Friday, 27 November 2009

The Island 1

Tabulae mundi mihi




The Island 1



Nexis Pas

© 2009



For me, the maps of the world start with a place—a village called Munfrees along the northwestern coast of Donegal.

Munfrees lies at the end of a narrow road extending south off the N54. The road runs down the center of a nameless uninhabited valley between craggy hills covered with low-growing vegetation. In the late summer when the gorse and furze are in bloom, the valley becomes spotted with colour. No one would call it Eden, but surely it is a remnant of another primeval garden, one without apples or serpents. At least I find it so. Perhaps I am romanticising. Most, I suspect, see a barren landscape devoid of charm or beauty.


The road parallels a rocky stream bed. Usually only a trickle of water flows in it, almost hidden beneath the boulders, silent threads of water oozing between the rocks and the grasses that force their way up between them. Occasionally a storm will fill the stream for a few minutes, and the water will briefly surge noisily down the valley, a passing tempest. But overt drama is rare in this corner of the world.


Eighteen kilometres above the junction with the N54, the road climbs towards the head of the valley in a series of sharp hairpin bends. At the top of the hill, the vista suddenly opens to a green expanse perhaps fifteen kilometres wide and three kilometres deep extending upward to the crests of the hills that shelter that landbound island. In the relatively level area between the sea and the hills, stone fences mark the borders of the fields and lines of bushes the courses of the few streams.


Beyond the slate outcroppings that form the shore, the Atlantic appears grey or blue or green, depending on the weather. There are no islands offshore. The ocean extends unbroken to the horizon. A limitless expanse of water and sky facing a strip of land limited on all sides by boundaries.


The village of Munfrees is located on a shallow inlet near the north end of the valley. Perhaps seventy people live in the valley year around now. There are a few more who live elsewhere but own houses there and visit from time to time.


What I most remember of my childhood there was the freedom. I rose early and completed my lessons for the day as quickly as I could. Unless the weather were such to threaten serious physical harm, I was encouraged to spend the rest of the day roaming in order to give my mother and Alyce quiet to work. As long as I returned home in time for supper and didn’t get too dirty or tear my clothes too badly, I was allowed to roam where I wished. And I did. I followed the thin pathway that ran between the shore and the stone fences of the fields. I climbed the hills. I investigated every bothy in the fields. I inventoried every sheep and lamb in each of the fields. I knew every dog, every cat. They often joined me on my rambles, the chance of accompanying a fellow rover outweighing the fortuitous ties of ownership.


When the tide was out, I walked the narrow beach, investigating tidepools and gathering driftwood and piling it up above the tideline to dry. That was my job as it were—helping to find wood to feed the kitchen fires. Everyone who could did that. Wood and fuel were too scarce to waste. The piles of wood were there for everyone. You took what you needed and no more. Now that the electricity has come, most of us have electric stoves and heaters. I still pile up the driftwood, though, when I am out walking. Perhaps someone needs it.


One of my favourite places was a shallow cove of land high in the hills. It was sheltered on the three landward sides and open toward the sea. It was a relatively warm spot when the afternoon sun was shining on it. A flat boulder formed a natural bench. It had to be approached from above, along a narrow ledge that even as a small boy I could negotiate only by grasping the low trunks of the tough bushes rooted in the hillside. A scree of small rounded rocks covered the slope below it. My many attempts to walk up that slope always ended in defeat. I would succeed in gaining perhaps twenty feet before the rocks gave way beneath my feet and I slid gently back down the hill, my feet sinking into the pebbles as I rode the rockslide downward. That was part of the game. There was a danger, at least I thought so, that the entire slope would give way and I would be propelled backward and then buried beneath a rockfall. The threat itself posed a certain attraction, although I was sure it would never happen to me. I couldn’t imagine that that land would harm me. Danger was an abstraction for adults to brandish as a threat to keep one from exploring. More fools they to believe in it. Boys know better than to worry.


I think I was among the few ever to have visited that place. Certainly there were no signs of other wayfarers. A straying sheep might draw a farmer into the hills but that seldom happened. I suppose that was another of its attractions—the knowledge that I was not only alone but also unobserved.


From that height, I could see far out over the ocean and watch the waves move slowly toward the land. From the shore the sea might appear flat and calm. But from the hills, the passage of each swell was visible as a broad band of energy moving through the water lifted the ocean. Out at sea the wave was always straight, but as it neared the shore, it would curve as it began to fit itself to the demands of the shoaling land.


