So I mentioned last week that I’ve been waiting a long time to dedicate a book to a certain person. Witch Fury is dedicated to him. His name was Pete and he worked in a small bookstore with me when I was college. He was an older man, retired, looking for a way to spend his twilight years without getting bored. He had Parkinson’s and his hands shook. He had skin cancer, too, and would wear band aids over his nose sometimes when he had tissue removed, but always made light of it. He was married and had a large, happy family with sons who came into the store and visited him frequently. He loved to read.
Pete and I struck up a close friendship, though we were an unlikely pair. I was a psychology and English major in college and worked the bookstore on nights and weekends. I hadn’t written my first book yet, but that would come soon. At this point I was writing more literary fare, being influenced by the writing courses I was taking for my degree. I loved writing poetry the most and took several poetry writing classes. Pete also loved to write poetry.
It wasn’t long before we were exchanging bits of our work with each other and giving each other feedback. Pete was maybe my first crit partner. At first the exchange was tentative and shy, both us a little wary of sharing our work with another person. But trust soon grew and we traded something back and forth almost every day. Pete’s writing voice was wry and happy, poking fun at the world and the people in it. Mine was on the dark and angsty side and my writing could be intensely personal sometimes. Through our writing, we got to know each other very well.
Then Pete’s personality started to change. He’d always been a relaxed, laid-back, happy guy, always ready with a smile or a compliment. But now his emotions was swinging wildly. Sometimes he would break down in tears in the back room or fly into a rage over nothing. It was terrifying to watch. The close-knit crew of the bookstore wondered where our Pete had gone.
Soon, we all knew why he was acting so strangely. Pete had a brain tumor wrapped around his brain stem and it was slowly killing him. It was advanced and affecting his emotions in ways he couldn’t control. They would do emergency surgery, but the chances weren’t good he would make it through the complicated procedure. Pete had become sort of like a father to me and I was in denial. I thought for sure he’d be okay. There was no way he could die. But he did. He died on the operating table.
It wasn’t the first time in my life I’d suffered the loss of someone close to me. It wasn’t the second or third or fourth time, even. However Pete’s death affected more than any of the rest. I really can’t say why for sure. He wasn’t a relative of mine. I hadn’t even known him long. He was just a man I worked with and exchanged my writing with. But maybe that sharing of my writing–such an intimate part of me at that time in my life–was why his death impacted me so much. I look back on Pete now with a lot of fondness and I still miss him. He was an amazing and exceptional person and the world was better off with him in it.
So, that’s the story behind the dedication of Witch Fury.