And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Well, there’s been a new, and somewhat odd, addendum to the missing Little Literary Lion story. No, he hasn’t come home. But the people I suspect were the thieves did – and one of them was someone I know.
On Tuesday night, I teach a book-writing workshop in the AllWriters’ classroom. We were hard at it when we suddenly heard a knock. Looking up, I saw a man at the window. He knocked on the glass again, then went to the door.
“I think he wants to come in,” one of my students said.
But I didn’t recognize him, and I was teaching, and I figured he would have to wait. But then he stood in front of the window again and held up two fingers, then pointed to the door. I thought he was saying that he just needed two minutes of my time. I shook my head and pointed upstairs, trying to indicate that Michael was home and he could take care of things. The man moved to the doorway again and we heard the doorbell ring. Michael came down and we heard voices.
Try teaching a class when you’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And try expecting your poor students to concentrate at the same time.
We heard the door close and the man walked by the window, stopping again to knock, and then to flash me two two-fingered peace signs. I smiled, not knowing what else to do, and waved. The man disappeared. Then Michael came in. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “That’s our Little Free Library thief.”
I think we all chorused, “What???”
“And,” Michael said, “you’re not going to believe who it was.”
When AllWriters’ opened in January of 2005, we were renting a space on Grand Avenue in Waukesha. During our first summer, in our notoriously boisterous Wednesday Night Workshop, we had a young man named Andy. Andy was a little different. Sometimes sober, sometimes not, he always had poetry to share. The poetry veered wildly around lyrics from Beatles’ songs, a rambling about three little piggies on Capitol Hill (which kept reminding me of Schoolhouse Rock), and assertions that drugs should be legal because God made them, and God only made good things.
One of the things I stress at AllWriters’ is acceptance of all writers, no matter what they write, no matter who they are. And so the class gently flowed around Andy. He never felt unwelcome. And even if we glanced at each other during his sometimes loud readings, he knew he had the freedom to express himself at the studio.
I think we all need a place where we are safe to express ourselves.
He disappeared when autumn came, though I would see him every now and then, walking his bike around the downtown. He always cheered a hello at me, told me he was coming back, and then he didn’t. I haven’t seen him in a long time.
Well, until he showed up at the door, flashing peace signs.
He told Michael that he and his wife were the ones who took the Little Free Library books on that late November night. “I know it was wrong,” he said. “And I’m very, very sorry.”
He let Michael know who he was. Michael hadn’t recognized him.
“I didn’t take your lion,” Andy said. “I don’t know where he is. But I didn’t take him. I promise.”
Michael reassured him that the police returned our Little Free Library books and then some. He told Andy it was all right. And then Andy left.
But not before he stopped one more time in my window, raised his hands in two two-fingered peace signs, and beamed at me in that same way he used to beam when he read his poetry in my classroom.
I don’t know where Little Literary Lion is. It’s hard to accept that Andy didn’t take him – but I’ve decided this isn’t about that.
I don’t know if Andy knew who he was taking the library books from. But he did know who he was apologizing to.
It’s possible Andy was making amends. Maybe his wife too – she sat in the car across the street the whole time he was talking to Michael. It’s possible that he apologized because he remembered. He remembered reading his poetry, unabashed, fully accepted, in a safe classroom filled with safe, compassionate people who encouraged his love of words.
Maybe I’m naïve and totally a fool here. Andy didn’t have to come to my door to apologize. But he did. And he did it sincerely. He flashed peace signs and gave me that smile that reminded me of the poet within. I believe he really is sorry. And if he is making amends, I have to believe that he is finding his way to recovery.
And maybe, maybe, maybe, he’ll write poetry again.
Andy said God only makes good things.
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
And always help me to find the ability to forgive.
(Though I still wonder where my lion is.)
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.