I learned to read the signs of distant storms through the larger waves. Long before the clouds appeared on the horizon, the ocean would be roiled. And then a smudge of grey, often imagined before I could actually see it, would blur that almost invisible line between water and sky. The front of the storm would approach like a wall upon the water. Only when it drew within a few miles of the land would the clouds appear separate from the water. I grew skilled in estimating if and when I had to leave the hills and return home in time to avoid a soaking.


From late autumn until early spring, that coast is frequently covered by low-lying rain clouds and fogs, trapped by the hills that surround the valley. The route to my perch in the hills led upward through the clouds. As I entered the clouds, they would close around me. Nothing beyond a few feet would be visible. A bush that marked a familiar landmark on the path would remain hidden until I was almost upon it, and then it would emerge suddenly, swathed in the grey mist. Sometimes even my secret place would be in the clouds, and on those days I abandoned it and moved higher. Eventually the clouds would begin to thin. The light would begin to grow, the mist to break up into patches. I would emerge into the sunlight, surrounded by the crests of the hills. Alyce often set me writing assignments. “Describe what you feel like when you stand on the shore.” “Describe what you saw on your walk yesterday.” “Write down the conversation you had with Mr Ahern about his dog. Remember to tell us how he looked and what you were thinking.” And I would comply by describing my investigations of the tidal pools or the seal I had seen hunting close to the shore or the news about Mr Ahern’s dog. But I never told her about that solitude above the clouds—or the magic that happened there. Those were mine.


Occasionally I was rewarded with the sight of a ship near the horizon. Bad weather in the North Atlantic sometimes forced ships passing to and from the Baltic closer to the land, where they inspired a boy’s rambles further afield than his legs could carry him.


I also liked to watch the birds from above. The hawks would drift in the sky below me, barely moving their wings as they floated on the currents of air, tilting from side to side. And they would fold their wings and plunge downward, only to rise a few seconds later, their talons carrying the vole or rat they had snatched from the ground. Once, in early autumn, I saw a flock of swifts, flying in formation. There must have been several hundred of them. They were moving very rapidly, and at some unheard signal, all of them would shift direction simultaneously. Looking back on it, I suppose they were feeding on insects I could not see, but at the time they seemed to be flying for the sheer joy of it. They filled the air for a half hour of wonder and then suddenly they ceased being a flock and flew off separately.


My perch also allowed me to watch Munfrees and the villagers. The inhabitants of that valley followed set daily routines. The front sitting rooms of the better off might have a clock that chimed the quarter hours and the hours, but they were more ornamental than utilitarian. The demands of the land, of the animals that lived on it, the daily and weekly routines of living—those were stricter taskmasters than any closely timed production line.


So much has changed since my youth half a century ago. Many of the fields have been abandoned. The stone fences remain, but even they are decaying. No one walks the land now and resets the stones that have fallen. I try sometimes to lift a rock back into place, but I lack the eye to see the natural cradle. Instead of resting securely in place, my stones totter and rock. My efforts do not survive the first frost, I fear.


The many vacant houses in the village bear witness to Munfrees’s biggest export—people. For generations, the more ambitious young people left, for Dublin or Belfast, for England, many of them for America or Australia. They were navvies, maids, labourers. The village grew old. There are no children now. Even though I am in my sixties, I am still known as the Brennan ‘boy’. Occasionally I am promoted to ‘lad’. In comparison to most of the inhabitants, I am young. I am one of the few not dependent on the old-age pension to survive.


I spend most of the year here now. The solitude and quiet suit me. The ocean is an endless screen for the stories in my mind. My writing flourishes on them, this chance inheritance that contrasts so strongly with the urban life in my books.


The village is not cut off, however. Especially during the summer, there are many visitors, the great-grandchildren and the great-great-grandchildren of those who left. Munfrees’ emigrants had so many descendents, and so many seem to feel a need to come here. I wonder what stories of Munfrees have been passed down in these families. Did those who left speak of a paradise at the end of a narrow road through a dry valley, a green garden between the hills and the sea? What impossible dream of a lost home draws these people back to their ancestral source? From elsewhere in Ireland, from England and Scotland, from the States, even from Australia and New Zealand, they come.


Until a few years ago, our visitors’ disappointment was all too apparent. They would park in front of the old quay and emerge stiffly from their hired cars. They would look around and ask if there was anyone named Cullen left in the village. Was there anywhere they could find information on a Michael Brady and his wife Mary, maiden name unknown, who left in 1849? When we told them no, they would shrug and then walk around for a time, taking pictures of themselves in front of our houses, before climbing back into their car and leaving. The occasional visitor might find someone with the same surname and claim a lost kinship, but the local accent usually defeated their attempts at communication.


