out of the ashes

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Short story

Gee, the old year is over and the new is a few hours away. Where did the year rush away to?

Three years ago Jim urged me to write some short stories, and so I did. I came up with one that I particularly loved at exactly this time--just before the New Year arrived. Here it is; hope you like it. I'm resurrecting it and sending it back out.

Patrick Sean Lee 2,440 words










Graciella
by
Patrick Sean Lee


It is December 23rd. Graciella stands beside me in the doorway of Garimendi’s, one of the finest restaurants in downtown Denver. I’ve brought her here to impress her, to win her—though in truth I know I must redeem myself.
The pedestrian traffic along the street is heavy this evening, but it moves with the consistency and order of a finely choreographed pageant. Frozen breaths. Overcoated torsos dancing like skaters up and down the icy sidewalks. Somehow in love themselves with every trapping of the season thrown across the arc of wires above; drapes of silver and gold, crimson and green. Lights. Lights by the million, blinking like jewels scattered across the heavens by God. And music everywhere.
I am in love with Graciella.

I first saw her last spring, in the small park near the capitol building a few blocks away from the restaurant. She entered from the north end across the broad concrete walkway bordered on either side by beds of dazzling May flowers. I happened to be sitting beneath a tree nearby, reading—I don’t recall what it was. It might have been a novel, “The Sea House”, perhaps—but I glanced up for some unknown reason as she passed. Maybe I’d gotten to the end of a chapter, or maybe it was something far more providential. How unimportant, now. I fell in love with her immediately, though. That sounds crazy, certainly. Nobody falls instantly into the arms, the eyes, the soul of another person. Not without first hearing the music of their voice or feeling the soft skin of their body. Yet, there I was, instantly in freefall.
She wore a black skirt, I remember vividly. It moved with the same grace as her body, a body as perfect and elegant as Chinese silk. Her hair—strikingly deep auburn. I wasn’t sure, as I sifted my eyes through it, if I had fastened them onto an angel of God, or if God had simply slapped me out of a twenty-five year stupor. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! It fell to her lithe shoulders, passing the edge of her eyes as though the great master Raphael had been walking beside her, adjusting every strand, parting it to allow filaments of sunlight passage. She, too, carried a small book in her hand, and stopped momentarily to look across the flowers and the grass directly at me. I blushed and raised the book I held just slightly so that she couldn’t see that I was grinning like an imbecile, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. For a brief instant I thought she intended to say something to me. I saw her lips purse slightly, the gentle beginning, I vainly imagined, of “I love you, too”. I was mistaken. She turned her head and continued on as though I were merely another part of the tree; a gnarled root, the severed stump of a branch. Something inconsequential. I wasn’t surprised.
I am ugly. Not homely or plain or cursed with a feature, which any vain and wealthy person would on a whim, have altered by a plastic surgeon. It goes deeper than that. Had I been born with two noses and a single eye I would have been more handsome—at least I’ve been told so. I learned early on in life, in great spasms of pain and feelings of self-loathing, to live with my abhorrence. I accepted the brutality of it. In my adolescence I quickly realized that those creatures who pierced my heart with their beauty were as unattainable as the gold in Fort Knox. Yes, I accepted it—until she walked by that morning.
“No more. I will make her love me if I have to live forever to do it!” I murmured through lips fit only to touch those of a beast. She turned, twenty feet beyond, and shot a glance back at me. I knew she had somehow heard me. I was certain of it. But she continued on and I mercifully lost sight of her beyond a downward-sloping turn in the path.
Each day I returned to the same spot beneath the tree, took my seat, and waited in great anticipation, hoping to see her again. I suffered for two weeks this way before she finally appeared again, book in hand. This time I smiled at her, though I instantly regretted having done so. Such an act of presumption, a foolish telegraphing of the drums smashing inside my chest! I prayed she hadn’t noticed, but this was merely another of my foolish notions. She had. For a moment she offered no reaction, but then she smiled in return. A very slight, enigmatic curve of her lips. Instead of moving on she stepped off the walkway, over the flowers (which swooned, I swear, as she passed over them), and walked toward me.
Let me become part of this tree. Dear God, let me disappear! She is too…
“Hello,” she said.
Her single word of greeting devastated me. It was music, unlike anything I’d ever heard. I had been in love up to my ears before she uttered that one word, but now I was slain by its timbre. Her eyes, as luminous and lovely as her hair, seemed a part of that utterance, and I found myself unable to act rationally. To sit, or stand, or even think. I dropped the book to my lap and muttered something meaningless. My eyes fell in embarrassment.
She stopped a foot away from me and laughed. “My name is Graciella,” she said holding her hand out to me. I was unable to answer. I wanted to run.
“And you are…?” she asked.
“Mar…Martin. I’m sorry I was staring at you. I didn’t mean to,” I finally managed to answer in a voice that sounded to me like it had been beaten on an anvil.
“That’s ok. I wasn’t offended. Were you staring? I thought you were just reading as usual. I’ve seen you sitting here many times with your book, you know. What is it?”
My book? I had no idea. She waited patiently for me to answer a question that might as well have been, “How many stars are there in the universe?” God only knows. The book. I looked down at it as though I were a simpleton. Fun With Dick and Jane? Barney Meets Mothra? Dear God, why was I so hideous looking. Why was I so stupid?
“Um...War and Peace. No, no. Winter’s Tale, maybe. I’m not sure,” I said shaking, unable to gather my wits and just look at the cover. Goddammit! Why didn’t I just nail a sign onto my forehead stating, “Its title is, I Am Hopelessly in Love With…Graciella.”
“Let me see,” she said as she knelt down beside me, so close I caught the sweet scent of her intoxicating perfume. I sighed and handed her the book with trembling fingers.
“One Hundred Years of Solitude. Wonderful! I loved it. Do you read many of the Latin authors? I think they’re absolutely drowning in lyricism,” she said, handing the book back to me.
“Oh, yes. Dickens and Proust. All of them,” I replied.
That inanity made her laugh again. I closed my eyes, wondering if her mission in life was to humor stupid people. Perhaps she was a nun. I learned in the following weeks that, indeed, she was not a nun. She was twenty-five, she told me. Three years younger than myself. Her apartment was close by, the upper floor in one of the beautiful old turn of the century houses that had survived the madness of the high-rise developers on Capitol Hill. Her parents had been devout Catholics, but they were both dead. She worked in the Main Library across the street from the park…
I learned many other things about her in the following weeks, and dwelled on them each evening until sleep inevitably overcame me, and then I would dream of her. Far away in unheard of, enchanted lands with stately mansions gracing tall, green hills. Graciella was always there and never failed to overlook my ugliness. Always invited me into her arms as though my face meant nothing at all to her. As though her lovely eyes could see to the very center of my heart.
I began to forget what I was, more so with each casual visit beneath the tree where she chattered like a finch this moment, sat quietly beside me the next, or read aloud from one of her books. Beside me. Every day, now. But why? What could she possibly see in me?
Each morning as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror to dress, the image staring back at me lost a tiny bit more of its repulsiveness. The twisted nose, the too-heavy brow—the ghastly ears pasted flat against my skull. Could it be…
My eyes overclouded with the blinding strength of hope, and I tried to discover exactly what it was that made my Graciella look past the ink spot of misshapen features. Was I mistaken about myself? I finally gave up these ridiculous mental inquiries and allowed myself to stumble ever farther into her flawless beauty. I imagined she, too, felt something of what I was consumed by—that her heart also beat rapidly in those infinitely sublime moments of our encounters.

