I had just played a 28-point word in online Scrabble (take that, Mondo!) when I heard the doorbell ring. I hadn’t even heard a car, and I wasn’t expecting anybody. Jake began to bark his head off.
I looked out the window before opening the back door…there was an old man standing on my back step. There was a buggy parked in the driveway under my crabapple tree! What the hell? I opened the door a crack. “Yes?” I asked cautiously.
“I’m sorry to bother you, Madam, but I seem to be lost,” said the man. “I heard there were fiddleheads in these parts…I’ve travelled all the way from Connecticut so that I may taste them.”
Okay…he’s old and looking for fiddleheads…probably not an axe-murderer, I thought. “I’m sorry, Sir, but you’re a few weeks early for fiddlehead season, but you’re welcome to come in for a cup of tea and some pie!”
“Thank you,” he answered as he came in the house. I grabbed Jake to keep him from jumping on the man’s white suit.
“I’m sorry, Mr. –?”
“Clemens,” he replied, giving Jake a look that told me he wasn’t a dog person. “Sam Clemens. If animals could speak the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow, but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.”
“I don’t have a cat…my fiancé’s allergic.” Wait a minute…Sam Clemens…that sounded familiar, I thought, searching my almost 50-year-old brain. Holy crap! “Not the Sam Clemens! You can’t be him! He’s been dead for 100 years!” I sputtered.
“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he smiled. “Now how about that pie you promised?”
“Okay,” I agreed, reasoning that I might have overindulged in cold medication, and that I was having a hallucination. I showed the visitor to a chair in the living room, and readied the food.
As I returned to the living room, I noticed the man had lit a pipe…damn! “Do you mind putting that out, please? Jim’s allergic to that too!”
“As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.” He grumpily put the pipe into his pocket.
“So you came all the way from Connecticut? Our weather must seem quite different to you,” I commented, hoping I didn’t sound too lame…my ability to make small talk is limited.
The old man was staring at Jim’s big screen TV as he replied, “The weather has been a good deal of a disappointment. Canada has a reputation for magnificent winter weather…but the result this time has been a mess of characterless weather, which all right-feeling Canadians are probably ashamed of. Well, never mind, what you lack in weather you make up in the means of grace.”
Then I had a crazy idea (not that I wasn’t feeling crazy already talking to a dead man!): “Mr. Clemens, as long as you’re here, I’d really like to interview you and publish the story on my blog…would that be all right?”
“What’s a blog?” he asked curiously.
“Well, it’s kind of like a diary that people around the world can read if they want to.”
He looked pleased, “People around the world have read my books! I’ll do it!”
The Visitor...photo from openinglines.org
What follows is the transcript of my exclusive interview with Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain:
Writerwoman61: What is your philosophy of life?
MT: Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.
Writerwoman61: What is the secret to your success?
MT: The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
Writerwoman61: Are you happy with the person you are?
MT: The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.
Writerwoman61: Everyone likes to be right…does it bother you when people think you’re wrong?
MT: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Writerwoman61: What happens when you lose your temper?
MT: When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.
Writerwoman61: You must get depressed sometimes…how do you pull yourself out of it?
MT: The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
Writerwoman61: How do you deal with people who put you down?
MT: Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Writerwoman61: What about people who are just using you for their own gain?
MT: Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.
Writerwoman61: How do you feel about honesty?
MT: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
Writerwoman61: What do you think of our politicians?
MT: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Writerwoman61: What about political speeches?
MT: If we were supposed to talk more than listen we would have been given two mouths and one ear.
Writerwoman61: Are you optimistic about the younger generation?
MT: The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.
Writerwoman61: What is the biggest problem with young people today?
MT: Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Writerwoman61: How important is a college degree?
MT: Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.
Writerwoman61: When trying to understand something, how important is it to ask questions?
MT: He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
Writerwoman61: Do you have any advice about love?
MT: If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.
Writerwoman61: Is one happier when one is in love?
MT: To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
Writerwoman61: How do you find the right person?
MT: When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.
Writerwoman61: Once you’ve found that special person, then what?
MT: Let your joy be unconfined!
Writerwoman61: How do you want to remembered?
MT: Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
I jerked awake when my alarm went off. “I had the weirdest dream…” I told Jim.