I suspect our greatest offence in their eyes, however, was the smell. We were not then a village of bathers. We were not unwashed, but the fitful water supply and the lack of means to heat it made a daily bath out of the question. We were perhaps more neglectful of the laundry than all these visitors, and some of the villagers wore the same clothes for weeks between washings. We were also somewhat behind the times in sanitary facilities and other ‘mod cons’. Every house had a bog out the back, and we lived more familiarly with sheep and other animals than most inhabitants of cities.


Perhaps it was the poverty that offended them—these successful offspring of our emigrants. Their shocked looks as they emerged from their cars and took in the dilapidation of the village made the source of their disgust evident. Nor did the native inhabitants of the village encourage them to a better view of Munfries. As soon as one of the villagers spoke, the lack of access to medical and dental care was visible in the endless racking coughs and the chipped and misaligned teeth. Poverty and bad nutrition breed a special kind of thinness. There were many whose bodies bore witness to a lifetime of skimping on food but not on cigarettes and alcohol. But what did our visitors expect to see? Did they think their ancestors were different? If their ancestors had been rich and Munfrees properous, would they have left?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Lenition 1


Lenition





Nexis Pas



© 2009 by the author




Lenny is a liar. He lies about everything. When opportunity knocks, he lies. When it doesn’t knock, he lies. He lies about important things. He lies about trivial things. He lies because he enjoys lying. And he is a good liar. Even his closest friends believe the fictitious history he has concocted about himself. Sometimes Lenny himself forgets that that history is a lie. He even lies for a living.



Lenny began lying at the age of four. His parents believed in reading to children, and even before Lenny had started school, he had had dozens of stories read to him and seen hundreds more on television. He was an imaginative child surrounded by stories. Small wonder, then, that he began to tell them. All the children in the stories had friends. It seemed only reasonable to Lenny that he should have one too.



There was no one his age in the neighbourhood. Even if there had been, his mother would have carefully screened his playmates. The back garden was large and fenced in. He was allowed to play there on his own as long as he always came when one of his parents called. At the bottom of the garden in a sunny area was a paved patio, with chairs and a metal table with a sun shade. His mother encouraged him to play there because she could watch him from the back windows of the house. She knew that it was important for children to get plenty of fresh air and to be physically active. On sunny days, she piled the toys she permitted Lenny to take outside into his wagon and told him to wheel it down to the patio and play. But always with admonitions. ‘Don’t sit on the ground, darling. You don’t want to get your trousers dirty.’ ‘Don’t go hunting for bugs again, darling. They’ll bite you.’ ‘Don’t run about, darling. You might fall and hurt yourself.’



One day, after the twentieth circuit of the patio pulling his Paddington Bear in the wagon, Lenny found himself wishing for more. He pushed one of the chairs back from the table and climbed into the seat. He bent his legs at the knees and knelt with his calves folded flat against the seat of the chair and his feet protruding out the back. He rested an arm on the table and lay his cheek on it, his chin almost touching the surface of the table and his fair hair falling to one side. With his free hand he idly ran a small truck back and forth along the table.



‘What are you doing?’



Lenny looked up at the interruption. A boy his own age and size stood at the edge of the patio. He was dressed like Paddington Bear. ‘Nothing. Who are you?’



‘Jimmy. What’s your name?’



‘Leonard. Why are you dressed like Paddington Bear?’



The small boy pulled out a chair and sat down opposite him. He shrugged. ‘It’s what I wore today, innit it?’ Jimmy had a very dirty face, and his fingernails weren’t clean.



‘Doesn’t your mother make you wash your face and hands?’



‘She would if she could catch me. But I snucked away while she wasn’t looking.’



‘Where do you live?’



In answer Jimmy pointed a finger at a vague distance. ‘Over there. In a small cottage in the forest. With a dog and a duck. The duck’s name is Clarence, and I call the dog Bill. But that’s not his real name. That’s a secret. And a big green frog. And a black and white horse. Me da’s a fireman, and me mam’s a . . . ’ Jimmy paused, uncertain what his mother might be.



‘Your mum could be a fairy princess.’



Jimmy’s lips curled in disdain. ‘That’s stupid, Lenny.’



‘Maybe a spaceman.’



‘Yeah, a spaceman. She flies to the moon. That’s why she doesn’t have time to wash my face and hands. She’s busy flying to the moon. And it’s why I get to eat chocolates all the time. She brings them back from the moon as a present just for me, and I don’t have to share them, unless I want. I could share them with you if I wanted. Or maybe I’ll eat them all myself.’ Jimmy swung his feet up and down, his red wellies thudding against the underside of the table.



