Is this what you wanted? Was this the plan the whole time? Im twisted, but I'm not gone - I see what you did with the bait and switch, the sign this line, the "yeah, but" of the whole thing. So, I'm strung up like a garter snake and you're sitting pretty. That seems about right. That seems like justice.
I wanted to get my hands in there and feel it, see? I wanted to smell the blood and have it stick to me. Call it testimony. Come on down, you're pew is waiting, and Jesus is gonna flay your ass - serve your body with your blood and call it epiphany.
You talk a good game, but you don't follow the rules. Most people let you get away with that like you're their stepson, impish, red-haired. I'm not cut from that cloth.
The cuts that go the deepest are the ones you can't wash off.
If you want to fuck my mother, really want it, I'm not going to stand in your way. Just make sure you get consent. She's a big girl - she can make her own incisions.
Take it down to the taxidermist. Have him stuff it up, put bright eyes on it. Have him pull the lips up into a smile. Put the trophy with the rest. Visitations start in fifteen minutes.
Dark. I love it. To me, garter snakes are pretty, which makes that line even better. But if I had to pick something that hit me extra hard from a writing and an emotional perspective, it would be one word: incisions. I love when an unexpected word choice changes what could have been a cliché, and come to think of it, that's one of your superpowers.ReplyDelete
Yes. Incisions. Damn. Excellent choice. And "The cuts that go the deepest are the ones you can't wash off."Delete
I love the horrific themes you’ve explored here. Either being strung up or flayed or suffering cuts, you don’t pull any of your punches. This is so very graphic and intense, perfect for the run in toward Halloween. Great writing, Dan!Delete
It is not so easy to get out of bed these days. These mornings, when I know the weather before I can even open my eyes, when I know if there will be rain because my left knee begins to whisper to me, then shout. Move a little before you try, the doctor says, but what does he know? He’s young enough to be my grandson. What does he know about old bones? I should stop with that talk, I know. I am not so old. My body, my bones have taken a beating, have seen a thousand deaths, but my soul? It is ancient. It crawls out from under its animal hides in a cave and stokes the fire and gathers tender plants with a baby strapped to its body, maybe two.ReplyDelete
So here I stay. For a while. Until I grow hungry. Until the call of the full bladder presses me into action. I move, like the little doctor said. Wiggle the toes. Rotate the foot. Like taking inventory—who is working today, who is calling in sick. The hands I save for last. Tiny movements with the fingers, with the wrists. This is what I fear losing the most. I am not as flexible as I once was, but that is not too much of a hardship. My mind, feh. I might be happier without it. But my hands. If I cannot draw or paint or cook, what good is my life? Go back to teaching, they say, if I can no longer be an artist. My granddaughter says. But I don’t know that I can. At one time, long ago, it was a calling. Shaping young hands, teaching about light and shadow, showing them how to bring the dullest of subjects to life, improvising using stubs of old pencils and chunks of charred wood when the Russian missiles were raining down and art supplies were a luxury.
I am only reminded of tragedy now whenever I think about going back to teaching. I see scared young faces drawing by candlelight, a lesson I invented to calm the children in the basement shelter.
All I want to see are good things now. My granddaughter’s beautiful face, fresh flowers, a composition surprising me as I work my charcoal across the page.
A new day.
I move my hands, my wrists, slowly, all the joints in my body. And then I rise.
And now we have the real and the grim, your imagery and unexpurgated sensory details bringing us in to the life as it’s lived by your narrative character. Age is a benefit that brings its own penalties, new lives and old ones co-existing in a world changed by war. This is as it is, I would think, the lives of hundreds of thousands made into an endurance event with little hope of improvement. This is an awesomely well-balanced piece of writing that resonates so strongly with me. Fabulous.Delete
“I think it’s hateful,” he said. “All these people are just waiting for me to die.” He flipped his hand to his brow, effecting a parody of fear. “Of course,” he went on, breaking into a grin. “I would be mortally offended if I was ignored.” He settled back into the chair, shrugging his shoulders until it fitted him best. He was both comedic and flamboyant but still obviously withholding the truths of himself. I would need to wait until his veneer of self-consciousness began to slip. There was much more to him than the pantomime character he loved to project.ReplyDelete
“Tell me what drew you into the arts,” I said. “It can’t have been what your parents expected you to do.”
He closed his eyes and smiled, considering his answer. I expected he’d been asked this question dozens of times. I was surprised he didn’t just reply, volleying his response back. Maybe this was just another layer of his deception, an act within an act, another persona nested inside the one he usually presented.
It would take more time for me to understand him better. I might never see him as he saw himself; that would require an intimacy that might never come.
I had an hour with him. Barely enough time to enjoy a coffee and catch up with a friend. We’d never met before; we were strangers, sharing little but this moment where our lives intersected.
Maybe I would get lucky. Maybe he'd be feeling generous. Maybe he would see something in me he liked.
“We were poor,” he said. “Proper poor. Nothing like most people experience.” He’d opened his eyes and had his hands clasped together in front of his chest. Almost as though he was praying.
“Ours was a Catholic family – with a capital ‘C’ at the beginning,” he went on. “We didn’t have a television. We barely had electricity. We had a coin-operated meter and a tin box filled with change. It was locked in a drawer and was only brought out when the lights failed. We learned to keep each other warm. There were enough of us to huddle together; mutual bodily heat is the best way to raise your temperature.”
He went on, describing the winters they’d endured. There were few luxuries then, his family surviving rather than thriving. His sisters had left their home almost as soon as they could marry. Instead of making things easier, as I'd have expected, it had made their lives progressively difficult; the little income they had dwindled as the remaining children grew up.
“We used to sit together in the dark with our blankets wrapped around us. I was the most imaginative. I used to make up stories and tell them to the others, waiting until the smallest ones were asleep. I used to love making my sisters shriek - Amy was the best one of them all. I could keep her awake until it was almost light, sometimes even until dawn. Nobody knows terror like a nine-year-old who’s been persuaded every corner’s teeming with demons.”
He'd progressed from there, writing down his stories. He’d taken them to school, delighted at the reception they got. His teachers had been quick to notice his talents, his extensive vocabulary and his sense of drama heightening his performances. He’d been the most popular boy in his year, the one everyone thought would succeed.
It hadn’t been a big surprise that he’d won a scholarship.
“And after that, things just happened. You could almost say it was fated. I became who I am as a consequence, strings of effects becoming causes that formed into chains. The person I am is the inevitable result of those dark, cold winters when I scared my sisters into sleepless nights. I was always a brute, filled with mischief.”
“And what of your sisters,” I asked. “What do they think of you now?”
He laughed, his face creasing into a smile.
“They love me, of course. Money makes everybody tolerable. Surely you already know that.”