Friday, September 22, 2017

Ebbing excerpt from 40 days

Day 14 ebbing

“I was here before.”
“I know, Sylvie”
“How do you know?”
“I reviewed your records.”
“So, did I want to die?"
I spoke like Marion. I have an uncanny ability to incarnate a person, like Marion in her final moments. When I don’t know a thing, I imagine it. Marion  awake that night, fearful of never waking. Her times was short, but, still, even at her age, she was fearful of the unknown and what it entailed, maybe heaven, reunification, maybe reincarnation, maybe nothing. She recalled James, the way he stomped his foot down and twisted, as if he were killing an ant. “That’s all that happens,” he’d say. And she’d say “Oh, James, stop!” and hit him, playfully. But now it was of no comfort and she shuddered at the memory.  So she settled on me, our visits, my recent fears about Jim Jones, how I seemed sad, profoundly sad, she decided, unfulfilled, seeking something beyond what Marion could provide for me (although she tried) and she wanted to dwell on it, pause, probe, but that notion kept slipping, all the time lately slipping, and she felt inebriated, swept up, encapsulated, the way the tide ebbed like the sun hitting water, piercing it like blades of blue pointed rays of fire, unsettled, James next to her, his utterances, deep sighs, her feet buried in the sand, in the warmth, security tide is moving in he had said, or she said, and then silence, and she with her gin and tonic with a lime, two limes, James had said, no, no, too bitter, too bitter, she told him. Yes, maybe I’ll try. He liked to have his way and she liked to let him. What did it matter, really, if she had one or two limes? It empowered him, he could be assuager. Leo fell asleep so early  he mentioned.  Fed him an early dinner.  Poor boy. He was wiped out. Leo, always sickly, frail. Priscilla and Lilly, in the waves, running back and forth, tan-legged, skinny, bean poles, brown as berries, they get brown as berries, she’d tell everyone, those two, and she imagined little Leo in in his crib, fighting to keep his eyes open, just like his mother, looks just like his mother...she felt it now, the heavy lidded weight of it, now at eight-nine years old, a long time to live, she could feel it herself, remembered the way he fought sleep, fought it all the time, and she crept into his room and saw him wide-eyed, staring up at the ceiling, at nothing in particular. And she stared at the nothing with him, and, now, too, in this moment, the return to nothing settled her.
“Do you want to talk about it, Sylvie?”

“Why should I do that?”  He looked at me, then, in that way,  and smirked as if he got what he wanted, engorged my mind with his intimations.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Timon 40 days excerpt

She had scissors in her hands. She was cutting his hair, giggling. Her hands brushed his cheek, felt warm and soft. He wanted to touch her. He felt himself growing down there. Hands sprinkled brown sugar on the top. And Tad walked around and his towel was slipping down and he let it. He wanted to do that too. But Sylvie said no. So he always had to wear clothes. Sylvie wore her blue shirt. It hung almost to her knees. Her hair was knotty from behind, twisted and snarled like the bird’s nest he found last summer in the backyard. He stared down at the brown sugar, considered making balls. Sylvie pushed his hand away and put a spoon in his hand. She wanted him to use it, but he didn’t understand why.  Timon always let him play with the brown sugar. He put it down on wax paper. Apple crisp, he called it. Yummy. Then he showed him how to make a sand castle with the brown sugar. The boy licked his fingers and Timon laughed. He held his finger and licked it too. Timon had straight dark hair, black like a silky night, not like Daddy’s long messy hair. Preston liked Timon’s eyes, the way they opened big when he saw something fun. And they were slanted eyes and he had nice smooth skin just like brown sugar. He put him on his lap and held his hands. Preston touched Timon’s ring and sometimes he let him try it on. It was heavy and made him think he was grown up. Sometimes Timon put Preston on his lap and he held his arms against him like a belt. His arms were long. But it never hurt. It felt good and safe and warm and he smelled like Sylvie’s baked blueberry muffins. He used the spoon, and Sylvie winked. The sun was here again, lurid. Preston liked that word. Lurid. He wanted to remember it for Timon. He would like it too. The sun was strong, beating through the window like gigantic fists. Preston wondered if it wanted to kill him. If it wanted, it could.  But Preston knew the sun could never come out of the sky. He know it was too big, grand, grander than anything. Bigger than Sylvie and Tad. Bigger than Timon and bigger than the students at Saint Apostle.  It was a star and was going to die. Everything died, even the sun. One day it will burn out. Let’s marry, she  said. Greg Shefield nodded yes. They had a ceremony under the cottage at Hawk’s Nest. He kissed her and his lips tasted like salty butter from the clams. He showed her his penis. She laughed and then showed him her vagina. His mouth opened wide and then he reached out. She screeched. And then Paul was there, peering in, and he was smiling. Preston knew all this, before he came out of me, into his new body, before he was born, when he used to be Paul. He never told anyone. He could not utter it. He was wordless.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sylvie and musings on Jim Jones excerpt