‘I’m not supposed to kick the furniture.’



‘Neither am I,’ said Jimmy. And he grinned very wickedly.



Jimmy was perhaps not the best playmate for Lenny. He seemed free to do all the things that Lenny’s parents forbade him to do. He jumped out of trees imitating an airplane and plummeted to earth. He sped about the patio in a fast-moving car, in blithe disregard of his own safety. He was quite proud of the scabs on his knees and picked at them and pulled them off to show Lenny instead of letting them heal properly. He dug holes in the ground and filled them with water. His clothes became smeared with mud in the process. He tore the knees of his trousers and he lost his hat frequently. He never ate anything that was good for him. He went behind the bushes when he had to wee instead of walking up to the house and using the toilet off the kitchen. Jimmy was Lenny’s hero. He was very real to Lenny.



******



‘Who are you talking to, darling?’ Lenny’s mother sat the plate with the apple slices and grapes and the glass of milk on the table.



‘Jimmy.’



‘Who’s Jimmy?’



‘He’s my friend.’ Lenny turned around to point at Jimmy but his friend had faded away. ‘He’s gone. He must have gone home.’



‘And where does Jimmy live?’



‘In the forest. Over there. He has a duck. Its name is Clarence, and a black and white horse. And his da’s a fireman and his mam’s a spaceman. She brings him chocolates from the moon, and . . .’



‘Don’t say “da” and “mam”, darling. It’s “father” and “mother”. Wherever do you hear such words?’



‘They say them on the telly.’



‘Television, darling. And if you’re learning words like that from the television, we’ll have to take more care about what you watch. Are you warm enough? It’s getting chilly. Let’s pick your toys up and go back inside the house. You can eat your snack at the kitchen table and then play in the sitting room until your father comes home.’



*****



‘Leonard has an imaginary playmate now. I overheard him talking to his “friend Jimmy” in the garden. I wonder if we should take him to see a doctor.’ Lenny’s mother didn’t bother to lower her voice. She was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Lenny stopped paging through the picture book of birds that his mother had given him to occupy his time. He sat very still and listened carefully.



‘It’s just a stage,’ Lenny’s father said. ‘All kids have imaginary playmates. Do you want me to pour you a glass of wine as well?’



‘No. I’ll wait until later. I need to get this in the oven. I’m sure this imaginary playmate’s not healthy. Perhaps you should talk with Leonard.’



Lenny heard his father sigh. A short time later, his father came into the sitting room and sat down. ‘How are you doing, champ?’



‘Fine.’ Lenny turned a page in his book.



‘What are you reading?’



Lenny picked the book off the floor with both hands and held the cover side toward his father.



‘Is that a good book?’



‘I guess so. It’s about birds.’



‘Why don’t you put it down for a minute and come sit by me.’ Lenny’s father patted the cushion of the sofa beside himself.



Lenny carefully closed the book and sat it squarely on a table. He took a seat gingerly beside his father, barely resting his buttocks on the edge of the sofa. His father put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it briefly. ‘What did you do today?’



Lenny shrugged. ‘I played outside until Mother said it was too cold.’



‘Your mother tells me that you were playing with someone.’



‘With Jimmy. He’s my friend. He has a horse and a dog.’



‘Both a horse and a dog. Jimmy must be very lucky.’



Lenny nodded his head vigorously. ‘And he gets to do whatever he wants. His parents let him do what he wants.’



‘Do they? Well, I’m sure that sounds good, Leonard, but sometimes little boys need their parents to guide them.’



‘But . . .’



‘Now, no buts. And there isn’t really a Jimmy, is there? You mustn’t lie to your mother. It worries her. And you must never worry your mother, Leonard. Let’s hear no more of this nonsense. Now promise me that you’ll forget all about this Jimmy.’



Lenny looked guilelessly at his father. With his blue eyes and blond hair and fair complexion, he could have posed for cherub. ‘But he’s just a story. Like in my books. He’s just a story I made up. I wasn’t lying. I wasn’t. I was just pretending. I’m sorry if I worried Mother.’



‘That’s better. I’m glad to see that you know the difference between pretending and the truth, Leonard. Pretending is fine for people who write stories, but it doesn’t do for the rest of us. Now why don’t you read your book until dinner is ready.’ Lenny’s father turned away and picked up the newspaper.



Lenny and Jimmy talked about it later that night when they were lying in bed together. Jimmy had climbed up the tree beside the house and crawled in the bedroom window. It was raining outside, and his boots were quite muddy. He didn’t bother to take them off before he got into bed with Lenny. Lenny discovered they didn’t even have to whisper. They could hear each other inside their heads.



