Literary Showcase: Chloe Canfield

Chloe Canfield is a Sophomore English Education major who has quite a talent for writing. Over the years she has written much for pleasure and academics, and it has been a great pleasure of hers to express herself within the medium of the written word. She also greatly enjoys piano and has found an opportunity to express that art-form playing in chapel and Altar. She took a few moments to speak with OKWUeagle about writing and shared a short story entitled, “Baxter Neville,” which follows the interview.

Photograph by Austin Canfield
Photograph by Austin Canfield

First off, why do you write? 

I write basically because I enjoy writing. And I enjoy the thrill of putting words together and making them sound the way I want to convey messages. I like communicating through the written word.

What drives you write?

Honestly, I just enjoy seeing people’s reactions to different thoughts that I have, even if its just a fun, creative story  or something. I just like sharing what goes on in my head with other people.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing pretty much ever since I learned how to. When I was a young girl I went through a Nancy Drew phase where I would read the books and just write my own mysteries and stuff. I wrote stories for my little siblings. I’ve been writing for quite a while.

What do you hope to do with writing in your life?

I really hope to have just the ability to express what God is doing through my life. I have a blog that I’ve been writing for several years and that is one way that I can use to communicate my thoughts. To have it as a way to express my thoughts on paper. And if there is any way through that that I can encourage other people and uplift people through that, then that may be something I could find a lot of joy and purpose from.

Photograph by Austin Canfield
Photograph by Austin Canfield

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“Baxter Neville”

Lights and sirens surrounded Sleepy Time Mattress Outlet as the police cars screeched to a halt and cops piled out of them. It wasn’t until the cops burst through the doors, shouting and running straight to the back of the store, that I realized I was still sprawled on the floor. Slowly, I stood up, dazed in shock and disbelief. Not in all my sixteen years, had anything this exciting had ever happened to me. Not since Humphrey Nelson tried to swallow poison ivy in 4th grade and had to be rushed to the hospital. My face flashed blue and red as I walked up to the giant glass windows, watching the scruffy-faced man being handcuffed and shoved into one of the cars. It was hard to be sure if this was real. I had spent so many days writing and dreaming up heroic stories of real-life adventures I imagined myself in—facing death, solving crimes, being a part of something extraordinary for once… And there I was, a scrawny teenage guy who couldn’t even get stories of suspense and adventure published, watching the cops arrest a man I tried to sell a mattress to.

Suddenly, I was aware of Mr. Gallagher beside me, taking in the same scene with the same unbelief. The white whiskers under his nose twitched as he searched for something to say.

“I don’t—Well, I…” he said, his wide eyes vigorously blinking at the brilliant lights outside. “I, I guess I knew you would be handy for something.”

Pulling me aside, the police officer prevented me from replying. “What’s your name, son?” he said, readying his pen and pad of paper.

The answer finally came to me after about four seconds, and I observed that he scribbled out “Baxter Neville” at the top of his yellow pad of paper. I couldn’t ever remember anyone so important needing my name. He needed my ID too, so I showed him my driver’s license with the photo that seemed to make my freckles glow eerily red in the picture. It was then that I became aware of how my curly hair made my face look small. He sloppily jotted down a few more things then handed my license back.

Glancing across the room over the many mattresses, I saw Mr. Gallagher making lots of animated gestures to another police officer, pointing toward me every so often. I couldn’t help but notice how the beaded sweat on his shiny head reflected the flashing blue and red lights. His lean, lanky arms were flying just about as fast as my heart was still pounding. He was an odd man, probably the only reason he hired me. After submitting twelve different applications to all kinds of various jobs, Mr. Gallagher was the only one to finally offer me a job. Sure, I know that being president of our reading club and dog-sitting Mrs. Willoughby’s two Cocker Spaniels were probably my two most impressive accomplishments on my resume, but how’s a kid like me ever supposed to accomplish anything great when it takes me twelve different applications to land a job?

“Well, boy? Did you hear me? I need to know what happened.”

