Mr Cummings

Mr Cummings, who taught me English at school was considered an “Odd Man.” You could see even then, and I was about eleven when he taught me, that most of his conversations were with himself, which he involved you in if you were in the room or class, but they were not quiet conversations: he was always urgent, engaged, non-conformist and anxious not to waste a breath on just getting by. “Live it” he used to say about almost everything and being young boys, we laughed at him behind his back, and sometimes to his face, but he never seemed upset or distracted by our callow behaviour.

Gradually we understood he was about values, and caring, and looking for the details most of other people miss. He was as urgently alive as anyone I’ve met, and behind that mad eccentric engagement was the most “knowing” person I knew, although there was another side to him, perhaps a darker side. He had an empathy with souls who were suffering: if your life had plunged into shadows or you had been overpowered by grief he was the man you looked at and knew he understood where you were. He didn’t talk in platitudes; he talked in experience and his compassion was beautifully constrained.

Years later I heard he took his own life using alcohol and pills, and the outpouring of love for him at his passing told you so much about his life. I realised, as well as telling us about the possibilities and beauty in our lives, he was also trying to protect us from those ghosts which haunted him with powerful stealth.

He made me realise that troubled people are often the bravest, most determined people you will meet. That for them to wake up and live an unexceptional day takes a level of courage and will-power few of us will ever have to demonstrate. He was the kindest and bravest man I met, who fought against demons all his life, and never lost that compassion which suffering may give to us.

Many of us don’t know what we mean to those around us. How our thoughts and routines form part of a pattern that sustains them in their lives, but for Mr Cummings, the whole world was his neighbour, and taking out their trash and passing the time of day with anyone he came across was the simplest expression of humanity. He never married and had no children but those of us who knew him feel like orphans at his passing.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Humanity, Peter Wells and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Mr Cummings

  1. beth says:

    devastatingly beautiful. the last two paragraphs are everything

    Liked by 1 person

  2. catterel says:

    This sounds so real – beautifully put.


  3. Excellent. Here’s to Mr Cummings!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. delphini510 says:

    Your post is so beautiful in its portrayal of Mr Cummings and what he meant to you and your
    friends. All your lives were enhanced and enriched by this man. He suffered much himself but
    Your two last paragraphs in particular show his abundance in giving. No wonder you felt lost when he died.



  5. Robin says:

    SO beautiful Peter. We are all better for having met the “Mr. Cummings” of the world.


  6. This is an absolutely stunning and beautifully composed story, Peter. You have created a wonderful character and your narrator talks about him with compassion, respect and a growing appreciation. A hugely impressive tale.


  7. tiostib says:

    An exquisite tribute to the kind souls who walk among us but are seldom truly seen. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wdfyfe says:

    “those of us who knew him feel like orphans at his passing.” is one of the coolest tributes I’ve ever read. cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  9. araneus1 says:

    Many years ago, I heard of the passing of one of my teachers. He wasn’t my favourite, but I did like and admire him. His passing was shrouded in mystery. They found his clothes on the bank of a river — a swim from which he never returned. Australian rivers can be deadly places.
    I remember being physically hurt by his untimely passing.
    Years later I tried, unsuccessfully, to track down another of my teachers.
    It seems that I leave these things too late.
    Your story is touching and all the other things that others have said.
    My compliments.


  10. Scarlet says:

    Well written, Mr Ducks.


  11. nelle says:

    A lovely post. I’m a sucker for from-the-heart stuff.


  12. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    We all had a Mr Cummings. I know I did!


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