‘You did good. Pretending I’m just a story. Now we can be together for ever and ever. And no one will ever bother us again.’ Jimmy put his arms around Lenny’s shoulders and hugged him tightly, like his grandmother did, but it was much nicer with Jimmy because Jimmy wasn’t wearing a lot of perfume that made Lenny’s eyes itch. He smelled comfortably of damp leaves and wet earth. It made Lenny feel very safe and secure, and he soon went to sleep.



And that was Lenny’s first lesson in lying. His parents thought they had helped Lenny see the difference between lying and reality. Instead they had taught him how to dissemble to authority. One gave the authorities the answer they wanted to hear, not what was true. In the years to come, it would become Lenny’s standard method of dealing with his parents, his teachers, and other adults who crossed his path. He was free to pursue a rich inner life as long as took care to make his outer life conform to the proprieties.






Thursday, 29 October 2009

All That Jazz


All That Jazz: The Runcible Lad 2

Nexis Pas

© 2009

(With thanks to Anonymous for the title and the thoughts that ensued)


The half of a mobile phone conversation overheard on a bus.


“No, I can’t tonight. I have to get home. Henry and me are having a six months’ anniversary.”


“It’s just six months since six months ago. We just decided last night that it was time to celebrate another anniversary.”


“Of course, it’s a real anniversary. We were together six months ago today, and that’s reason enough. Who said anniversaries have to be only on dates like weddings and birthdays? There aren’t enough of those for us to celebrate. So we find other reasons.”


“No, no plans. It’s just an evening for the two of us. We turn off the phones and wouldn’t answer the door if anyone knocked. Henry’s buying takeaway at that kebab shop in the square. We found a movie we want to watch. Later we’ll take the dog for a walk and when we get back, we’ll go to bed. That’s all.”


“Of course, it’s ordinary. It’s being together that makes the ordinary special. It isn’t what you do. It’s the fact that you do it together that makes it special.”


“I suppose I am becoming an old married man. There are worse things I could be. I just got lucky and found someone who makes me want to hurry home from work. Wait until you find someone like Henry and then you’ll understand what it’s like.”


“No, we’re not perfect. We have fights. My Nan told me to expect that. When I told her that Henry and me were getting married, she said that she supposed two men wouldn’t be any different than a man and a woman. There were going to be arguments, and that you just had to remember that you would survive them.”


“Well, sometimes it’s comfortable to have someone you can have a fight with and not worry that it’s going to be the end of everything. Like when you’ve have a bad day at work and need to let off steam. Henry knows I have a temper. I’m not saying it’s right for me to get angry at him, but he knows when I’m angry at him and when I’m just shouting at him because I’m angry at someone else. Then he just asks me what’s wrong, and I tell him and then I apologise for shouting at him, and he gives me a hug and a kiss and says ‘It’s all right, lad’. And it usually is by the time he gets through kissing me. I do the same for him when he’s mad at the world.”


“Maybe. If we’re in the mood. If not tonight, then tomorrow morning or some other time. There’s no need to rush things if we’re not in the mood. It’s not like when I was single and going out on Friday night and having to get off just because I knew there wouldn’t be another night when I could get out.”


“No, it’s not that. It’s just that being together can be just as satisfying. It’s like waking up in the morning and finding Henry’s arms wrapped around me or his head resting on my shoulder. That’s just so wonderful. And knowing that you don’t have to do anything but cuddle, that makes it wonderful too.”


“I don’t know if it’s what I always wanted. It’s what I was lucky enough to find, and I’m glad I found it so soon.”


“No, I still look. It’s just that now I point the good ones out to Henry. And he says ‘Hmmm, yes’ or maybe ‘Hey Lad, it’s glasses you’re needing now.’ ”


“No, why would I go out to eat a burger when I have steak at home? Oh, here’s my stop.”

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Angel of _________________



The Angel of ______________

Nexis Pas
© 2009 by the author
Nexis Pas asserts to moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

Basic idea. An angel on a mission to destroy a demon. Demon is tempting humans and angel is out to prevent that. Not an epic battle, however, contest has to be over something simple and everyday. Trivial and banal.

Title: The Angel of Golders Green? Ok, but haven’t been there in years. Check to see if there is a website or Google Earth street views. Probably better not to use an actual location, will just get more emails from doryphores about my errors. The Angel of Grantham Green? Is there a Grantham Green? Oops--lots of them. No wonder name was familiar. Granmer Green? Too close to Grammar? Grandmere? Graston Green? Now I’m stuck on Something Green. Could get something else but then would have to re-envision opening scene of discovery in park. Use what I remember of Golders Green Park but give it some other name.

