out of the ashes

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Morning

This morning the weak blue sky is inhabited by tufts of clouds rolling northwest. It's cool, but not frigid. I think back on the years in Denver. The gray landscape, the same sky--a deeper blue, though. Frozen. I'm thankful I live here in southern California where a hoodie replaces an overcoat.
I'm writing, trying to place myself in the scene, my mind's eye fixed on moving the plot forward with interest, now. I can do this. I think I can. I want to, anyway.

I rewrote the opening of Thirty-three. What do you think? John Delilah will be arriving soon, Amy at his side. That meeting--the meeting of the key players--is the thrust of the chapter. Hail Mary...
It's an unedited first draft. Rough, I know. But, what do you think? What do you think?


Thirty-three

Maribeth arrived at the loft every morning at nine to check on him, to nurse Marvin back to some semblance of health and mental stability. Along with shopping bags filled with wholesome food that she prepared in John’s kitchen, she brought him clean clothing, and she laundered that which was dirty. She brought him books—the remainder of those left behind—and she brought him his old blackboard wiped clean for a fresh start, a box of white chalk, and his computer.
Without the debilitating effects of alcohol, and with his friend’s constant care, Marvin began to recover within days. The fog and confusion lifted, slowly at first, but then exponentially as the days slipped by and his drive to continue solving the riddle of his genes resurfaced.
Maribeth stood at the sink after breakfast one afternoon, humming a popular song, rinsing the plates and silver from lunch. Marvin sat quietly on the sofa, hands resting in his lap, in front of the west-facing cathedral of glass. He stared blankly at the folds in the sheers, deep in thought, mentally closing the gaps for the hundredth time in the sequence of centromeres in his own body. He visualized them, watched as they danced into view and then as quickly flew away into the thick fog, taking the proteins along with them. But he had finally identified the thousands of proteins attached to the chromosomes, or so he was certain. Or so he hoped. Now it came down to the proper mix. Easier to specify than the individual make up of each grain of sand on a long beach.
He blinked and shook the fog away.
“I’ve got it, Mare,” he said.
She dropped the silver in her hand into the basket of the dishwasher and turned her head to look across the room at her revived genius. Beyond the sofa at the window it seemed a shadowy figure stood, facing Marvin, and then it disappeared into the translucent material of the curtains, waving a cloudy hand across the room as it did.
“Got what?” she asked.
Marvin left his place on the sofa and walked across the room to the kitchen. He placed a hand into the pocket of his sport coat as he walked toward her, a contented smile on his face. His hair lay brushed and neat, still, except for a small patch above his ear that had been raked through by his fingers during his storm of thinking moments earlier.
He stopped inches away from her and gazed into her eyes, flickering thoughts of gratitude mixed with a strange adoration suddenly bombarding him. Where would he be right now had she not sought him out and lifted him back to life? Out of jail, certainly. Alone. Drunk or dead, rotting beneath the dock in his pit. But alone, and a complete failure.
“I love you, Maribeth,” he almost whispered.
The comment shocked her visibly. She very slowly raised a hand and pushed a strand of hair back behind her ear. This didn’t sound like the statement of a beloved friend to her, more like an admission by someone overcome with the seizure of a romantic notion. She did not respond. She did not blink. She didn’t move, save for a barely noticeable tremble. She waited.
Marvin placed his hands on her cheeks, tilted his weathered, wrinkled face a tiny bit as he surveyed the fineness of her features. His eyes flicked right and left, up and down.
“Where would I be without you? I owe you my life and my sanity.” He stopped for a moment, gathering the words he wanted to say. “It’s as though fate threw you into my path…or me into yours, and because of it I’m there. I have succeeded! What thousands of others have only dreamed of, I have accomplished. You made it all possible. You did, you know. I love you so.” He drew her forward and kissed her forehead. “Thank you, dear Maribeth.”
Maribeth breathed a sigh of tentative relief. Opening her eyes and looking up into his face she saw someone quite different than the crazy old man, however—a glimmer of youthfulness smiling down at her. The ageless soul inside every living creature. His wrinkles and aged skin were there, but…She wondered about fate, and for the first time wondered, too, about her real place in all of this.
“What do you mean, you’ve succeeded?” she said at last.
“Come! Come see what I have,” he said, taking her by the hand and leading her into the bedroom.

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