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Author Topic: On The Subject of Things Written  (Read 616 times)
ER
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema
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The sleep of reasoner breeds monsters.


« on: March 19, 2021, 10:30:25 AM »

After we talked about a similar topic a couple nights ago, I sent someone a gathering of stand-alone sentences I've written over the years in my fiction that stood out in my mind, and here are some of those:











It is a tale which does not begin with “once upon a time” nor does it have the good fortune to conclude by reporting that those within it lived happily ever after.






It was the early nineties, we were in our twenties, and our youth made us beautiful.






Thus early on it was men to whom I turned, and always has it been so.





The site of Bella’s murder had once been a happy spot. We’d meet there when we were thirteen and talk about places we hoped to go someday, like Paris and Rome, and sometimes we’d toss pennies into the well and make wishes that our dreams would come true. When the sun was exactly right we could see the surface of the water maybe fifty feet down, and when we were absolutely silent, just the noise of our hollow little breaths and our fluttering heartbeats, we’d hear the plunk of dropped pebbles. In those days, as we’d laugh together and hear our own echo, time seemed motionless.




He declares to me and the strangers dining in our midst: Long before the foot of man trod upon the earth, there was the humble oyster, and long after man has breathed its last, the oyster shall remain. Though not this specimen, he chuckles as he tosses a dull gray mass from its shell to his gaping mouth.




I was preoccupied with you. I had fantasies of your death, which I acted out in the places where it might happen. I came as close back then to loving you as I was capable of loving anyone. And most of that love was there because of what you were supposed to become to me. My victim.




I paint things I don’t see.




I don’t believe there’s a God, and I can assure you I cherish this flawed life as only an atheist is capable of doing.





Set into the lowest drawer of my dresser I keep the bra Sara never got to wear; the receipt for its purchase, sacred artifact of a special day, stays tucked under it. Sometimes as I drive past where the mall used to be, itself now gone, torn down and medical offices erected on the spot, my thoughts return keenly to that last weekend together, and it is as if I am there again, right down to the smell of cigarette smoke on Tanya’s jacket, and the sound of my sister’s coy laughter, and I wonder, was the stranger truly watching us that day? Does he still watch sometimes, even now?




For as arrogant and absolute as that term may have sounded, at least for the moment she did undeniably belong to him, his control, should he ever have wished to exercise it, was that concrete.




Give scant heed to the deeds of Princes who speak not with Wisdom, for these are Fools and the minions of Babylon, and their Numbers are Many upon the Earth but Banished are they from Heaven.




I had a nightmare. I was being sealed alive in my grave. The stink of the sour clay, wet, dank, surrounded me; others, among them my mother, lay buried below me in the fetid clay of the family plot, my casket resting above their mildewed coffins, their stinking bones barely contained within the weakness of wood long-given to the elements, Inside my casket I smelled them and I could not cry out. How is it possible that one day I shall lie in a grave? I look at my hands, they vibrate with cells, with being; through my mind they are instruments of creation. I am alive! I am here! I perceive, think, desire, design. How can it be that someday I shall be dead?




She had wasted away to virtually nothing and yet her abdomen was swollen in a way which reminded her son, shamed by the thought, of a road killed ballooning on a highway.




She kicked off one of her shoes and slowly swung her leg in what was either a figure eight or a kabalistic symbol for eternity.




I sought to corrupt the world and despoil virtue wherever I encountered it.




Tonight he takes me. Above me his rocking body is a white ghost in the darkness. The smell of the sea and his body, one and the same. The giant mass of him so deep within, hurting, pleasuring, driving my soul away, away! Behind my shut eyes I am far from him…



They claim the stars are dead things, old, lost, their light the light of ghosts. Yet before their death I tell you they were furnaces ten thousand times more intense than any forge Man ever created.