The Angel: terrifying, can’t be modern wishy-washy saint. Needs to be warrior angel. Apparently amoral, indifferent at first, but open to temptation. (What would tempt an angel? Money is irrelevant. Sex implausible. Power? The prospect of doing good? Has to choose between defeating the demon and saving the world? An angel would be tempted by an opportunity of doing good.) Both angel and demon immortal, so defeat has to involve destruction of who they are, rather than death.

The Demon: Like Paul this morning. Foul mood. Demon has wings, so fowl mood? Don’t go there. Demon has taken on human guise. Attractive. Personable. Tempter.

Opening: discovery of angel’s wings. From human perspective. Why would angel leave wings behind? Who would discover wings? A grounds man would be the first person in the park in the morning. Discoverer parallels the sort of person who is object of demon’s temptations. Joined by someone—boss?—who is more demonic. Beginning implants suggestion of angel vs. demon through the two workers. Wings near some place that suggests a contest, a game.

They found the angel’s wings in __________ Green Park, near the tennis courts. The grounds men had arrived at 6:00 to prepare the park to open. Bob Liskom, who began each morning by redrawing the lines on the grass courts, was the first to see the wings. He thought it was a new sculpture. The tops of the wings rose about six feet into the air, even with lower ends bent flat against the ground. The two wings were connected halfway up by an arched, bone-like structure. His first impression was that the feathers on the sculpture were incredibly detailed and lifelike. It wasn’t until he stepped closer and touched them that he realized that the wings were indeed made of feathers.{less description of wings and more focus on L’s reaction to them}

Bob found that he enjoyed touching the feathers. They were silky and smooth beneath his fingers. They smelled fresh. It wasn’t a perfume, just a scent of cleanliness in the air. The air whispered with a faint musical harmony as he stroked the wings. More here to make him a sympathetic character, drawn to good (wings = sign of goodness). Wings make him think of his family? Rings wife on his mobile and tells her to bring the children over to see them?

‘What the bloody hell is that? Who put that here? If this is your idea of a joke, Bob Liskom, you can take that ruddy thing out of here. And you can take yourself out of here as well.’ The head ground man’s shout could be heard from a hundred feet off. Mr William ‘Bull’ Garret charged down the hill from the animal pens for the children’s petting zoo, his stubby legs windmilling, a fist pummelling the air. {nasty man, prone to anger, provokes others to reproduce his own behaviour}

His shouts attracted the attention of several other workers, and soon the wings were surrounded by a crowd. ‘They were here when I got here,” Bob explained to everyone who would listen. ‘Someone must have climbed over the fence and left them here.’ {need more interaction between the two men here. When Garret discovers the wings are real feathers, he tries to remove them. He doesn’t react to them in the same way the others do. No sense of wonder, no attraction to them.}

{much of the following will appear later in the story, if at all. Toward the end, when the angel returns to repossess his wings. Just background for me for now. But move more quickly to angel here}There was much speculation about the wings over the next several weeks. The television crews arrived with their cameras and reporters, and spoke with Bull Garret and Bob Liskom. The morning talk show hosts interviewed scientists and ornithologists. Websites were devoted to the subject of the wings. No one had an answer. ‘A sign of the end of the world.’ ‘An alien being.’ ‘A freak of nature.’ ‘A monster.’ ‘An elaborate hoax.’

The wings began to attract large crowds. Lines of sightseers formed daily from the gate on Park Hill Road to the wings. A path was quickly beaten over the once-immaculate grass of the park, and the ground was churned into mud. The park filled with litter, discarded food wrappers, cigarette butts. Oddly, however, the wings remained immaculate, no matter how many children with grubby hands touched them, no matter how many . . .

The scientists complained that their studies of the wings were being interrupted. The tennis players grumbled they couldn’t get to the courts, and a petition was circulated to have the wings moved, ‘to a safer location’ said the scientists, ‘out of here’ said the tennis players. The local council looked into the matter, sent a committee to investigate, and decided that the wings would be moved to the ___________ Green museum.

On the day appointed for the move, the lorry arrived early in the morning. The crew readied their winches and the cart. They wrapped the wings in padded blankets and tied them securely. The foreman looped a chain around the central arch of the wings. The winch man slowly began turning the drum of the winch.

A sigh rustled the leaves of the trees. The blankets fell to the ground, and the links of the chain dissolved. After several attempts, the workers gave up and reported back that the wings would not be moved. Over the next week, other means were tried, but to no avail.

