When Wallie the Imp, my Friend, and I heard the prompt for today’s post, courtesy of The Daily Post—“Write a letter to your 14-year-old self”—we rushed to grab our pens and paper. I sat at the table, my Friend took the armchair, and the Imp was on top of the refrigerator.
An hour’s hard work passed. I had finished in fifteen minutes. But I took advantage of the lull to observe my companions. Wallie was scribbling away with his tongue stuck out to one side, sometimes turning his paper at a hard right angle, a hard left, or turning it entirely upside-down. My Friend was leaning in the armchair, his hand against his brow and his paper on his knee. His tongue wasn’t sticking out, but he looked every bit as determined as Wallie.
“Alright,” I said, wishing the Daily Post had included a time limit with their prompt, “time’s up. Let’s see what we have before we post it.”
No one moved.
I cleared my throat.
“Ah-ha-hem. Time is up,” I said.
My Friend threw down his pencil with cavalier violence.
“Now what?” he asked. “Will we post them side by side, three testimonies to the foolishness and error of youth?”
Wallie and I stared.
“No,” I said. “I’m going to read them and post the best one before lunch.”
My Friend glared at me from over his paper.
“Who made you our confessor?” was his testy reply.
I wondered what on earth he had been writing.
I held out my hand.
“Can I see?” I asked.
He surrendered the sheet with a sigh. I decided I had better be very careful with my criticism; apparently writing his fourteen-year-old self had become a serious matter with real-life consequences to him.
“Dear Child of the Past—Alas! That these evil days should be upon us. I look through the grey veil of time upon an age of dissolution. I think on one whose nature, sheltered, coddled, has become through excess of free will and untrained emotion a victim of his own passionate impulse. What can I advise you? What can I warn that will make a soul so driven by whim, hesitate before the next vile impulse, and live for the sake of a better future? What can I say to you, brute, that you will not scorn as a letter well-meant but of no value to you, who are so—”
“Um,” I said, “Friend—have you been reading ‘William Wilson’ again?”
Wallie brought his paper to me before my Friend could answer.
“Wallie write!” he said. “You read.”
I didn’t actually have to read anything. Wallie had drawn a picture.
“What does it mean?” I asked.
“He is smitten by his conscience and incapable of speech,” surmised my Friend.
Wallie giggled so hard that I doubted it.
“Alright,” said my Friend, taking back his note and folding it to his bosom, “what did you write?”
He and my Imp nodded.
“Well,” I said. “This is what I wrote.”
I gave them my paper.
Dear Self—Do not eat that cookie.
My Friend stared.
Wallie scratched his head.
“There was a cookie,” I said. “I shouldn’t have eaten it.”
I’m not sure what they were expecting. Possibly spiritual turmoil, the consequences of taking a cookie by force or eating the last cookie on the plate when someone else might want one.
“Well,” I said, “I don’t know what was in it, but I had indigestion for a week after eating that cookie. It was the end of a semester, too, so I had studying to do. That cookie nearly failed me.”