Forty years ago—the early hours of January 1, 1980—I was witness to the murder of Anthony Noble Sparks.
A cop told me it was the first murder of the decade in the state of Texas.
It was a pretty traumatic event for me—and worse of course for poor Sparks, and for his family, wherever they are.
I’ve written about it (sort of) fictionally twice—in the story “It May Be a Day, it May Be Forever,” (my first published story, found in the collection The Messes We Make of Our Lives), and in the novel Professed. I’ve never written about it factually, in a historical/personal context, though maybe I will at some point.
A few years ago I was in San Antonio and found myself a few blocks from the murder scene. I went looking for the New York Pub. I found the address, but the building was totally different—remodeled beyond recognition or just replaced. It was vacant. Where's Spark's ghost?
Does anyone but me think about Sparks forty years on?
This happened during the first month I taught at Pittsburg State, in Kansas….
Three times that first month I returned to my office after teaching to find that someone had covered my office doorknob with—glue. Rubber cement of some sort.
I mean—what the fuck? Three times this happened!
I’d only just arrived on campus—it’s unlikely I’d angered a student so quickly.
Could the vandal have been one of my alleged colleagues?
Uh, probably. I was unwanted in that department, and—even though there were some very fine people there that I like and respect (#notallgorillas)—I was never made welcome by the people I was working most closely with. I have a pretty solid theory about who put the glue on the doorknob, but, lacking evidence, I won’t name names (for now).
And...this is really pretty minor, right? Other faculty members in the profession--especially women and women of color--get treated far worse far more often. But still. The pettiness of this act was typical of what I experienced in my three years at Gulag State….
Obligatory book plug: I have two books set in the often petty and frequently absurd world of higher education—you should read them!
Professed is a comic novel filled with the struggles and rivalries and oddities and many weirdnesses American higher education...And it’s on a super sale at Amazon right now!
Normal School is an academic noir filled with murder, embezzlement, and lots of entertaining bad behavior. You can read sample chapters at the Normal School website! And you can buy it on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle!
I've been doing stuff, but there is always the creeping neverending fear that I'm not doing enough....
I suppose you've wondered how I got those handsome scars on my nose....
Well. One night I was at the Deep Eddy drinking beer with MDC, who was down visiting from Alaska, talking mostly about fly fishing. After a while we left the bar to go get something to eat, and crossing the street to where MDC was parked, I was trying to demonstrate a roll-cast pickup—demonstrating with an imaginary fly rod—when I TRIPPED OVER MY STUPID FUCKING UNTIED SHOELACE!
Bang! I weighed about 220 pounds then, and all 220 pounds came crashing down on my poor nose. BOOM! My hands didn’t catch my fall, of course—they were in position to hold an imaginary fly rod. BANG!!!
Did I get knocked out? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably. I guess MDC rolled me over, because I do remember looking up at him, and he seemed concerned.
MDC took me to the Brackenridge ER. There were some cops there, and I heard one of them ask MDC, “So, why’d you beat up your buddy?”
MDC said, “Officer, it was the damnedest thing I ever saw….”
Inside the exam room, the doctor asked, “Is your nose broken?”
Before I could answer he grabbed it and twisted--
“It is now!” I said.
But it wasn’t. He gave me six stitches and sent me home—without pain meds! No pain meds for head injuries, a nurse explained. That's pretty rude. I'm still mad about that. I was fucking hurting.
MDC dropped me off—I was living in the basement of the Deep Eddy in those days. Don’t know what time it was—it was still dark. I went into my apartment and got my camera and took a photo of the blood I lost. Nice!
Somewhere in some box there is a photo of me taken the next day—my face is all swollen and I’m a glorious fucking mess! It’s a great picture. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it in and post it as an update….
But, anyway, that’s the story of the scars on my nose. I’m quite pleased with them, though I’m still regretful and angry about the lack of pain meds at the time. Pain is no fun, even in memory.
But...you know what? You can assuage my pain (past and present, physical and emotional) by buying a book, or by leaving comments on Amazon or Goodreads. Why not start with Professed....?
"Professed is a novel filled with the struggles and rivalries and oddities and many weirdnesses American higher education--favor-dodging, ex-girlfriend avoiding, grade-dreading, plagiarist-busting, dissertation-reading, office-mate annoying, litter-box spilling, book-stealing, unprofessional forbidden lusting, unprofessional forbidden lusting-fulfilling, lost cat-chasing, wrist-breaking, inopportune body-betraying, boring boyfriend-dumping planning, dead professor missing, committee-meeting texting, student misfiling, classroom failing, hidden Confederate-history uncovering, book-writing, student advising, professional dysphoria-feeling, drunk-tank loitering, book discussion-leading, unwise nasal behaving, paper researching, non-academic schooling, sink fouling, New Years' kissing, celebratory pool-playing, stranger-disemboweling, paper-writing attempting, paper-writing failing, drinking-game playing, incomplete-taking...yet, as the characters fight to fit into a rapidly-changing institution, medicating themselves as best they can with sex, drugs, and literature, learning actually happens----Somehow."