Fall descended onto the city in a slow, disarming enchantment.
...
(c) Patrick Sean Lee 2006




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Monday, December 28, 2009

Marvin--short story

So there's a competition. Deadline Jan. 2. Cherilyn urged me to enter. God, I struggled with coming up with ANYTHING! But...I did it. A redo, kind of, that will stand on its own. I'm excited.
It's probably just me, but italics don't post for some reason. Imagine the internals and words of emphasis :)

5,200 words










Marvin
by
Patrick Sean Lee


He left Boettcher Mansion through the front door and stopped on the greystone landing beneath the columned portico, next to a tall, sculpted urn overflowing with ivy, myrtle, and white daisies. Peering down at it, the man reached over and plucked a single bloom from the foliage, laced the stem through the buttonhole of his lapel, adjusted it carefully, and then continued on. Descending the steps, he thought of her smiling at him across the tufted white plain of his bed in the basement last evening. He thought, too, of the inevitability of failure, of corruption, of his personal singularity as he surveyed the speck of Marvin Fuster’s collapsing universe beckoning beyond the weathered steps.
The sky was mottled and torn with the tailings of black clouds that were visible beyond the portico. A late afternoon storm had just passed, leaving the city sparkling and cleansed as it tumbled eastward onto the plains. A brilliant stab of lightning far away carrying enough energy to power the engine of the city for a month, or awaken a sewn together corpse. He caught it, deciphered its strength instantaneously. The physics of the lightning was well understood; he knew it better than anyone.
He was sixty-six, recently an indigent, more recently, incomprehensibly, inconceivably, a genius. One day ignorant and dying of alcoholic poisoning, the next Hawking times infinity with the constitution of a yearling. Whether by the finger of God, an un-remembered blow to the head, or simply the dream of the young woman inside, he didn’t know. Nor was it important, really—at least not anymore. He’d been unmasked by a conclave of red-cloaked butchers and his own wide-eyed guilelessness.

Maribeth had defied her father and gone to his room close to tears after Marvin left the inquisition in the study with an acid warning never to return. Moments later, after she’d knocked and entered, she helped him with the impossible task of selecting the few volumes he could carry back out onto the streets he had come from empty handed. A small book of poetry written by a woman from California, a novel by Garcia Marquez. Webster’s Medical Dictionary. A copy of De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince—a favorite he’d explored for hours—at normal reading speed.
Four texts on genetics.
“Put them in here,” she had said, handing him one of her backpacks.
“It’s PINK.”
“Well...yes. I have a chartreuse one. Or a lemon-yellow one, if you’d prefer.”
“Don’t you have a black one?”
“I’m sorry.”
They stuffed the books in.
After this he began to search the closet for those pieces of clothing he’d stolen just hours before she’d found him and taken him home with her in great secrecy. He intended to change into them and leave dressed the way he had arrived two weeks ago. Two weeks. In two more weeks Maribeth Harris would begin her first year of studies at the University of Denver.
“I gave them to the Goodwill,” she’d said.
“But why? They were perfectly good. Brand new,” he replied.
“They smelled of smoke, and they marked the old Marvin.”
“Oh. Just as well then, I suppose.”
“Yes. Here, take this shirt. That navy blue sweater there. The beige pants by your right hand.”
When it was all said and done; when she’d dressed him decently and made sure he had both shoes and socks on, that his thin, gray hair was brushed back off his forehead, they prepared to say their goodbyes.
“Where will you go?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Back to your old dock? Oh, please say you won’t!”
“No,” he’d replied with a sad smile. “You mustn’t worry about that. You, my dear child, lifted me out of the ashes. I won’t go back. I’ll find someplace, don’t worry.”
“I’ll sneak you back in after he calms down.”
“No.”
“Will you continue your research somehow?”
His answer had frightened her because she knew quite well that he was in love with her.
“I’m not sure.”

Twilight. The sun slipped behind the front range of the Rocky Mountains ten miles to the west sending rose and ruby across the sky. Peaceful, even against the intermittent claps of thunder and the flashes of lightning, so peaceful that Marvin could hear the heels of his shoes tapping on the concrete as he turned west onto the broad, wet sidewalk along Eighth Avenue. He walked thirty feet and then turned to take a final look at his Camelot. The curtains of the pediment-crowned French doors above the portico were drawn open, just slightly. Maribeth’s face was there, the side of her head holding the folds of material on the right, creating the illusion of a cascading veil. He turned, squinted, smiled up at her. With the fingers of her left hand she waved a tiny goodbye. He raised his hand to wave back, but by the time it reached chest height the curtains had already begun to fall closed. He lowered the hand, turned, and continued on in a state of absolute melancholy.
Indeed, he wondered, where would he go? Not back to the dock beneath which he’d lived like a rat for years.
Please say you won’t…
No…
The blocks fell away behind him. He was headed north, away from the Capitol Hill neighborhood in the direction of the old industrial district automatically, without thinking, like a bird setting off south in flight in late autumn. He stopped inside the Civic Center Park a mile away from the mansion and rested on one of the stone benches near the Greek amphitheater. The laces of his shoes had been drawn too tight, and so he laid the heavy pack down beside him, bent over, and loosened them. He laughed.
As smart as I’ve gotten, my feet still hurt when I walk too far. My stomach still growls when I get hungry.
Failure still hurts as much as ever…
No, I won’t. It’s just a tiny backwash. I’ll succeed and go back to her.
I don’t need it. I promised.
He glanced at the frontline of skyscrapers, across the park on the other side of Fifteenth Street a hundred paces away.
I’m hungry, though. Very hungry.
Marvin reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. A present from Maribeth; one of so many. Inside, five twenty-dollar bills lay ready and waiting to be spent on any necessity or whim. He counted the bills twice. As he fingered them he shifted his eyes to the left, then the right—an old habit of fear, revisiting. He was alone in the park.