Did I sleep, did I dream? I know not. Behind my open eyes I had a vision from a Byron poem, Earth in blackness, the screams of grown men cast low by their fear, all the contents of the wide earth burned in a feeble attempt to recapture light. Horrible. I shut my eyes or dreamed I did, I know not which, and it passed, then I was quite myself once more, lying amid my skirts and the white furnishings in the suite my husband has secured for us, a holiday to settle the nerves and bolster the constitution, his as well as my own. He has spent half a year working intensely on his latest novel, and it has emptied him. Of our trip he has said: Perhaps a child will come of it. Four years and but one child, a boy, who came early and stayed with us just one night. Christened him Harold and laid him to rest in the churchyard at Old St. Pancras, where James’ forefathers repose.





Why must I be caged in this body? he has asked me many times. Why must one die to become spirit?





Raising her violet-hued eyes to the highest boughs of the weeping willow which stood like a sentinel beside the settling earth of Stephen’s grave, she rued the grand cruelty of God for ever having made human hearts capable of love…




Outside the window she could just see the Ohio River flowing toward the distant Mississippi and its destiny of merging with the mighty ocean still half a continent away. There were robins hopping splay-footed across the verdant hillside lawn and doing it so merrily it was possible to forget they were predators seeking to dole death to lesser orders of creatures.




“You’re thanking me for f**king you.” It wasn’t a question.




It had disconcerted Shannon to find out that while Alyssa’s very existence had been kept from her, Alyssa had grown up knowing all about Shannon and her life. “I grew up being in love with you,” Alyssa confessed at their first meeting. “I wanted bad to come live with you. You were so glamorous to me. A few times I was bad I defied our father and called you and didn’t talk. It was me on the other end.”




That same evening an acquaintance of mine writes. It is Mrs. Simons, a converted Jewess, estranged from her husband these fourteen months and as a consequence never happier. She has seen a photograph of the disembodied spirit of a child belonging to her sister-in-law’s friend, a child who perished from fever three summers gone. I am anxious to see this photograph for myself. She writes: Photography is a great gift of Science, Alberta. Through it we shall soon penetrate the curtain of that lie dubbed Death.





He turned and caught her in an embrace and they rocked back and forth, not quite slow dancing, locked together in this chaste way, the pretty young woman and the middle-aged man who was her first lover.




Without outstaying their welcome, the early nineties were over.




At sixteen I entered a convent above the city. The most beautiful place I had ever seen. Ancient oak trees, the simple church, the gardens, rows of graves four-hundred years old, belonging to my fellow Sisters who had gone before me into the Church Triumphant.




He asked her to pretend she was a virgin, to pretend it hurt while he f**ked her. So she laid there first off not moving a muscle, like virgins always do, their docile, frightened stillness a giveaway to those who know to look for it…




I’m running away from what I’m afraid of, the bleeding scratches along the underside and inside of my left arm mirroring those more healed along my chest and ribcage, the beautiful half-ruined ivory dress I’m still wearing after last night’s wedding reception, disheveled, matching the rest of me.




In August of 1904, when my sister Rehannah was five, she walked out into a Kansas hailstorm, the stones falling around her bare feet, her head tilted toward Heaven, her eyes staring wide open, and in a voice unhesitantly booming, she prophesied the Word of God.  





The maid who discovered DeMille’s body was so given over to horror that in the midst of her screaming she lost control of her bladder, a fact a female police detective would later record. An odd fact known only to the cleaning woman is that her first word uttered upon discovering the body was the name of her nephew, Fernando.




Then it happens. I get a sense of total and complete vertigo, like the ground has eroded under my feet and if I move I will fall from a great height. Below me is a pale sidewalk covered with stains, around me buildings rise, a few cars pass by, pause at the empty crosswalk in obeisance to the street lights, continue. In front of me is my breath mists white, like a ghost, a gentle ghost, I think, and now it happens, the moment the punishment for skipping my Prozac for three f**king days, terror, terror, terror, oh my God.




The young man in the doorway was of medium height, brown-haired, nicely-built, with a handsome face. He was wearing a white button-down shirt, untucked, jeans and sneakers, informal compared to Aruna. He returned Aruna’s embrace and they kissed briefly. Then Aruna turned and said, “Betta, please meet Robert Shuffeson, a man I surely knew in other earthly ages. And Robert, this is my best friend in all the world, Betta Farland.”




