“Chester’s Hope” was a fun story I wrote one day while working as a teacher. While I loved words, I was forced to teach basic grammar and morphemes daily. Around this time, I was also studying Chinese characters which threw my conceptualization of words into chaos. I grew up with written words simply denoting sounds. Phonics was the preferred methodology when I was a child. We did not have to worry about the parts of words and their construction. That is, however, easier for a room full of native English speakers.
Like Chester, I seemed to be engaged in a lifelong quest to learn all of the words. I routinely read the dictionary for fun from the time I was a child, (sometimes this was simply to get better at Scrabble, but other times just for fun). While working as a teacher, one of my students gifted me a three-volume dictionary. I was simultaneously delighted and dissuaded. Sitting in front of three leather bound books can be daunting when the people around you assume you already have all the answers.
Starting in high school, I also began writing pages of words that were random on the page. I would keep writing with my pencil or pen until the words covered each other and blurred out each other’s meanings. Most of the time I would begin with song lyrics that would give me enough material to begin the coverage process. Next, I would write the things I was thinking that I did not want people to discern. Often these hidden messages were about someone I was attracted to, or conversely about someone I had a hate on for. I have, as far as I can remember, given up this practice for some time now. I will occasionally find one of these sheets if I am digging through an old box of memorabilia. Now I use a code system I developed using Chinese root characters that hides the meaning from all others in the world.
The idea of the letters turning on Chester is a theme that I explore in several of my stories – that of things turning against humans. For most of my life I have tried to understand what it is that humans find so fascinating about themselves. I grew up learning about ethnocentrism, but never the overwhelming species-centrism that plagues humanity. When I wrote “Chester’s Hope” one of my rallying cries was, “Thin the herd!”, meaning to manage humanity as a species in the same way we would a rogue herd of caribou. Few others found comfort in this theory.
Chester writes the word hope as an homage to the idea that there is hope in clearing out what came before. We can make change in the world if we so choose, however, we have to actively work toward it. Chester has all of his work, albeit useless, taken from him and yet he starts again. We should all be a little bit more like Chester and embrace the possibilities rather than bemoan what has been lost, (which may have never truly existed in the first place).
“Chester’s Hope.” Inscribed ~ A Magazine For Writers, Volume Two Issue One. February, 2007.