Even as a young boy, Jim Jones was weird. He grew up in Indiana, on the wrong side of the tracks, unaccepted, a loner, fixated on Pentecostal religion. He was said to kill small animals so he could recite eulogies for them and trap neighborhood kids in his barn so he could preach to them. She imagined, like all tyrants, Jones as a small boy, where others were climbing trees and building forts, Jones set his sights somewhere else, honed his skills of elocution and gesturing, fed his ego until it grew first inside of him and then outside of him, so that anyone standing next to him was somehow smaller in size and importance. He became charismatic, bewitching, acquired and perfected all the mannerisms and makings of a cult leader with inexplicable sway over his followers. The followers sought a power to control them, someone who could say do it or die. It was no surprise that it was a man. Most cult leaders are males (I know this to be a fact). It is no surprise as males have the right kind of authority. And they are the superior beings, according to the bible, according to Simone de Beauvoir, according to the the written and unwritten word, and at some point, it became internalized, a maxim, an unconscious norm accepted as truth. And no matter the culture, beliefs or values, we women hold the community together by simply continuing with the daily routines of life, despite chaos, an impending doom. The chores more than likely kept us naive, blindly occupied in the trivial, the mundane rituals. It wasn’t surprising then how reporters found order, laundry hung out to dry, fields plowed, and a metal tub filled with grape Flavor Aid and Potassium Cyanide, and the nine-hundred or so bodies piled on top of each other, children at the bottom, the first ones to go, small cups and syringes littered the spaces around them. The messy environment was indicative of an even more tragic possibility, the notion that such an orderly community might litter their environment, might have have come to their senses too late, that they had a glimpse of him, the imposter, and what was happening. But by then the female chores, the mundane that had occupied their minds, kept them captive, unaware, betrayed them, took them down to the depths they had never considered.

I inhaled deeply, my last few drags, heard footsteps, Linda’s abrasive coughing down the hallway, thought of Tim Chapman, the reporter, the photographer, the artist, imagined I might call him, or write to him, ask to meet him for a cup of coffee to talk about the way he saw death in colors, wide angle shots, horizontals and verticals. Tim Chapman extraordinaire. Before his helicopter touched down, he saw it, reported on the compound--the colored specs, happy colors-- the reds and greens and blues, two parrots on a fence-- a red and yellow macaw and a blue and yellow macaw, near the bodies, the good people of the compound, he referred to them, Peoples Temple, the men, women, children, black, white, the rotting meat, swollen, grotesque, cooked and bursting, three days in the sun. Their heads oddly positioned, pointing to Jones.

By the time I took the last drag and blew out the smoke, Linda walked in, scowled, and went about her business, fixing her hair, smoothing out her shirt, checking her teeth, muttering under her breath about not having enough sick time, how she can’t get ahead, how she has to fix the damn wall that her husband punched, and then there’s the car, blew another gasket, needs brakes, and why should she work to support him, and the useless son who can’t get his fat ass off the couch. Just like his father, she said. They hate me. I sleep with one eye open, she added. Believe you me, one eye.

Women like that depress me.

