Alex had dug up irises in the driveway at Faulkner’s Rowan Oak with a spoon and had them in a clay pot on his desk. The rocks from Flannery O’Connor’s flower beds were paperweights, and a nice piece of pottery held peacock feathers he’d picked up on the grounds at Andalusia and rested on the other corner of his desk. He had some wood planks from a whitewashed picket fence from Robert Frost’s farm in Massachusetts. He’d constructed a picture frame that held a black and white photo of Robert Frost reading at Kennedy’s inauguration. He had some of Sylvia Plath’s baking dishes from a secondhand shop in England, but the strangest of all was the stuffed cat with six toes he’d put on a shelf. The cat he’d found in the alley at Hemingway’s home was one from the herd in Key West, and he put it on ice in an Igloo cooler until he could get it to the taxidermist.
When they found him slumped over the desk in the office, the EMTs helped the funeral home load him in the hearse. One said, “Must’ve been a nut. Takes all kinds, I guess.”
“No,” the other said. “Just eccentric. Taught writing part-time for the college. Left all this to them is what I heard.”
The development officer met the English department head the next week to assess the gift, but neither saw much value, except the house, which might provide a handful of endowed scholarships to writing or literature students after the investment yielded earnings in three to five years, depending on the market, but the rest would be picked up in a box truck by Goodwill.
Students searching for retro clothes and unique decorations for dorm rooms, fraternity, and sorority houses, and apartments in the weeks ahead didn’t think much of any of his junk dispersed among the former treasures and most found the six-toed cat appalling. The manager of Goodwill who had an English degree from the college saw Goodwill as a gigantic bird’s nest. She told one customer, “Birds gather all this stuff to make their nests, and we do the same thing. It’s just that this nest is five thousand square feet.”
The manager decided she’d take Hemingway’s six-toed cat but wondered what had become of Alex’s publications or Word files of stories he’d been drafting and submitting. She wondered where the ideas of writers go if they don’t get published. She imagined there was another cloud-like technology one where the ideas go, and then periodically, those ideas rain down and are recycled on the next generation.