“Are you okay?”
Marvin lay on his side, curled up in a ball beside the bench. His left arm was moving slowly, as though it possessed a detached life of its own, up and down across the shadows on the cement. On hearing the sound of the voice he rolled over and looked up. She knelt at his shoeless feet. The midmorning sun directly behind her head seemed to be resting between the opening in the boughs of an elm, and its light threw a corona of gold outward, like a halo. He was certain he had died, and that this creature was an angel stretching forth her hand to help him home. How he had gotten there he had no idea, or when, or from where he had come. His head ached. Of course, the discomfort of dying.
“You’re soaking wet,” she said, touching his forehead. “You’re bleeding, too. My God, what happened?”
“Are you an angel?”
“WHAT?”
He made an effort to sit up, but it was impossible. The weight of an ocean seemed to lie on his chest. “I’m dead, right?”
She laughed with measured relief. “No, not unless the dead can talk. Do you know where you are?”
She moved from his feet the length his body, closer to his face, as she spoke, and Marvin could plainly see that she really was an angel. Her hair was deep auburn silk, not unlike pictures he had seen of these beings sent from the throne of God, longer, though, rendered in more vibrant colors. She pushed it back behind her delicate ears as she drew closer yet, to inspect the wound. Marvin moved his head a quarter turn, because the gash was nearer the temple than the center of his face. The faint smell of sweet perfume hit him when his nose passed the palm of her hand, as though she held a bouquet of flowers. The ocean covering his chest roared upward over his head.
“It’s not too bad. Not deep.” Maribeth said finally. She leaned back and studied him for a moment to see if he would convulse suddenly, or utter another unintelligible remark. When he did neither, when his eyes opened, she offered him her hands. He took hold of them. They felt delicate and satiny inside his, and after she pulled him with surprising ease to a sitting position he held on much longer than he knew he should, but not longer than he would have liked. The blood inside him rushed upward into his face. Marvin felt as though it would explode through his cheeks, and out of the tips of his ears, and he felt secretly ashamed because he realized she must see his heart hammering like a heated piston inside his chest.
“Where am I?” he asked almost out of breath.
“You’re in the park. Just lie still, I’m going to call an ambulance. You’re probably going to need…”
“No! I mean, don’t! I’ll be okay.” He glanced around as his head began to clear, taking his bearings, reconstructing the last hour. A couple sat sixty feet away beneath a tree, unaware or uncaring of his presence. Here and there others ambled along the paths winding through the colorful beds of flowers, in and out of the half mile-square park sitting in the skirts of the city.
“Just help me up onto this bench here.”
Maribeth leaned into his body wrapping both arms around him at his sunken chest. He was emaciated. Hollow. With only a little effort she managed to raise him to his feet and then onto the bench.
“Why are you so wet?” she asked.
“It’s a long story. If you aren’t an angel…you aren’t are you?”
Maribeth laughed, which made her face even smoother, the ivory of her skin finer. She answered him. “Maybe.”
“Either way,” he said, hesitating. “I am…can I trust you?” Marvin brought his spindly fingers to her arms again and gazed with apprehension and astonishment into her eyes.
“Yes. Tell me.”
“I’m nuts, I guess, and I’m scared out of my skin. I…see things! I’ve had this dream that’s always there when I wake up. Always, as if I’m still asleep when I’m not. And there are numbers I don’t understand that pop up in front of me, like…like patterns, or fields of colors spread out across a plain that stretches to a horizon a million miles away. An endless plain! Jesus Christ. And yet…” He snapped his head to the right and looked south, thinking he would see billows of smoke from the building two blocks away. The blue stretched unbroken.
“I started a fire. I didn’t mean to…well, yes I did.
“The goddam’ fire sprinklers! I’d forgotten all about them, but that was a good thing in the end, I suppose. Do you know how much goddam water comes out of one of those heads? Jesus, I nearly drowned before I made it out the back door. But I got the clothes.” He dropped his wild eyes to the suit jacket, to his trousers, to his bare and withered feet. “I got them.”
“Why? Why did you steal a suit of clothes?”
“Books! I needed the clothes to steal books…”
Thus began Marvin’s explanation, perfectly rational to a madman, of how the dream had cropped up many months ago, and how it had worked its way from a dot in his head into that plain extending all the way to heaven. Driving him, if for no other reason than its intensity. A young woman, always the same. A path winding up to the top of a hill in a mythical landscape. At the top of the hill, a tree with a house high up in its branches where he found himself over and over, night after night, sitting beside her. And always they were youthful. And never would she allow herself to be kissed, though he wished to with every fiber in his being.
“But, why do you think she wouldn’t let you kiss her?” Maribeth interrupted.
“Because even though we were young…oh my God, she is beautiful…though we were young, I was still this old carcass you see sitting here! That is what she said to me. ‘You are old and ugly, Marvin Fuster.’ Old and ugly. But how do I tell you the next part?” He gauged the look on her face to see if she suspected he was crazy. She merely stared at him with a look of bemusement.
“I woke up yesterday. I hadn’t had a drop to drink in two days. Two whole days, I swear it. I saw it all. Everything laid out in front of me like a rug, with all the patterns and colors perfectly situated, like I’d woven it myself. I understood what this whole thing is all about, although I don’t know who put it there, if anyone even did, or exactly why. Those numbers! I got to thinking maybe I did bang my head in a drunken stupor, or wandered into a cloud of some kind of radioactive dust that made my…I can read…Jesus Christ…I can read at the speed of lightning. And I understand it all. I never went to school for Christ’s sake! And…oh, you’re never going to believe this. I have to reverse my age! That’s why I need the books! I have to go find her…or maybe she has to find me.”
“You might just be crazy, sir,” she laughed. “But I’m going to help you.”

The circulation in his feet had returned to normal, and so he grabbed the pink backpack filled with his latest life and walked off toward upper downtown to search for a decent restaurant.
He found one with no blinking neon signs or tawdry decorated windows, with a name he liked. French. La Mer. He pulled the heavy oak door outward and entered, tucking the end of his shirt collar back under the fabric of the lapel, beneath the daisy. The hostess greeted him and showed him to a table under the long front window, and when he had seated himself she placed the menu on the linen tablecloth beside his plate. She was young, very tall—almost attractive, and she smiled when he laid the backpack on the floor next to his chair.
“It’s my daughter’s,” he explained.
“It’s very pretty. Can I get you a drink from the bar while you’re deciding what to order?” she asked.
“No, thank you.”
She turned and began to walk back to the front desk, chuckling very low.
“Wait.”
The girl returned. Marvin flipped the thickly padded menu over to the back and glanced down the list of beverages.
“Bring me a glass of wine. This one,” he said lifting the menu and pointing to an expensive Beaujolais Nouveau listed halfway down. She took note, then left with a smile.
After all you’ve been through, you deserve a drink with dinner, Marvin. And you will have one.

The morning came with fire. Marvin awoke to the cacophony of earthmovers and dynamite. Giants shouting with barreled voices overhead. Demons dancing on his body, nailing spikes into his forehead; his temples exploding, a thirst unparalleled in the bitter annals of souls wandering the Sahara for days without water. He was freezing cold and boiling hot all at once. Someone had rolled him up, tied him in a knot, and then flung him into a pit. A pit. He opened his eyes with great difficulty, forcing the lids upward. The shadowy world surrounding him spun, stopped, spun again. He recognized the brick wall a few feet away, mixed with the dock joists bolted into the massive ledger. Floor planks running over them, and the faint flickering shadows of the giants and earthmovers filtering through the cracks. He was home.
He wondered, had it all been a dream? The girl, the mansion on the hill, the sudden brilliance? All that merely a wonderful interlude from this life he knew so intimately? He closed his eyes and covered his face with shaking hands, trying to force the hell of another hangover away—but he knew better. The only way to relieve the pain was to have another drink. He groped along the rim of the pit with a sweeping motion of his right hand and found the bottle. He couldn’t sit up, and so he hastily unscrewed the cap and let it fall away. He laid the bottle sideways on his chest, found his mouth with the knurled lip, and then tipped it up. Not whiskey. Wine. A good wine, too, he thought, because it was smooth. But then gasoline would have tasted smooth in that moment of parched agony. He drank until the last of it was gone. Yes, it had all been just a fabulous dream, but now he was awake, back to the real world, and before the hour was out he would feel better.
Weighed down by the crushing noises above him and the pounding in his head, unable to think clearly, but unable to drag himself up over the precipice edge of the pit, Marvin closed his eyes. The half-liter of alcohol soon enough sedated him, and he fell back into a deep, troubled sleep.