Finally the council concluded that the wings could not be moved. The path was paved and a pavilion was built over the wings. A low fence was erected to keep visitors from touching the wings, and guards were hired to discourage the curious. Public access was restricted to the afternoon to allow the scientists to conduct their researches. A larger wall was built to direct the crowds away from the tennis courts.

{move this bit earlier}
The angel did not expect to be gone long. In celestial reckoning, his mission should have taken only a few moments. When he wasn’t flying around heaven, the wings were an encumbrance, and the out-of-the-way spot behind the tennis courts in the deserted park had seemed the best place to leave them. It was but a second’s work to shrug them off and stride forth clothed only in the uncreated light.{Is this a plausible reason for leaving wings. Will anyone know what the uncreated light is?} Anyone on the streets of Whatever Green at that hour of the morning would have sensed only an odd tremor in the air, a shimmering at the edge of one’s eyes.

The angel was not one of the benevolent orders of angels. He was one of the avengers, a member of the fiery troop who had barred the gates of Eden when Adam and Eve were expelled. A terrible angel. A bringer of plagues and locusts. Of death and destruction. {has to be a terrifying figure. Almost demonic in his majesty. The demon and the angel are closer to each other than to human beings}



******




‘Hello. Can I come in? I heard you pacing about and I thought it might be all right to interrupt.’


‘Sure. I need a break. I’m just sketching out a new story. How are you doing? Are you feeling better?’


‘Yeah. Look, um, I’m sorry about this morning. I didn’t mean to shout at you like that.’


‘Well, I was a bit put off at first. I know I’m more cheerful than you in the morning and I can be annoying, but it was an overreaction to the provocation. Then after you left, and I calmed down, I thought about it and realised that my perkiness wasn’t the real cause of your anger. In any case, I gave as good as I was getting.’


‘Yes, you did. In fact, I would say you gave better than you were getting.’


‘Hey, I work with words. You’re never going to win an argument with me.’


‘Oh, I’ve won a few. Just not with words.’


‘Well, you have an unfair advantage, what with that sexy body of yours, and the way you always smell of chocolate. I can’t resist either. The temptation is too great. And what are you hiding behind your back?’


‘I brought you a treat as a peace offering. It’s an idea I had this morning. It’s a triple espresso butter cream rolled in hazelnut grenache and covered with dark chocolate. Now that it’s getting colder, I thought something more substantial and stronger flavoured would sell well in the shop.’


‘Oh, that sounds so sinful. Two of my favourites—coffee and chocolate.’


‘I know. I was thinking of you when the idea came to me. Here, taste it.’


‘Mmmmh.’


‘So what do you think?’


‘That was a moan of pleasure.’


‘But more restrained than your usual moans of pleasure.’


‘Those moans have other causes. But, then, all my moans of pleasures are caused by you, come to think of it. Let me try again. Mmmmmmmmmmmmh.’


‘That good?’


‘That good! It will be another winner. Can I have another? After this morning, you owe me more than one chocolate.’


‘Not now. You’ll get fat.’


‘Why did I have to take up with a chocolatier who is concerned about my weight?’


‘One chocolate a day is healthy, two are fattening.’


‘If I were writing this scene up, at this point I would have the character heave an enormous sigh of disappointment. And you would be the evil tempter. “Have a chocolate, my dear. But just the one.” Lust, gluttony, avarice—three deadly sins for the price of one chocolate. Soooooo—what was the real cause of the outburst this morning? Do you want to talk about it?’


‘Oh, I’m worried about the shop. With the economy and all, it’s not doing well. People are more cautious about spending. If they want chocolates, they can buy something cheaper.’


‘How bad are things?’


‘I may have to let one of the women who works at the counter go. I can’t let Marcy or Dev leave, because there have to be three of us to make enough chocolates to keep the shop going.’


‘I could help out. I’m as capable of waiting on customers as the average school-leaver. And you could pay me in chocolates.’


‘You have your own work. And you would eat more in chocolates than the hourly rate for counter help.’


‘Hmm. Curses. Foiled again. You’re getting to know me too well.’


‘Maybe. I was thinking about it. Maybe that was one of the causes of my outburst this morning.’


‘What?’


‘That I know I can get mad and have an argument with you and not risk having you run away. Not all the time, but occasionally I can let off steam with you, and then we can make up and it will be better.’


‘You mean that it’s safe for the two of us to argue sometimes.’


‘Yeah. I shouldn’t do it. But I felt a lot better this morning after I stormed out of here. I was a lot calmer and I could think about the future without feeling sick.’


‘So are you saying that we should have blow-ups from time to time? We could also talk about our problems, you know.’


‘I know. But it felt good to shout. And you’ve done the same thing to me.’


