by David J. Kaplan
Writers, as we all know, cannot wait for inspiration and must rely upon the hard reality of persistence. However, occasionally there comes a time when the muse gives rise to a period of unexpected productivity. A while back, I had an idea for a short story, finally titled Professor Moon. It involves a retired professor of astronomy, a young boy and his grandfather. The child has saved up enough money to purchase, at a used book market, an early edition of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, which he intends to read to his blind grandfather. Daniel McBride, the retired astronomer, has also eyed the same edition, but has no idea of the young boy’s ultimate purpose. Therein lays the conflict.
Professor Moon was recently published in U.S. 1, a Princeton, New Jersey newspaper that runs an annual summer reading collection of short stories and poems.
Edgar Lee Masters’ premise, souls who lived in the fictitious town of Spoon River, speak from the grave and as to what brought them to an early demise. Within Spoon River, originally published in 1915, I came across the following stanza. A perfect fit for my short story.
They laughed at me as “Prof. Moon,”
As a boy in Spoon River, born with the thirst
Of knowing about the stars.
They jeered when I spoke of the lunar mountains,
And the thrilling heat and cold,
And the ebon valleys by silver peaks,
And Spica quadrillions of miles away,
And the littleness of man.
But now that my grave is honored, friends,
Let it not be because I taught
The lore of the stars in Knox College,
But rather for this: that through the stars
I preached the greatness of man,
Who is none the less a part of the scheme of things
For the distance of Spica or the Spiral Nebulæ;
Nor any the less a part of the question
Of what drama means.