by Matt Potter
My, it was a bitter blow.
Sitting at the kitchen table as she scratched behind her right ear, she glanced down at the two letters – one opened, corners twitching; the other flat and sealed shut – laying on the tabletop.
“You are a plagiarist!” the opened letter had screamed.
And she had been so hopeful when entering the poetry contest too!
“Send us your best work,” the contest guidelines had stated, “and only your best work.”
And so she had. Copied out in her neatest looping hand, blue ink on stark white paper – indeed, the finest paper she could find at the Four Corners Quick-er-Buy – the words to what she knew, or thought she knew, was her best work, and only her best work: ‘Small Hands in the Rain’.
And at the bottom, Ephemera Elizabeth Higgins had signed her newly-assumed poet’s pen name: e e higgins
She admired the way the lower case letters were so, well … unassuming, floating above the page as if resting for a brief pause before a puff of wind scattered them, perhaps to grace the bottom of another poem on another kitchen table in another home in another town.
(And she had always hated her real name. “Ephemera Flotsam” a waspish English teacher had once tagged her in high school. “Lil’ Miss Junk!” a jeering neighbor would call out through her front window as Ephemera walked past every Thursday evening on her way to cheerleader understudy practice at the La Salle Sportsfield. She had wanted to retort, “It’s Lil’ Miss Collectable to you!” but concentrating on her quickening feet, never summoned the courage to snap back.
And she shuddered at the memory of what her own sister had called her!)
Ephemera sighed. Well, that was the last time she would waste nineteen minutes comparing the finest paper in the Four Corners Quick-er-Buy stationery nook!
(Oh, the turmoil! Which is heavier? Would cream or pale yellow or stark white impress the judges more? Would cream or pale yellow or stark white look too much like she hoped to impress the judges? Was pink too flippant? Was blue too butch? Lined or unlined? And should the envelope match the paper? Only after Lenora O’Day had threatened to close the Quick-er-Buy with Ephemera still standing beside the stationery nook, had she selected six different packs and taken them all home, fanning them across the kitchen table before settling on stark white. It was the most serious and would probably impress the judges of the Pontiac Poetry Academy in ways cream, pale yellow, pink, blue, and lined airmail paper would not. Even though – and here she clutched at her heart as it panged – personally, she favored the pale yellow.)
“I have a mind to report you to PEN,” the stinging letter continued.
Ephemera blotted the tears on her cheek with the corner of her apron. Then scratched under her right armpit.
“But it is fortunate that the Pontiac Poetry Academy still has places in our ‘Eschewing Plagiarism in Twenty Easy Steps’ online instruction course, and I can highly recommend it,” the letter continued …
Ephemera pushed the letter aside. Even without reading to the end, she knew she could never afford the $3000 enrolment fee.
Ephemera mixed herself her favorite cocktail, a Milwaukee Sling. In a cocktail glass on the yellow kitchen bench, she measured one part cranberry juice to three parts beer, dropped a raspberry on top, spliced an olive on a stick on the side for extra pizzazz, and added a dash of bourbon … and sank back against the sink with the drink in hand.
Ephemera sipped her cocktail. The beer with its hint of cranberry-raspberry splashed across her tongue.
There was that second letter, still laying crisp and unopened on the tabletop.
Plonking the glass down on the table with a clunk, she grabbed the second letter, slipped her pinky under a corner and ripped open the envelope.
A letter on pale yellow paper spilled out.
February 15th 2019, the letter was dated.
Dear Ms / Mrs / Miss Higgins, the letter began.
I hope this finds you well.
You do not know me, but I am hoping in time we will become noted friends.
You are invited to attend the inaugural Ephemera Higgins Convention, to be held at the Amarillo Convention Center in Amarillo, Texas, from Friday May 17th to Sunday May 19th, 2019.
You will be with like-minded friends at the convention, as only people named ‘Ephemera Higgins’ are invited. In fact, you will be with the very best of select company!
Planned events include a Getting-To-Know-Ephemera session; a Saturday evening picnic; a history lecture on G.H. Higgins, a stockholder in the Santa Fe Railroad whose name was given to the town of Higgins and from whom many of us probably claim descent and could well take after in the looks department; a Connect-the-Dots-Family-Tree party; a quilt exhibition; a hot dog stand; and many more other exciting things, including a trip on Sunday to the town of Higgins, a short 2 hour bus ride from downtown Amarillo.
More events and sessions will be announced closer to the convention date.
Please find enclosed a preliminary convention schedule, and registration details.
Amarillo is served by the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, as well as the BNSF Railway. The Greyhound Bus also stops in Amarillo.
There is plenty of accommodation in town, from sweet weekend rental trailers, to more generous rooms at Holiday Inn Express and for the even less budget-minded, Embassy Suites Downtown.
Whatever you want accommodation-wise, Amarillo has them all!
Be sure to put the dates Friday May 17th, Saturday May 18th and Sunday May 19th in your diary now, Ephemera.
I hope you are able to make the convention, as meeting you and all the other Ephemera Higginses in the world would be a dream come true for me.
Yours in service,
Ephemera B. Higgins
Ephemera E. Higgins folded the letter and placed it on the drain board.
She had always wanted to visit Texas, hadn’t she? Maybe she could take an alphabet tour, starting with ‘A’ for Amarillo?
Sipping her Milwaukee Sling, a warm glow flushed through her head as her shoulders relaxed and financial barriers that prevented her from even thinking of bettering her poetry by enrolling in an online plagiarism course somehow melted away.
Smiling, she thought – just as she scratched inside her left forearm – maybe the dry Texas Panhandle air would be good for her psoriasis, too.
Find more information about The Ephemera Higgins Convention project by clicking here.