‘Never.’


‘Yes, remember that time you were having all the problems with that editor who was changing one of your stories. You were very irritable for a week.’


‘Oh, that. Yes, well, there was that. I was also channelling one of the characters in the story and he was a very angry man.’


‘That’s what makes it exciting to live with you. I never know who is going to be here when I get home.’


‘Do I do that often? Acting out one of my characters?’


‘Yes.’


‘Well, I’m no saint, am I?


‘No, but then I’m not either. And we’re neither of us devils. And now I should let you get back to your work. How’s it coming.’


‘I’m just getting started with this one. I’m still roughing it in. It’s about an angel who’s come to earth on a mission.’


‘Oh, it’s autobiographical then. I thought you had a rule against writing about yourself.’


‘Flatterer.’


‘Mmmm. Your lips taste of chocolate. If I’m any judge, it’s 92 percent dark Madagascar chocolate. One of my favourites. We’ll make time for more taste tests later. You have to get back to work. Supper in about three hours?’


*******


The angel was not one of the benevolent orders of angels. He was one of the avengers, a member of the fiery troop who had barred the gates of Eden when Adam and Eve were expelled. A terrible angel. A bringer of plagues and locusts. Of death and destruction. {has to be a terrifying figure. Almost demonic in his majesty. The demon and the angel are closer to each other than to human beings}

or--
The angel is a member of one of the benevolent orders. He discovers someone who lives in the shadow of grace and makes love to him. They live together for the human’s lifetime. Then the angel recovers his wings and leaves. ‘In the Grace of Shadows’--maybe that for a title?

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Good Luck Charm

The Good Luck Charm

Nexis Pas

© 2009 by the author.




‘You see that young man in the dark red knit shirt who’s waiting for an order at the bar?’

‘Oh, wow, what a stunner.’

‘He’s my good luck charm.’

‘Your what?’

‘My good luck charm. He rides the bus in the morning two or three times a month. He always sits on the bench near the front along the side of the bus. You know the loudmouth I’ve told you about who gets on at my stop—he usually sits there. So my good luck charm forces that oaf to take another seat, out of the range of my vision, which is a great plus. He’s much easier on the eyes in the morning.’

‘So that makes him your good luck charm?’

‘No. That’s because of what happened one of the first mornings he was on the bus. That was the day I persuaded Gillian Barnes to sign with us. And then the next time he was on the bus was the day I got the promotion. So every time I see him, I expect good things to happen.’

‘What’s his name?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve never spoken to him.’

‘Don’t you want to meet him?’

‘No, not really. For starters, I have you. Why would I be interested in him?’

‘Hmm. So I’m the starters now. I suppose he’s the main course. Fillet of prime-quality beef.’

‘Your starters always leave me stuffed. Can’t handle a main course after one of your starters.’

‘He could be the savoury. Or the pudding. You like Eve’s pudding. He could be that. I’m sure his apples would tempt you. Juicy and sweet and crisp.’

‘To judge from the bulge in his levis, Adam’s pudding would be more appropriate. Figs and bananas covered with double cream. But no, he’s just a bit of eye candy that brings me good luck. And we had better abandon the food comparisons. The next ones could only be a step down.’

‘You said “for starters”. I suppose you have one of your methodical lists of reasons he would not do.’

‘Let’s see. Second, I must be twenty-five years older than he is.’

‘Thirty-five would be closer to the mark.’

‘Oooh, what an awful bitch it is.’

‘Hmmm. Well, I am your bitch. It’s my role in your life.’

‘Indeed. And a very nice one you are.’

‘Is there a third reason?’

‘Third reason for what?’

‘Why you haven’t spoken to your good luck charm.’

‘Oh, he could only disappoint. As long as I know nothing about him, I can pretend he’s perfect. If I spoke to him, I might discover that he comes in second to a seagull in intelligence. Or that he has an unpleasant voice. Or what, oh, I don’t know, that he has a tattoo of a drunken sailor on his left buttock.’

‘So you have imagined his left buttock?’

‘Yes, but not to worry. Yours is much better. Or at least it was when you were his age.’

‘Touché. What about now?’

‘I haven’t seen the tattoo of the drunken sailor on your left buttock since this morning. I hesitate to commit to a comparison for fear that it may have deteriorated since last viewed.’

‘Why don’t you finish your pint? We can go home, and you can inspect it up close and personal.’

‘Well, now, I think I can leave the rest of this. Your offer of a private viewing is incomparably preferable to this inch of ale.’

‘And your good luck charm?’

‘I would say that he has discharged his duties handsomely, wouldn’t you?’