Maribeth cocked an ear suddenly and walked to the CD player Marvin had placed on a small table at the end of his desk. Two banjos, a guitar and fiddle were mixing it up at a furious pace. It seemed to her that someone on that recording was howling.
“Really, Marvin, you need to refine your taste in music. I don’t want to make you feel bad, but this stuff is horrible! It’s meant for people who wear no socks or shoes and have teeth missing.” She picked up the CD cover, inspected it cursorily, and then returned it to its place atop the player.
Marvin ran his tongue across his teeth. All present and accounted for, even the wisdom teeth.
“You can turn it off if you like.”
Maribeth did so.
“You know, I was thinking about music just a moment ago, as a matter of fact. My dear mother, God rest her soul, loved the Broadway tunes. Once, when I was very young we took the streetcar from Globeville downtown so that she could buy some new LP record that had been released. I don’t remember what it was. The records then were a little different than the CD discs of today, kiddo. Ten inches in diameter, and thick!” He made a circle with his thumbs and middle fingers and placed it in front of his face.
“It was a wonderful time; a gorgeous day late in June, I think. That would have been…let me see…in the late thirties.” He got up and walked to the closet, talking over his shoulder. “She bought me a stick of licorice, and then we walked around looking in the store windows on Sixteenth Street on our way to the music shop. The Great Depression was over and all those stores were filled with goods and shoppers. I remember stopping at the window of a toy store. The little yellow and red trucks were lined up inside the display window in a sand pit the owners had made. All of it arranged to look like a building site. I can still see it. Gosh, how I wanted one of those big dump trucks. Or a steam shovel. We had no grass in our backyard, just dirt and weeds. I could have built a whole city back there. Away from him.”
Marvin glanced at the hangers bearing Richard’s cast off clothes and several shirts and pairs of pants Maribeth had bought for him. He selected a black, short sleeve shirt and a pair of black trousers, then closed the door and laid them on the bed.
“Of course we couldn’t afford the three dollars for a toy truck. That was a fortune then. Mother and I left the city empty handed. She didn’t come right out and say it, but since she didn’t have the money to buy me a shiny new truck, she wasn’t going to buy herself a record.”
He stopped and looked at Maribeth who stood in front of his desk on the far side of the bed, watching him, a sad expression lining her face. The lightweight turtleneck she wore framed her neck in such a way that her entire face seemed statuesque, classic. Her hair was parted in the middle, and the right side of it fell across her shoulder.
“Have you ever not had enough of everything, Maribeth? Did your father ever beat you or your mother in a drunken rage? Have you ever heard Trish crying out, and heard the sounds of your father’s fists hitting her through the door of your bedroom? Do you know what terror is? That’s how I grew up. Unable to help her, wanting to create an imaginary city in hell. Wanting to see him die every night when he stumbled in the front door and fell into my city. See him expand in flames with terror and agony in his eyes.” Marvin dropped his gaze to the clothes, away from the memories that haunted him.
“I’m so sorry, Marvin. No one…no child should ever, ever have to live through that.” She said nothing else. Neither was looking at the other; Marvin at the clothing on his bed, Maribeth at her hands and crimson fingernails. The silence quickly became uncomfortable. Marvin heaved a sigh, and then began unbuttoning his shirt as though he was late for a very important engagement.
“Guess I’d better get into my cat burglar outfit. Turn around,” he said almost cheerily.
Outside, at the corner of the hall and the poolroom, Robert, the head servant, looked furtively into the bedroom through the half opened door. Maribeth had disappeared somewhere inside. Though he could not hear the conversation, he saw Marvin smile after a few moments, and then begin to take off his shirt and pants. Robert’s eyes narrowed and his fingers tightened into a fist. And then he saw Marvin walk to the door and push it closed.

