Mr. Kornegay had quietly sold his family land in the days preceding the letter and had become a very wealthy man, thanks to the wildly increased land prices his inspiration had created. He had driven out of town, check tucked into his wallet in the side pocket of his jeans, late in the night after the closing of sale.
For years no one who had known Jonathan Kornegay had any idea what had happened to him. It was as if he had disappeared. The town continued to grow and prosper and continued to be the model of modern urban planning. The people continued to be an oddly motivated and educated lot even though their creator had abandoned them. The skeptics among you would probably say that he was never in fact granted the overwhelming power of inspiration. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time and had his own little personal awakening at the same time as the people of his town did. In fact, maybe his rise to greatness was brought on by the general improvement of those around him. For those who agree with this line of thinking, there is no way for a believer to convince you otherwise. After all, the evidence is mostly circumstantial and it's really only the magnitude of the success of those around him that serves as truly convincing proof.
But if you are undecided on the veracity of this tale, consider this: After Mr. Kornegay disappeared; the town did gradually slump toward mediocrity. It's true that the multitudes of people who had been inspired by this man had created a culture of success and open mindedness that prevented this city from reaching the levels of inequality and failure that have plagued every city since man first decided to build them, but a small class of man who underachieved, underperformed, and under-thought did gradually build up. If Mr. Kornegay had no important effect on the rise and decline of this city, his timing was impeccable. Perhaps that sense of timing is enough to earn him the respect he deserves.
The story almost ends here, if not for that first student that inspired Mr. Kornegay to inspire once again so many years ago. After college Carlos had settled into the life of a freelance journalist. He had discovered his gift for writing under the tutelage of Mr. Kornegay and had shown signs of a bright future as a journalist. He'd started off in newspapers covering politics, pollution, and other sorts of highbrow drama, but he had felt stifled by the forms and limits of newspaper journalism and set out as a freelance writer to see if he could take his writing to grander and more satisfying level for himself.
Years after Mr. Kornegay had disappeared from his hometown and his memory had begun to fade, Carlos bumped into him at a small bar in a backwater town in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Or at least he thought it was Mr. Kornegay. Carlos had been working on a piece detailing the effects of technology advances on the lives of rural communities when he made his discovery. The man who sat at the bar was grayer, pudgier, and the creases in his face nearly made identification uncertain. The man who sat at the bar didn't quite seem like the man he had known all those years ago in his actions, either. A whiskey at his elbow, the old man scribbled bitter poetry and humorous excoriations of arts and culture. The notebook into which he copied his rants was dingy and tattered. The name at the top corner of the page, Carlos noticed as he passed by the old man on his way to the back of the room, was that of a rather famous, but reclusive, essayist. The name wasn't that of his former mentor, but it wouldn't be the first time a writer used a pseudonym. Stranger still, this man seemed to be genuinely happy. There was no smile on his face at the moment, but the lines surrounding his eyes and mouth were those of a man who'd experienced years of laughter and joy. Carlos could remember his teacher being supportive and caring, but he'd never seemed really happy. Despite this, Carlos was sure this was the man who'd helped give him this life he enjoyed now. He considered stopping to say thank you and to let Mr. Kornegay know just how important he had been, but he got the feeling that wouldn't be the right thing to do. Instead, he continued walking to the back of the bar for his scheduled interview with the local internet weed merchant.
As Carlos passed, his back now turned to the old man, the barfly lifted his head, looked in the direction of his former student and smiled. Turning back to his drink and his pen the old man began chuckling softly, and as he settled back to penning his latest screed the once again familiar and comfortable smile remained.