I snapped back to the officer’s penetrating gaze, a little offended that he called me “boy.” I pushed my shoulders back as I tried to remember why we were standing there.

“Oh!” I remembered. “Oh, yeah. Well, it was one of those slow days in the store, you

know. One or two customers had come in, but Mr. Gallagher usually took care of them himself because he says I talk too much, so he usually keeps me in the back of the store doing paperwork and inventory and stuff like that. Well, anyway, this one guy came in, and I couldn’t find Mr. Gallagher anywhere, so of course I had to help him myself. I was really excited about actually getting to talk to a customer.”

“So Mr. Gallagher wasn’t around. Did you know where he was?”

“Uh, no. I guess I just assumed he was busy in the back somewhere and didn’t hear the guy walk in. But that was okay. I had heard his customer spiel so many times, I knew I had it under control. I had actually dreamed of the time he would finally let me make a sale. I thought this was my chance.”

The officer grunted to show he was listening.

I continued, “Through the window, I knew that this was going be a great sale because it looked like the guy hadn’t slept in a while. Not even his baggy jacket could hide the fact that he didn’t stand up straight. And his face was all scraggily. This was a guy that needed a new mattress, I thought,” and laughed a little to myself. The cop waved his hand for me to continue, and I became serious again.

I was really beginning to enjoy telling my story. Finally, I had an exciting story to tell that people actually cared about. I watched with pride as the police officer took careful notes about every word I said.

“Now the next thing I noticed about the scraggily-faced guy was the way he jumped when I welcomed him to ‘Sleepy Time Mattress Outlet’. Of course, that could’ve been because I got a little too enthusiastic and tried to shake his hand before he was fully through the door. But really, I think he wasn’t expecting such friendly service at a Mattress store and was startled by such a stellar employee. You see, my mother always taught me that—”

“Okay, well, what did he do then?” the officer pressed.

“Uh, I asked him what he was looking for and if I could interest him in our new arrival, the Plush Sleeper Elite with gel infused memory foam. He didn’t reply, but seemed to know where he was going, so I followed him through our mattress displays to the front desk as I described our membership benefits.”

“So he walked straight to the front desk?”

“Yeah. I thought it was sort of strange how he never looked straight at me, just kind of shuffled out of my way like he was trying to avoid me or something. Anyway, that’s when Mr. Gallagher appeared and took over.

“The next few seconds between the moment I saw the scraggily man pull out a gun and the moment I laid sprawled on the floor are surreal to me. It’s all a blur. But I think, somehow, I decided that standing on our new Plush Sleeper Elite mattress display was a good idea when I saw the gun. I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking as I stood up there. All I know is the scraggily man was saying something about me needing to get behind the counter as my feet left the white, cushiony mattress. Next thing I know, I’m flying through the air.”

At that particular moment two things were going through my head. The first is my mom’s voice admonishing me never to jump on the bed. The second is a picture of Superman’s resolved, unwavering face as he soars heroically through the sky. Never have I felt so determined and free in my life. I was on top of the world; I was invincible. Okay, so plummeting on top of the scraggily man may have hurt more than I’d like to admit, but I think it suffices for my first act of valor.

Having paused my story, I glanced up at the police officer. And that’s when I realized—this was the most heroic thing I had ever done in my life.  Why, I was a real-life hero! A sense of pride started swelling up inside. Just wait until people hear about this! I could just see the newspaper headlines: “Baxter Neville Tackles Mattress Store Robber.” Surely Mr. Gallagher would let me work on the sales floor after this. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Well, you know the rest,” I told the cop. “We fall to the ground, the gun slides across the floor, he makes a run for it, and that’s when you got here.”

He looked at me solemnly. “You know that was really stupid. You’re lucky things turned out like they did.”

I didn’t hear him. This was the one day that I remember my life amounting to something. I had done something daring, courageous, perilous. For once, I had done something great. I was proud of myself. But I’m never going to jump on any bed ever again.

 

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