There were children laughing and shrieking on a playground outside a tall school building with darkened windows puncturing the red brick façade, and a high sloping roof with dormers. There were trees bordering it—the stately elms and cottonwoods he remembered climbing many times, with bare, tangled branches that seemed to shiver under a thin cloak of snow, and there were green and dappled-white firs, too, that looked quite warm. The schoolyard itself was deeply covered in snow, except where the children played; shoveled roughly there into mounds in a wide circle outside the doors, and beaten down beneath the swings and gleaming steel slides and ladder-like monkey bars. He could see his fingers hanging through the links of a fence so high that the top rail vanished in the lead-gray air, and he watched the children running, screaming, throwing snow. The coat he wore had short arms, and the ends stopping well above his thin wrists were threadbare and spotted with stains. He wanted to go inside and play.
A man stopped beside him, towering over him, and the child grasping the links of the fence immediately felt his presence, feared him instinctively, but there was nowhere to run. No gate leading into the schoolyard as far as he could see in either direction, and he sensed that if he bolted an iron hand was set to grab him anyway. He peered up with dread into the face. White puffs of hot breath came in even bursts out of a mouth that dragged down the lined and sunken cheeks. He had no nose, this man—or if he did the child saw only two bullet dots set between vicious, glowing eyes. He glared at the children on the other side of the fence, and even though his body covered in a cloak as ragged as his own touched him, the child knew the man’s attention was focused like a hawk’s on the carefree quarry protected by the fence.
A young girl with long, raven hair looked up and noticed the child standing at the fence. She left her swing and the anthill of other boys and girls and walked with tiny steps in his direction until she reached the ridge of dirty snow where she stopped. A smile had graced her pretty face until, he could not help but notice, her eyes shifted upward to the figure standing beside him, and then a look of fear greater, even, than his own descended over her. She turned and ran back toward the other children. He watched her. The man watched her, too. The playground was empty, suddenly, and dead quiet, and sheets of white had begun to fall that made it almost impossible to make out the building in the background. She stopped when she saw that she was alone, like a terrified roe finding itself surrounded by wolves in a blizzard. Her legs, covered with white stockings, jerked left, then right, then left again. Finally adrenaline and instinct thrust her body into motion. She bolted through the thick cloud toward the doors and disappeared in the dense mist.
The man stood motionless, glaring. Now his steaming breaths came in deeper, closer bursts, and he grinned, but the boy had no idea why at first.
A moment passed.
He felt the vise of the man’s fingers on his shoulder, and finally heard a low voice that perfectly suited the face.
“Stay put you little fuck.” And then he moved away, down along the fence to an opening that hadn’t been there seconds earlier. He stepped though.
The young girl reappeared, and the boy could see the terror more clearly, now, with every step she took. Steps that faltered and wound up leading her back to where she had started. She froze. The man walked steadily through the drifts of snow as if the ground was dry until he reached the plowed walkway a dozen feet from the little girl. He glanced back at the boy, whose fingers tightened on the links, and then he turned and approached the trembling girl. The boy screamed. He recognized the girl! He knew her—the clear memory of a house built high in a tree. A thatched-roof porch and a bamboo railing. Her hand in his as they sat cross-legged and threw twigs and fallen seeds through the wide gaps of the rail. Her laughter.
He knew the man, too, and he knew that the little girl would soon die.
And so, unable to help her, unable to stop the river course of the dream, unable to bear seeing her death at his father’s hands, he woke.
“Maribeth!”
It was dark and silent beneath the dock, and his stomach churned when he cried the name. He shook. His head ached again and he raised himself like a spring released when his belly convulsed. Marvin wretched a putrid stream of bile over the edge of the pit that splattered in the dirt. He groaned and waited with his eyes closed, and then wretched again. Two more empty knots of spasm, a rush of cold sweat on his forehead, and then it was over. He fell back and looked upward into blackness.
Maritbeth. Maribeth.
He lay trembling, a physical reaction to the poison still flowing in his veins, certainly, but the coldness, the helplessness, the brutality of his childhood ran like an arctic wave over the comparative mildness of his body’s rejection of the alcohol. His thoughts ran backward sixty years, dots and broken snapshots. The side gate of his home hanging on a single bent and rusted hinge, splintered slats of gray, discolored wood. Empty bottles and smashed cans. Everywhere an unkempt wildness and a silent anger that ran through the nettles and overgrowth of weeds. His mother weeping again, inside the house, this time not from a beating at Jack Fuster’s hands. Something else that maybe had been worse. He saw himself standing on his tiptoes peeking through the kitchen window, raised open two inches. One hand covering the sobs coming from her mouth, her eyes closed tightly and her head shaking back and forth. Her other hand half-covering the newspaper with headlines in bold, black script. The only words discernable…YOUNG GIRL.
What? What was it? Marvin shook the dead memory away.
And now, wondering at the hour, he lifted his left arm and pulled at the sleeve of the jacket to expose the wristwatch Maribeth had given him. Yes, of course. Maribeth. She had been real. The mansion had been real. Robert, and Richard and Trish, the dogs. His chair in the gazebo, the lemonade and cookies, his room and comfortable bed. His fine and promising new existence. His aspirations.
The watch was gone, and his wrists bore tender marks, as though he’d chewed it off. He rolled onto his side and forced his hand to his rear trouser pocket, feeling for the wallet. It wasn’t there.
What the fuck happened?
His pink pack and the life inside it were gone, as well. Perhaps dropped somewhere along the way before he found his way back to the solitude of his pit. More likely stolen along with the wallet and the watch in some dark and dangerous alley. Whatever, wherever, it was all a dismal smear in his head. A feeling of self-loathing overwhelmed him.
He crawled out of his pit and left the underside of the dock once more. He was broke, disgusted by the reality of what he was, had always been, and would forever be, and he was thirsty. Marvin steadied himself, thinking against his will about the nightmare and the little girl and boy trapped inside it, and then he stumbled down the street cursing the day he was born. He needed another drink. The numbers and patterned fields of colors stretching toward infinity faded, drawn like a curtain into blackness by the hand of a beautiful young woman.


Marvin Quenton Fuster imagined genes dancing energetically in a ballroom the size of the planet, all of them dressed the same in their spiral gowns, and flung close together in a maddened waltz. He grabbed at one with an almost imperceptible, aged look about her, a slight variation in the color of her hair, eyes that had beheld the passing of time. She slipped away into the crowd the moment his hands came into contact with her, leaving him holding pieces of shadow that dripped from his wrinkled fingertips.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thirty

Marvin has been given his walking papers by Governor Richard Harris...



Thirty

Marvin left the mansion through the front door. He stopped on the stone landing beneath the portico, next to a tall, sculpted urn overflowing with ivy, myrtle, and white daisies. He peered down at it and then plucked a single bloom. He laced the stem through the buttonhole of his lapel, adjusted it twice, and then went on. Walking down the steps he thought of grits, seeing them pulverized and pasty in a blue ceramic bowl. Saw her smile at him across Jonathon’s head.
Maribeth had defied her father and gone to his room close to tears after Marvin walked out of the study. Moments later, after she’d knocked and entered, she helped him with the impossible task of selecting the few volumes he could carry. A small book of poetry written by a woman from California, a novel by Garcia Marquez. Webster’s Medical Dictionary. A copy of De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince—a favorite that he’d explored for hours—at normal speed. Four texts on genetics.
“Put them in here,” Maribeth had said, handing him one of her backpacks.
“It’s PINK.”
“Well...yes. I have a chartreuse one. Or a lemon-yellow one, if you’d prefer.”
“Don’t you have a black one?”
“I’m sorry.”
They stuffed the books in.
He began to search the closet for those pieces of clothing left over from the fire, intending to change into them and leave dressed the way he had arrived two weeks ago.
“I gave them to the Goodwill,” she’d said.
“But why? They were perfectly good. Brand new,” he replied.
“They smelled of smoke, and they marked the old Marvin.”
“Oh. Just as well then, I suppose.”
“Yes. Here, take this shirt. That navy blue sweater there. The beige pants by your right hand.”
When it was all said and done; when she’d dressed him decently and made sure he had both shoes and socks on, they prepared to say their goodbyes.
"Take care of yourself, Marvin. You promised."
"I will."
“Where will you go?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Back to your old dock? Oh, please say you won’t!”
“No,” he’d replied with a sad smile. “You mustn’t worry about that. You, my dear child, lifted me out of the ashes. I won’t go back. I’ll find someplace, don’t worry.”
“Will you continue your research somehow?”
His answer had frightened her.
“I’m not sure.”

Twilight. Peaceful, so peaceful that Marvin could hear the heels of his shoes tapping on the concrete as he turned west onto the broad sidewalk along Eighth Avenue. He walked thirty feet and then turned to take a final look at his Camelot. The curtains of the pediment-crowned French doors above the portico were drawn open, just slightly. Maribeth’s face was there, the side of her head holding the folds of material on the right, creating the illusion of a cascading veil. He turned, squinted, and smiled up at her. With the fingers of her left hand she waved a tiny goodbye. He raised his hand to wave back, but by the time it reached chest height the curtains had already begun to fall closed. He lowered the hand, turned, and continued on in a state of absolute melancholy.