Then tell me, my boy, will science’s conquest of all the mysteries of the human soul truly be an improvement, or a horror?





The point is, so much in life is about perception.




She felt her body growing quiet, the heartbeat—her heartbeat—growing still. Thirty-one years was enough, enough. Scarcely one shallow breath now where moments ago four had been. Her feet are cold, her hands are cold, her nose has become quite frigid, its tip a nodule of elderly ice, little different from what descends from the eaves in January. The pills, some yet in the basilica-span of her stomach, most now flowing freely through her slurry bloodstream, have done their work. A score of ivory-white tablets, none larger than a blood drop from a pricked finger, each masterful as a surgeon, all secure in their function, keenly drilled in their purpose, like little soldiers, like assassins: leaden the brain, arrest the lungs, punish the heart, slower… slower… slow the body down…They know the matter well, understand they must bring this self-inflicted Armageddon to its height and past.




I, a curious-minded boy with a love of books and the unusual, had never been more morbidly engrossed with a thing in all my life.




She runs a hand down the side of her face and asks, incredulously, “You’re saying you’ll do anything for me?





Let jilted lovers have their prizes, and let the dead have forgiveness.





Always cheerful, always loud. Large hands, scent of masculinity about him, he helps me down after the ride, his hand swallowing mine as my own would a child’s. My bride, he says seemingly to the air itself. My bride. Yet after four years I am not that. The times I have protested my long-married state he has laughed his booming laugh. I love you more today than ever in times past, my husband proclaims.






I am not here. Not always. My mind goes far away when I dream.




There is pain in my diary, on its pages, in the recent past. Pain.




Creativity is no vice but it is a burden.





God, if God exists, seems distant, above the wants and hopes of mortals.




Later James insists I stand with him on the balcony beyond our suite and observe the moonlight and the harsh contour of the Channel waves. He is convinced all life came first from the sea. It is the latest scientific theory and it grips him. He wonders aloud how mankind ever left behind the beauty of the waters, knowing he would much prefer to swim amid oceans than trod the lands.
In the morning he swims alone in the sea and I have a vision of him lying dead, drowned, cold, with weeds tangled like vipers in his beard. I see myself garbed in black and place my pillow over my head so my laughs do not sound like screams as I talk quite openly to the spirit of my lost David, which I feel close about me today. I think of Mrs. Simon’s photograph and of my David, and a hope forms. Oh, for one last image of him! To know he was happy in the Beyond, fitted to a jollity he never owned while alive!





That is how an age passes, by degrees, flake by flake….




Gordon Penn, Bella’s dad, began to open up to me in a way that was somehow strange. At first it was always Bella we’d talk about, but then he began talking to me as if I was much older than fifteen, telling me about the strain this loss placed on his marriage, how there was now “distance” between Monica and himself, and this distance was eroding life from within, making him lonely, changing him.
He reminded me of another married man I’d known, and how he, too, had talked to me of similar things.




And these twelve long years, through their blood connection, Olivia felt the pull of her dead twin’s soul, his voice bypassing his dry bones in the Tennessee earth and echoing in the beating drums of Grandmother Africa, where wisdom said spirits walked and whispered and sometimes screamed.




The suicide was accomplished before they began their short drive home.




“I worked as a call girl for a while after I first came up from Kentucky.”




In a while, it would be all right for a while.




Patrice slid her eyeglasses down her aquiline nose, genetic endowment of her mother’s Andalusian descent mingling with her father’s moneyed WASP-ishness….





When Johnny sticks the ice pick in the old man’s belly, the old man stops struggling and gets down to the business of dying. Like Johnny says, dying is the one thing old people do exceptionally well.




It’s little things that make the college experience what it is. I mean where else could I find a tarantula in my bed, and be happy about it?




