Treasure Island found it’s way into my new short story when the story is very much about rewriting a history for something imagined more favorable. I mean, there’s no one named Red in the Treasure Island original unless were talking about a minor character named Redruth. I checked Wikipedia—
And I’m fairly certain I haven’t re-read the novel since middle school and that any borrowing now is done through deep memory, because time and because I’m not a big reader and if there’s time at all, I’m keen to read something new. I also seem to have lost that old draft to a buried box somewhere. Understand that I’m teased regularly for being “very” organized. I’m not, really, but the rumors are true, I do possess a hand-made glue-bound volume on my shelves that purports to be the “Collected Papers (unrevised) of Roger Topp,” by the dates, collected between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. Clearly a protective dump from a floppy disc both too large too small to stay in style. Of course, I also have sworn grade-school teacher testimony (in writing) I’m an extrovert, and implying this may be a problem.
Or perhaps I don’t reread Stevenson because I’ve moved on, because the novel was definitively for boys, or perhaps, if were to retread the book, looking for clues and memories, there’s a chance Stevenson’s original narrative might, because I’m sure it’s pretty decent, reassert itself and clear out this unauthorized memory.