national anthology of the best
undergraduate writing 2010

Ignatius


Untitled, Daphne Chen

Directly after she bore Ignatius, his mother ran off with a gentleman who worked at the soap-mixing store in town, and they’re off somewhere together still, barely making do, but squeaky clean. She gave birth backstage during the final act of Lazarro’s Spectacular Magical Show, all the while praying for a rabbit to appear instead of the curly-haired-toothy bit that showed up instead. He was raised by his father, Tonsley Edwards, owner of Don’t Let it Hit You On The Way Out, a doorstopper manufacturing plant. Tonsley, heartbroken after his wife estranged herself, decided to reject the name she had chosen for their child. Driven by bitterness, determination, or maybe just sensibility, he let the boy choose a name for himself.

It took Ignatius a long while to choose his own name (rightfully), and as a consequence he was referred to as My Dearest, Dearest, or D for the earlier part of his childhood—a fitting substitute title, chosen by his father. The two lived in the most remote house on Buell Avenue, still standing today; ivy wraps around every surface the sun touches. The house has a door on every side, complete with different welcome mats for each respective entrance and exit, depending on how you look at it. Unfortunately, Tonsley was incredibly superstitious and always had to leave the way he came in, rendering three of the four doors quite useless.

Dearest had a stringent schedule from the moment he could whisk his own eggs, or as Tonsley proclaimed, “the day he became a man.” It was a beautiful winter morning; snow mounted the window frames and outlined branches of trees in sparkling white, a phenomenon Dearest was enamored with and monitored closely from his perch at the kitchen table. He turned to his father, buttering toast at the time, and questioned, with twinkling eyes and arched eyebrows:

“Daddy, how many seasons have I missed?”

The father looked at his son, dreamingly reflecting on a love that could never be expressed, and wondering how he had ever survived without hearing that little voice.

“How many do you think you have missed, little guy?” Tonsley asked.

“Well,” began our hero, “there’s the one when the puddles are real deep, and then that one when you let me jump in the huge piles of leaves, and then that one when the moon looks like that cat from Alice and Wonderland, and now this one when the snow jumps on the trees—but are there more?” His brow furrowed in sorrow over a time he would never come to know.

“Well, buddy,” his father said, “there are four seasons that go around in a loop every year. You’ll get to know them all pretty well, and you’ll get to decide which ones you like the best. You haven’t missed any seasons, My Dearest, but they sure have missed you. Now, don’t sit there and worry about the world without you in it. Come here and help me make your breakfast.”

D slid across the wood floor in his wool socks and dinosaur pajamas, took the bowl from his daddy’s hand, and whisked his own eggs. After that day, Tonsley decided that it was time to establish some structure to contain this little existentialist living in his home. They wrote a schedule together and pasted it on Dearest’s door, right next to the makeshift doorbell that every kid dreams of, but rarely has enough visitors to make necessary. The schedule went as follows:

9:00 am—Rise, breakfast in bed, always. Brush teeth, comb hair, etc.

9:45 am—Five pushups; run up and down the stairs twice

10:00 amRead three chapters of book from library

11:00 amListen to three consecutive albums of Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, etc.

12:00 pmPlay-doh

12:30 pmLunch

1:30 pmNap time/book on tape

2:30 pmVocabulary lists

3:00 pmTimes tables

4:00 pmHistory lesson

4:30 pmMake Creepy Crawlers

5:00 pmCooking lessons

5:45 pmDinner is served!

6:00 pmBath time

6:45 pmMovie appreciation

9:00 pmBedtime

They followed this like an eager granddaughter might follow a pie recipe from her predecessor, unable to improvise at the risk of complete destruction.

Over the years, Ignatius wrestled with a few names for himself, chewing on them, tossing them back and forth. But he was never sure that any particular name was the taste he wanted to leave in everyone’s mouth, so his search trailed on. Finally, one day during reading time, he came across a poem that registered so deeply that it made him realize what his name had always been. The poem went as such:

 

Ignatius’ balloon went flying by,

above the skyscrapers in the evening sky.

Touching each corner of the traveling sea,

then left so gracefully,

without telling you or me.


“Father,” he proclaimed, “I’ve found it. My name will be Ignatius Edwards. It is time that your Dearest sheds this Dearest and finds a new name.”

“Very well, Ignatius Edwards,” Tonsley said proudly, straightening with a power found in momentous, vicarious accomplishment. And so it was written and so it was sealed: Ignatius chose his own fate and was to leave our presence as spontaneously as he had arrived.