I think that Winston Churchill must have had Chester Hoyle in mind when he said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If you’ve never heard of Chester Hoyle, it may be due to the fact that he was an obscure and possibly unsuccessful writer back in the late 19th century. Or, it may in part be due to the fact that he is only known in my household. We made him up a few months back, on a cold winter night. With the kids in bed, we had been up late reading and talking, and somehow Chester Hoyle came into existence. He’s been lingering around, edging his way into our conversations, and I have decided that it is high time I sit him down and find out what his story is.
He readily agreed to an interview, ambling into my office a few minutes early on a Monday morning. He leafed through my folders and books laying around while I got us some coffee, then finally we sat down and began to talk. Of course he was fascinated with all of the technology, so we talked for a while about that before getting down to the business of who he is, as a character.
ME: Let’s go ahead and get started. Chester, tell me a little bit about where you live and what you do.
CHESTER: I live in London, in a neighborhood on the south of the Thames. I carve gravestones, etch epitaphs on them, and plant them in the ground for the families of the dead.
ME: Oh, I had no idea! For some reason, I had pictured you working at a desk, being a writer and everything. So, you do a lot of heavy lifting. I think you would need to be fairly large and strong to do a job like that? Wouldn’t you agree? How does 6’2″ and 190 pounds sound to you?
CHESTER: I’m actually on the short side in real life, so if you could make me that tall it would be great.
ME: Hmm, I’ll have to think about that one. To get back to the epitaphs, tell me, do you write them yourself?
CHESTER: The families will usually have ideas, and they give me the dates, but I write most of them. The families have a lot of other things to think about, and I enjoy composing the lines about them, thinking about who they were and what they’d like us to think about them. I like to think that the epitaphs I wrote aren’t all standard fare, I took my time with each and every one. And, sometimes I even have a little fun and write some stories in verse. Of course, that extra writing doesn’t show up on the stones, I write privately.
CHESTER: I’d love to read some of them, it reminds me of some poems written by Edgar Lee Masters. His book is called the Spoon River Anthology, and he writes a story about the people in a small town through their epitaphs. Here, I’ll find a copy for you to bring home with you.
(We mutually and silently put the interview on hold at this point while he reads and I slip out to check on my laundry.)
CHESTER: These poems are a lot like the ones that I wrote, sort of. Well, the idea is similar, but my writing is not this good.
ME: I can relate to that feeling. I sometimes come across someone who has taken a thought that I had and done something extraordinary with it, makes me wish I had followed through. Speaking of following through, did you ever send out your poems to any publishers?
CHESTER: I thought about it once or twice, but never got around to it. Then it got ruined in the flood a few years back. Soaked, moldy, and gone. But, maybe they could have gotten out there had I sent them.
ME: Yes, I think they could have. So, do you have plans to write some more?
CHESTER: There’s fresh material in front of me daily, yes, I think I’ll write some more. And thanks for the encouragement, Ivy.
ME: You’re welcome Chester. I’m looking forward to reading your stuff, and maybe next time we can talk more about your family and figure out what you look like.
CHESTER: Yes, next time I intend to fill up this chair a tad better.