***********
***********
***********
Yes, it had all been a fabulous dream, but now he was awake, back to the real world, and before the hour was out he would feel better.
Weighed down by the crushing noises above him and the pounding in his head, unable to think clearly, but unable to drag himself up over the precipice edge of the pit, Marvin closed his eyes. The half liter of alcohol soon enough sedated him, and he fell back into a deep, troubled sleep.
There were children laughing and shrieking on a playground outside a tall school building with darkened windows puncturing the red brick façade, and a high sloping roof with dormers. There were trees at either end—the stately elms and cottonwoods he remembered climbing many times, with bare, tangled branches that seemed to shiver under a cloak of snow. There were green and dappled-white firs, too, that looked quite warm. The playground itself was deeply covered in snow, except where the children played; shoveled roughly into mounds in a wide circle outside the doors, and beaten down beneath the swings and gleaming steel slides and ladder-like monkey bars. He could see his fingers hanging through the links of a fence so high that the top rail vanished in the lead-gray air, and he watched the children running, screaming, throwing snow. The coat he wore had short arms, and the ends stopping well above his thin wrists were thread bare and spotted with stains. He wanted to go inside and play.
A man stood beside him, towering over him, and the child grasping the links of the fence immediately felt his presence, feared him instinctively, but there was nowhere to run. No gate leading into the schoolyard as far as he could see, and he sensed that if he bolted an iron hand was set to grab him anyway. He peered up fearfully into the face. White puffs of hot breath came in even bursts out of a mouth that dragged down the lined and sunken cheeks. He had no nose, this man—or if he did it was only two bullet dots set between vicious, glowing eyes. He glared at the children on the other side of the fence, and even though his body covered in a cloak as ragged as his own touched him, the child knew the man’s attention was focused like a hawk’s on the carefree quarry protected by the fence.
A young girl with long, raven hair looked up and noticed the child standing at the fence. She left her swing and the anthill of other boys and girls and walked with tiny steps in his direction until she reached the ridge of dirty snow, then stopped. A smile had graced her pretty face until, he could not help but notice, her eyes shifted upward to the figure standing beside him, and then a look of fear greater, even, than his own descended over her. She turned and ran back toward the other children. He watched her. The man watched her, too. The playground was empty, suddenly, and quiet, and sheets of white had begun to fall that made it almost impossible to make out the building in the background. She stopped when she saw that she was alone, like a terrified roe finding itself surrounded by wolves in a blizzard. Her legs, covered with white stockings, jerked left, then right, then left again. Finally her instincts thrust her body into motion. She bolted through the thick cloud toward the doors and disappeared in the mist.
The man stood motionless, glaring. Now his steaming breaths came in deeper, closer bursts, and he grinned, but the boy had no idea why at first.
A moment passed.
He felt the vise of the man’s fingers on his shoulder, and finally heard a low voice that perfectly suited the face.
“Stay put you little bastard.” And then he moved away, down along the fence to an opening that hadn’t been there seconds earlier. He stepped though.
The young girl reappeared, and the boy could see the terror more clearly now with every step she took. Steps that faltered and wound up leading her back to where she had started. She froze. The man walked steadily through the drifts of snow as if the ground was dry until he reached the plowed walkway a dozen feet from the little girl. He glanced back at the boy, whose fingers tightened on the links, and then he turned and approached the trembling girl. The boy screamed. He recognized the girl! He knew her—the clear memory of a house built high in a tree. A thatched roof porch and a bamboo railing. Her hand in his as they sat cross-legged and threw twigs and fallen seeds through the wide gaps of the rail. Her laughter.
He knew the man, too, and he knew that the little girl would soon die.
And so, unable to help her, unable to stop the river course of the dream, unable to bear seeing her death at his father’s hands, he woke.
“Amy!”
It was dark and silent beneath the dock, and his stomach churned when he cried the name. He shook. His head ached again and he raised himself like a spring released when his belly convulsed. Marvin wretched a putrefied stream of bile over the edge of the pit that splattered in the dirt. He groaned and waited with his eyes closed, and then wretched again. Two more empty knots of spasm, a rush of cold sweat on his forehead, and then it was over. He fell back and looked upward into blackness.
Amy. Amy.
He lay trembling, a physical reaction to the poison still flowing in his veins, certainly, but the coldness, the helplessness, the brutality of his childhood ran like an arctic wave over the comparative mildness of his body’s rejection of the alcohol. His thoughts ran backward sixty years, dots and broken snapshots. The side gate of his home hanging on a single bent and rusted hinge, splintered slats of gray, discolored wood. Empty bottles and smashed cans. Everywhere an unkempt wildness and a silent anger that ran through the nettles and overgrowth of weeds. His mother weeping again, inside the house, this time not from a beating at Melvin Fuster’s hands. Something else that maybe had been worse. He saw himself standing on his tiptoes peeking through the kitchen window, raised open two inches. One hand covering the sobs coming from her mouth, her eyes closed tightly and her head shaking back and forth. Her other hand half-covering the newspaper with headlines in bold, black script. The only words discernable…YOUNG GIRL.
What? What was it? Marvin shook the dead memory away.
And now, wondering at the hour, he lifted his left arm and pulled at the sleeve of the jacket to expose the wristwatch—given to him by Maribeth. Yes, of course. Maribeth. She had been real. The mansion had been real. Robert, and Richard and Trish, the dogs. His chair in the gazebo, the lemonade and cookies, his room and comfortable bed. His fine and promising new world. His aspirations.
The watch was gone, and his wrists bore tender marks, as though he’d chewed it off. He rolled onto his side with effort, as the tangle of his jacket acted like an anchor beneath him. He forced his hand to his rear trouser pocket, feeling for the wallet. It wasn’t there.
"What the fuck happened?"
His pink pack and his life were gone, as well. Perhaps dropped somewhere before he found his way back to the solitude of his pit. More likely stolen along with the wallet and the watch in some dark and dangerous alley. Whatever, wherever, it was all a blank spot in his head. A feeling of self-loathing overwhelmed him.
He crawled out of his pit and left the underside of the dock once more. He was broke, disgusted by the reality of what he was, had always been, and would forever be, but he was thirsty. Marvin steadied himself, thinking against his will about the nightmare and the little girl and little boy trapped inside it, and then he stumbled down the street cursing the day he was born.

The Finished Building

I'm a carpenter. I used to hate that description of myself. It implied that I was uneducated (true), crude (I hope not true), somehow less-than. But then, I thought, consider the greatest man in history. What was his occupation? Okay, it didn't hurt so badly when thought of in those terms.
So I build buildings.
I take the prints from the architect and review them. The many pages of details and sections; special instructions. All right. Then to the pages of elevations. This guy's no Frank Lloyd Wright, but I love Craftsman. It's an outline. Very specific. I can do this.
I "see" the finished product. There is a series of steps necessary to arrive there; grading, soil tests, foundation work, and so on. I follow them by rote, and in time the drawings of the architect assume life.

I'm a writer. I've always loved that description of myself. It implies that I am educated (not true), refined (I hope a little true), somehow equal to or greater than. Another illusion. Still, I think, consider the greatest men in history...

