Altered life

ByKevin Kuzma

Altered life

Almost 30 years ago now, it was Truman Capote who spoke to me. The words of a gay southern novelist turned New York socialite somehow reached into the heart of a 17 year-old Kansas boy. I’d made it through middle school and high school without reading a book assigned in class. The Time Machine: Too dated. The Natural: Didn’t interest me. The Outsiders: Wanted to like it, but didn’t. The Accidental Tourist: Wasn’t my thing. To Kill a Mockingbird: Didn’t speak to me. Of Mice and Men (which I later learned to love): Too depressing. On and on. Until one September day in humanities class, the girl who sat in front of me handed a small book over her shoulder. I still remember the yellow spine and the cover with waving wheat and the bold words In Cold Blood. I opened to the first page and read: “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there’.” That was all it took. From there, I read the true account of the brutal murders of the Clutter family and the tragic background of their killers. I not only felt like I knew the Clutter’s teenage daughter Nancy, but a part of me fell in love with her. As I turned the pages, I already knew what would become of her, but I read on hoping the outcome might turn out different. It didn’t. How odd this all strikes me. If it weren’t for Mr. Capote randomly reading about the murders in a morning newspaper and traveling to the conservative state of Kansas (where he was as inconspicuous as a pink flamingo) to research them, I would have never given my life to writing. In every tragedy, lives are altered and courses shift. Apparently much poetry can be brought into the world after the deaths of the innocent. 

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