Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Tribute to Bob Lockhart

Bob Lockhart, MFA student and wonderful member of our writing community, passed away this week. Bob was a good, kind man, talented and humble. He will be dearly missed.

As a tribute to Bob, to celebrate his work and the positive impact his life has had on so many, I would like to share Bob's final writing assignment from our recent flash fiction class. Bob's story below was written in response to an in-class writing exercise that asked the students to play with big leaps in time, to show a lifetime in a small space. I remember Bob reading this piece out loud in class, his deep, rolling voice filling the room, moving us all.

Woods
by Bob Lockhart

Crouching low in the underbrush beside the shallow creek beneath the huge green canopy, Billy held his breath. He could feel a jaguar approaching, although he didn’t hear it. The bottom of the nearly dry creek bed would afford him a better field of view to spot the approaching jaguar, but he knew the creek was used by anacondas to traverse this area of the Amazon basin. Despite the dangers, Billy felt good about his chances—to defend himself, he had his ten-inch Buck knife, and his wits. Billy did survive that day and many more spent in the Amazon Basin, and in the jungles of Vietnam, and in the rain forests of the Congo. Of fertile imagination, Billy was eleven years old, and he was in the twenty-acre tract of woods on his grandfather’s farm. Oh, there was a creek, and there was a canopy, this one created by huge old hardwoods—oak, hickory, and walnut. Billy so loved those woods.

Beaming, Bill strode out of Simmons’ Appliances and threw his briefcase on the passenger seat. He’d just sold six washer-dryer combos and four refrigerators to Fred Ellis Simmons, owner and proprieter. During his presentation, Bill had referred to them as “ice boxes” and “warshers” because that’s how they talked in Cairo, Illinois. Bill was proud of his adaptability; he could converse comfortably with both department store buyers and rural retailers. Ironically, when his wife divorced him, one reason given was “inability to communicate.” There was, of course, much more to it; she’d quickly sold the house and left with daughter in tow. She left one thing, a terse directive not to search for them. It hurt. But he still had his job.

It was a Thursday, he thought; it didn’t matter if it was or even which one it was, if it was. He sat on the veranda—that’s what the apartment manager called it, a “veranda”—Bill called it a 12 by 15 concrete slab encircled by black wrought iron. There was an identical “veranda” on his left, and on his right, and three more directly overhead. The apartment was comfortable, but it wasn’t a home. Forced to retire at 66 (they wanted young tech-savvy bucks in the field), he was alone. He stared out at the acre of woods beyond the picnic tables behind the apartment complex. He’d walked through it several times. There was a slight gravel-lined depression right in the middle of the woods. It almost resembled a creek bed.


~

11 comments:

Sarah C. said...

Wow, I am so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. He was an excellent writer and very kind... My prayers go out for his loved ones right now.

Sarah Wienke Salmons said...

I am greatly saddened to hear that Bob has passed away. I had the pleasure of working with him when he was in my Creative Writing class. He was a gentle soul and had a deep sonorous voice that was a joy to listen to. He will be missed!

Sarah Wienke Salmons

Cindy said...

Bob was such a joy to have in class. He used "real" words in his writings and often reminded us that a colorful life is truly simple. I remember coming home one evening and sharing one of Bob's stories with my husband. In the story Bob used the word proprietor. It was such a classic word and used in just the right place. I'll use that word Bob. God's blessings to his family.

Allison K said...

Bob was an extraordinary individual, and an absolute gentlemen to talk to. He will be truly missed. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Pyra Colemire said...

This sad news comes as such a surprise as I didn't know Bob was even ill. He was a pleasure to work with in class. As a fellow writer, colleague, and friend, Bob will be greatly missed. The world lost a gentle spirit with his passing.

Tricia said...

My thoughts and prayers go out to Bob's family. I truly enjoyed the time I got to spend in class with him. He was a unique writer and spirit that I will always remember fondly.

T.R. Woodruff said...

I had classes with Bob. He asked if I would be able to substitute teach for him sometime. His writing and character were both enjoyable. I'm shocked, and saddened to lose my friend so young.

Jennifer H said...

Bob rarely spoke in class, I supposed he treated his voice with as much respect as he did fellow writers.
The piece I choose to remember Bob for was a poem critiquing humanity from the viewpoint of wolves. Simple truth, science and language he wove together beautifully.

Khadija said...

I am deeply sadden to hear about Bob's passing. I am in the process of writing my thesis and I was reading Bob's response to one of my stories. His response was encouraging and valued. I can still see his face sitting across from me in class. My prayers go out for his family and friends. I am sure he will be truly missed.

Chris Duggan said...

I had class last quarter with Bob and found him thoughtful and intelligent, a fine writer, and a great person. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

Mary C. said...

I had but one class with Bob--Flash Fiction. The news came as a shock since I didn't know he was ill. He was a humble soul and I guess I shouldn't be surprised to know he wouldn't dwell on his illness, but only his writing. I loved to hear him read his work...you really felt the story because his voice carried you in it. Rock on...see you on the other side.