I conceive an idea. No one but myself has thought of it in quite these terms, and so I sit down to create a story. Something unique, with a wonderful beginning, a moving middle, and a fantastic ending. I've got it. I write an outline and then begin.
I'm halfway through, but going back through my working draft I see that the beginning sucks, so I remodel it. Nope, that's no good either. Screw it, I'll go back later and fix it.
Two of those secondary characters begin to wander off on me; go places I hadn't expected them to go several months back when I sketched the little bastards and breathed life into them. But, I like them better now. This means I have to go back several chapters and do some more changing. And I do. There. Now the original plot is altogether different because Delilah isn't a dweeb anymore, Anton Stump has disappeared entirely, The Sistine Chapel has died, but it's all for the better. Suddenly the set of plans is nearly useless because the story has taken on a life of its own.
Marvin HAS to face his demons, too, so I set him up for a total relapse. And what about succeeding in that quest of his? All the lectures on plotting go out the window. Someone ripped the elevations out of the set of plans! My Craftsman home is now beginning to look like a Frank Gehry creation!
That's just fine. I love Gehry's work. And, too, that's why God created the "Delete" key. I love the POSSIBILITY of this story. I stop and begin to replot with great anticipation.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The End!

I finished an important chapter today. Having done that a problem arose:
Marvin is ejected from the mansion for having Maribeth and terribly nearsighted Jonathon try to get in the back door of the Los Alamos Defense Department super computer. Marvin thinks he needs more brainpower. Robert sees what is going on and rats to Richard. So, Marvin is homeless again. Where, I thought all last week as I wrote that difficult chapter, should Marvin go after he is thrown out? Back to the loading dock? No good. To Jonathon's tiny apartment near the University of Denver? Something told me, no. But then where?
A flash of inspiration an hour ago:
Maribeth has met clumsy, seemingly inept John Delilah in an earlier chapter at a political fundraising dinner at the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. Sampson is also there with Amy. Delilah is pining (loves Amy) and confides to Maribeth...he winds up walking her home to the Governor's Mansion. She adores this stammering, gracious man; kisses him on the forehead at her doorstep, sending him on his way, telling him to thank God he is exactly who he is.
So, Marvin is homeless. Maribeth feels compelled to help her wonderful Marvin find a new home. Marvin DOES go back to the dock, humiliated, defeated, open to the siren call of the demon who haunted him all his life; the bottle. He goes on a first class bender. Maribeth finds him after having talked to Delilah; getting Marvin a fantastic room in John's art-filled loft. Marvin sobers up and begins again in a truly enlightened environment.
NOW...Amy has also gone to John's incredible loft (after the concert in the park a few chapters back). John loves her. Adores her. She doesn't love John (she thinks). Marvin loves her, too, or at least the IDEA of her. He has seen her once and has her face memorized. She is the object of his mad quest.

I have constructed the book with two different plots running parallel. They must merge. The question has always been, where? How? Now I have it. All the key players are united in a single ending plot centering around Marvin's new home, and his finally meeting Amy there. That should be fun to write. There is the potential for real conflict, tension, and then the climax and resolution. Of course, sadly, Delilah must die :( at the hands of John Sampson.
Should Marvin, though, accomplish his goal to reverse his age? I'll figure that out.
The point is, the plots can now seamlessly merge with growing tension (and of course, a little humor. Marvin IS Marvin, after all).

I'm going to have to go back and bag the first fourteen chapters, probably, but no sweat. Only about 150 pages or so. Tighten it all up. Much work, but I'm smiling again. I can do it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reading and Writing

Okay, I finished Chapter 28 a few days ago, and I moved on to 29. Jonathon is going to hook Marvin's computer up to the big guys...Los Alamos. Robert is spying. I'm stuck after having written a few pages. It's tough writing two plots.
I read as I write, too. Picked up McCarthy's The Road...I'd gotten mixed comments about it. I raced through it. Yeah, I can see why it won a Pulitzer. Fabulous book. A few nights ago I picked up Young's The Shack, determined to wade through it after hearing so many bad reviews. They were right. :(

Writing:
Sit down, put your fingers on the keys, get yourself into the scene, and just write. No great mystery.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday evening

Well, I finished twenty-seven late last night, sent it out to my editors. I got some very positive remarks, too!

Here's a piece of it, preceded by a tiny bit of backstory.

John Sampson has gone to Delilah's loft in the city to wait for him; get even for having been blindsided a week earlier. The door is unlocked. He enters, looks at the fabulous art and the industrial decor. Hates it.
Delilah has brought Amy up after the concert in the park to show her the real side of him. The confident side. The artistic side. They arrive, enter, and Amy is knocked out by what she sees.

Amy regarded him momentarily. As he spoke his hand seemed to tighten over hers for a fraction of a second. He was looking down, either at the sleek beauty of the famous artist's creation, or else at the arguably more beautiful form of her wrist and lower forearm, the ends of her fingers peeking out from beneath his. An anonymity of sorts existed at that moment for him. He was explaining art, but he was also explaining a passion inside him that ran to a greater depth. Her proximity, and the feel of her skin beneath his hand.
Sampson sat silently, caught in his boat on the sea in a dead calm. He thought nothing, only listened, expecting something to come of the silence behind him. The sound of clothing being undone quickly or a first moan. But, no. Delilah was far too stupid to move decisively he knew.

"And this one?" she asked. "It's much different. How it bends and spirals upward like long shafts of golden wheat on a windy day. Is it a Brancusi, too?"

"No, no. But it's just as lovely as the Brancusi, I think...perhaps not as lovely as the way you described its soul, though." He spoke calmly, directly, without embarrassment, now, having crossed a bridge into a kingdom where every leper is a knight; every woman of servitude a lady.

"A local artist did it. A woman. Angela Motieri. She hasn't done her best yet, in my opinion, but this piece, 'Ode', is excellent. I picked it up...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Moving

It's Saturday morning. I'm sitting at the keyboard and scrolling down the working document. Chapter twenty-three...Chapter twenty-four. Reading for flow. I've already made one tiny revision. Added that comma, then took it back out. I might have to put it back in.
Concentrating on the work at hand--finishing Chapter twenty-seven today--is a battle I engage in almost every time I take a seat, fire up iTunes, check the mail, then open my working draft. I want to do anything but create new scenes, lay down new words. Move.
Anyway, Gershwin is playing this morning. An American in Paris right now. I have always written with music in the background. I have this personal theory that "what we eat, we are." An American in Paris is exploding with energy, and I believe some of that wonderful fire will find its way through my subconscious, out through my fingertips--onto the page. For some strange reason I always envision Broadway in New York instead of Paris, where Gerswin traveled to meet Ravel in the mid-twenties. Ravel was...
I MUST get back to Twenty-seven and finish it. It's just discipline. Inspiration has nothing, or very little, to do with writing. A couple more pages and...it's precision. I must keep moving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chapter Seventeen