Dandelion Village and the labyrinth excerpt

I loved that sacred wall in the labyrinth, Dandelion Village, Marion's slight voice, cracking, fading, so much bigger than Tad and his infidelity or the dangling branch, it was a Lampedusa of sorts, testimony to the farmers, the salt of the earth people might say, not me, no, I never said those things, and Tad was wrong this time, because I could care less about the dead past, not now, not while the present was so visceral, when Marion was dying, not when he may have been falling deeper in love every minute, laughing at her jokes, watching her mouth, the nape of her neck when she looked down at the ground just so, but maybe Marion, or even her father, maybe Theodore Quinn, he might have said it, or men like him, the kind of man Tad might have wanted to be but never could be, these men like Theodore Quinn, men who climbed and fastened shingles and lightning rods to roofs, men who fixed, who hammered and sawed, brought trees down, men with sanguine cheeks and callouses, these men who worked hard, worked from dusk until dawn, prayed before meals, thanking the Lord for family and bread and drink, prayed with calloused palms used for tightening and hammering, later used for caressing a wife or a daughter’s cheek, men who drank hard, drank whisky, told stories while fire embers cracked on mud-caked boots, dazed, weary men who sat still as stones, enamored by wives busy and bending, lusting, wiping raw hands on aprons, swiping stray hairs away from tired foreheads, while these husbands, watched, voyeuristic, watched and waited for the taking, knowing the pleasure was more in the the hunt, anticipating the taking, when she was unaware, sewing, bent over the belly stove, emptying water into the basin. Those were easier times, Theodore Quinn might have said, good times, before the race riots, before the cults, before Jim Jones, before the Manson Murders and Helter Skelter, before the sexual revolutions, before women argued for the sake of arguing, burned bras, held signs that said women power and peace not war, before all of the angst and misery and modern conveniences that made life more complex, more dangerous, turned women against themselves, as they had too much time now to consider their own importance, to see themselves amounting to more than breeders, to reflect on their roles, to become problematic and snarky and dismissive of their men, no matter how hard these men worked.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Paulo Freire - An Incredible Conversation

"A curious being must create in oneself a virtue..."

Another highgrade rejection with helpful tips

My brief time enrolled in Goddard's MFA program, I attended some great workshops. I recall an agent saying if a rejection includes a request for more work, get on it. I have collected my share. I had to return to older emails to find out who wanted more of my writing, who liked it, who requested full manuscripts  etc. One agent, I stumbled on, Andrea Somberg had requested fulls, expressed an interest in a couple of my novels, and she was extremely helpful.  Unfortunately, this latest novel 40 Days of Asylum has taken longer (going on three years now) but encouraging words from Somberg inspire me to keep going. (also see video below...the brilliant William H. Macy interview, and his experience in Goddard College). I do wish I had completed my MFA there. (sigh)

Dear Elizabeth, 

There's some beautiful prose in these pages -   in fact, the quality of writing is far superior to most of the material that crosses my desk.  I also thought these pages had a great sense of atmosphere and I found Eliot and Lenore to be intriguing, multi-dimensional protagonists.  It's with real regret, though, that I must admit that I ultimately didn't fall in love with the manuscript as much as I had hoped. Perhaps part of the problem is that I never felt fully grounded in the world or in the storyline itself. As a result, I found it tough to feel fully invested. Elizabeth,  in spite of this manuscript's considerable strengths, I'd better bow out. I suspect that, based on my above reservations, I just wouldn't be the best advocate for the project. 

Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this opportunity!  It is much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. This is such a subjective business -  I'm sure another agent will be a better fit.  I do think you're a very talented writer. If you ever find yourself without representation but with a new project on your hands, I would love to hear from you. Regardless, though, thanks again, and all the very best of luck on the road ahead.   

best, Andrea

Sunday, August 20, 2017

excerpt: 40 Days of Asylum Alice Beckett and Jesus

Alice Beckett asked me if I ever saw Jesus Christ. I told her I did not. She said she saw him recently at the foot of her bed. I want to believe it is Jesus, she said. But then I wonder. I asked her what he looked like and she said he had magnificent height and very light features, delicate like snow,  chiseled features, and aquamarine eyes like the Caspian Sea, she said.That sounds too perfect, I told her. Jesus was dark skinned with dark features and he was short. She looked away from me then and was quiet. I said I was not sure about these things. She then went on about the size of the Caspian Sea and how they determined that the hummocks are to blame for the scratch marks on the floor. I wonder if he’s sending me a message. That was last week. Now she sleeps, probably sedated. She is too young to be disregarded. But I keep silent. I know they are tricky and could use it against me like ammunition.