Marvin lay on his back with his hands clasped behind his head on the pillow. The bedroom was dark except for the wisp of moonlight that brightened the window above his desk. In the dim surface of the mirror above the dresser beyond the footboard, next to the door, he seemed to see his dusty reflection; his face, shoulders, the outline of his shirt. The angle of sight was wrong, though. His eyes were deceiving him, and so he blinked hard. When he reopened them he was gone.
When he first lay down, not long after Maribeth had left, he had covered his feet with a crocheted comforter and concentrated his stare at the ceiling stretching overhead. Looking up, he imagined genes dancing energetically in a ballroom the size of the planet, all of them dressed the same in their spiral gowns and flung close together in a maddened waltz. He grabbed at one that carried an almost imperceptible, aged look about her, a slight variation in the color of her hair; eyes that had beheld the passing of time. She slipped away into the crowd the moment his hands came into contact with her, leaving him holding pieces of shadow that dripped from his wrinkled fingertips. Now, several hours later, the phonon ball had ended and Marvin forced his mind to reconstruct the images of the young woman his heart longed for. The throbbing at his temples eased and his body began to tingle.
Anselm hovered at the headboard, or sat. He had fixed his eyes on the mirror, studying the reflection of his subject laying at his feet. The angle was right. Other than the low, steady breathing of Marvin Fuster there was no sound of any sort. No footsteps above where the maids and servants might have been. No Robert. Anselm had dispatched two of the team to keep an eye on him immediately after breakfast, but he had done nothing particularly suspicious throughout the day, they'd said, guarding his thoughts well with the mundanity of running the household.
Suddenly the light in the window grew brighter, the walls and ceiling purled, and six angels blazed into the bedroom. Their eyes were on fire, and they gathered in a cluster at the foot of the bed. Marvin shuddered, feeling the room expand for an instant, but he didn't see anything. The air seemed thicker, though, in movement. He knew they were there.
"Who is it? Anselm?"
There was no answer.
They spoke in rushes, excited, jumbled, but still he heard nothing, felt only the air curling in on itself all around him.
Anselm whisked away, leaving the room to settle itself, followed by the other angels. They gathered at the front of the property and he motioned for only one of them to speak.
"Something terrible has happened," the spirit said.
"What?"
"He touched her. There was nothing we could do. Why would we have expected anything? He had been considerate, kind..."
"Stop! Go back. Start at the beginning and tell me exactly what happened."
"Yes, sir. Their gathering started on somewhat of a sour note. He left her alone after they had arrived, but..."
But John had made up for it. After the dinner and the speeches concluded he rose and pulled Amy's chair back for her, then he took her to The Churchill Bar near the Grand Ballroom. An old friend, another lawyer, had invited him to join his wife and himself for drinks after eating. He had agreed, knowing Amy would need the comforting presence of Maria Turnbull if the evening was to progress in the way he had hoped--no, knew it must.
Maria was twenty-six, beautiful in the way women can be who are searching for the eligible professional man. She knew her way around those places they congregated, and she made her presence known there, patiently surveying the men for the prospective winner. She was single-minded, fixed on what she wanted, and she got it in the person of Joseph Turnbull, attorney-at-law, ten years her senior, headed for the top in corporate law. The mercenary reasons for her descent on him aside, time and fate and passion dictated they should fall very much in love. And they did. Joseph knew what he had in Maria, and he was good to her. She had no interest in a career, no aspirations other than to keep a spotless home and never leave it with a hair out of place. But above all to to untie Joseph's shoes when he arrived home from the office and make love to him as though Venus herself had provided the instruction manual. Maria was well-read, an asset in the circle of friends they flew with. Though she had never attended a day of college, she was quick, outgoing, and knew how to converse with anyone on a wide range of topics. She was the perfect corporate wife, and that evening inside The Churchill Bar, Maria found a friend in someone she thought was exactly like herself. Amy. Beauty attracts beauty.
"Then you have no plan? Concerning marriage? You're just here with him?" Maria whispered. Her husband and John were adrift in business matters; not law or strict politics, just speculations revolving around the ripening harvest of fruit hanging from the forest of money trees sprouting up around the state. These matters bored Maria.
Amy laughed at the notion, openly. "You must be kidding!" She leaned over close to Maria's ear, spilling a tiny bit of champagne on the tablecloth. "Not with him, anyway. Yesterday I loathed him. he made me come with him tonight, you know."
"What?"
"Yes! Ordered me earlier in the week," Amy said.
Maria sat back, took a long drink, which Amy did also, and shot a glance at John. Then she set her glass back down and leaned forward close to Amy.
"Well, maybe it wasn't all that bad, huh? We got to meet. The Brown is the best. The champagne is even better than the best. He's handsome, too," she added. "What more could a woman ask for?"
Amy remained still for a moment, narrowing her eyes in thought, and then she jerked her head up, making her shining hair swirl across her cheeks.
"More champagne!" she blurted out. "You're absolutely right!"
"We thought she was not, sir, and considered ending the party--a fire, perhaps, or the bursting of pipes. but we decided to wait. And there was the matter of the other woman sitting across the room. A cement man was attempting to deflower her."
"A what?"
"Well, sir, while the other young woman..."
The clock ticked and the champagne continued to be delivered, along with gin and tonic, Joseph's other passion. He wasn't driving back to their home in Cherry Creek South, and so he pulled off his bow tie and dove in. Maria would end up pouring him into bed later, not bothering to unlace his shoes or undo his shirt and touch her lips to his stomach.
John drank little. Joseph drank a lot. And as for Amy, she quickly fell into a state of blissful relaxation and lifted her glass to match Maria's every swallow. Smiles turned to laughter and later to admissions spoken in whispers with delicate hands covering barely moving mouths. Of small intimacies and secret desires that neither woman would ever share with another, even in the sanctity of the confessional. Maria painted a wonderful portrait of a man like Joseph--someone like John Sampson--whose real affections might only be surpassed, in time, by his success.
"These creatures drink that chemical far in excess, sir. The young woman's mental faculties were badly impaired by the time she and her employer left the building. That was long after Timoteo and Gerard put out the lights in the chandelier, after those who remained had calmed down and stopped cursing."
To be continued...

So, here we are...

Hello
I'm Patrick. Glad you could make it.

I write. Herein find some things I've done; will be doing. Some of my interests will creep in--books I've read recently, and some far in the past. Things that inspire and move me. Words and ideas that captivate me and urge me to try doing as well.

I'll share my thoughts and invite you to share yours. Of course all the rules of civility apply here. Beyond that, post what you like; ask questions and share your interests, new finds in good literature and music, old favorites.

I'm working on the rewrite of my first novel, The Redemption of Marvin Fuster right now. Mid-summer I went back to it, determined to get it right. The first draft had its charming spots and (I think) incredible sections...the jail in Denver remodeled into a masterpiece of art. The Sistine Chapel created there by the inmates. But, it has to go in the second draft in favor of a more realistic plot. More character development; less sub-plots. Pared down prose.

Marvin is still irascible--on a quest to reverse his age and win a young woman's heart, the young beauty by the name of Amy. That's pretty much where the similarity to the first draft ends.

Writing is difficult. Period. It's balance and movement. and, as someone said, "scene in motion." You know, it takes a village, to steal a line from...who said that, lol?
I'll be talking to you, I hope. Soon.
Patrick