Things were good, except somewhere in everything we did, thought or said, even in the thickness of my own dreams, there remained the matter of the unsolved murder which had taken place right down the street.




What does it feel like to be a truly evil person? I have known for twenty years. I also know that what makes someone evil isn’t necessarily any deed in itself, but how that person feels about the deed once it is done. You’re truly evil if you live every day thinking about the terrible thing you did, yet never once, even for a moment, does the slightest remorse ever touch you.
I am truly evil.




When he and Regina married it was April 1950, the start of the decade of the American Dream, and he had been the happiest bridegroom in existence, standing beside his tall brunette bride, so lovely, with skin like porcelain, his wealthy, gregarious father-in-law looking on Bertram as a surrogate son, the life Bert (then Billy) led in Pittsburgh behind him, a new name, newly invented past, new era dawning.




Ronny Bayberry was sixteen in 1982, and had been a driver for three weeks when he hit the kid on the bike.




Outdoors darkness was fully set now and the last of the night-birds were calling.




The flowers in the house dried and rotted. She never went back there.




His name was Peter St. Peters, strangest name she’d ever heard, and he was an agent for Renee and other models, and a good one.




Cheryl wasn’t a crying type but she could sulk like nobody’s equal. Once he’d sneaked a read in her diary and plowed into five longhand pages of how it was gross that God let racism exist and how this filled her with hopeless ennui and nothing would ever be all right again. Tonight, though, it was a good sign when Cheryl said, “Death sucks. It just sucks.”
Hey, Milo thought, at least she was talking.






“It means more to me than meeting Ethan Hawke did,” she said.





In fact waiting was all he had ever done in life. Heaven was the goal and the entirety of what had passed in these nine decades was simply that which he did to fill the time until he was in the presence of eternity.





It was as if Anatole had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a wish, and the devil had fulfilled the wish in his own perverted manner.





She bought a case of beer with her fake ID and they drove to the top of Milner’s Hill and sat in the grass, where Janel, with her legs crossed, hair blowing in the breeze, drinking a beer with the sunset lighting her in just such a way, was the most beautiful sight Kurt had ever seen.




“We should protest to the gods and gain an extension on this time in our lives, destined to be better to look back on than to live out, younger than we’ll ever again be, when still we may make serious a pointless, pointed debate on the virginity of Emily Dickinson, while we sit and do little but stare at heat spheres within the spring-blue sky. We should take advantage of the gift of the presence of one another, as we never have, impossible to find a way, yet what remains but an unspoken promise that one day this will end, and what then, I don’t know, nor do you. So to make a kingdom of a moment, an eternity of a day, a life of an era, is the best that we may hope for in the weighty quiet of these afternoons of our youth.”






But did I wish to be the one to die? Before you gasp out certainly not, know that I paused to ponder the question. Death. A repose. A sleep without the torment or ecstasy of dreams, a state in which all is satisfied and nothing dreaded or desired, Nirvana in an instant.




There was a story about a doctor in Charleston, in the Carolinas, who kept a thriving practice and had a housekeeper who was West Indian, and frankly---disagreeably, barbarously---his slave. The doctor begot a child with the slave, a daughter, and though in secret to a few trusted friends, he claimed he loved the woman and child, publicly, being a proud man, he could not bring himself to let this shame on his reputation be known. So he locked the child in the attic, where he provided for her a veritable kingdom of toys and dolls and picture books and all things a girl might wish for, except freedom. And so seven years passed and this child scarcely knew the feel of the breeze on her face, or guessed what it was to run free across a grassy field. Hers was a prison four stories above the teeming city, a captivity on account of her father’s shame.




Quiet and deadly, it came first for Saul, then the day after we buried him, we lost Grace, too.




His promises had long since drained to emptiness, but the pretense was maintained because it made the game easier and spared her the worst of whatever self-recriminations she might have felt over her involvement with a married man.




He had asked his daddy how old he was, and Daddy had said, “Old enough to lie about my age but young enough not to have to.” Tad had no idea what that meant.





Lauren picked up a pebble from the beach and balanced it on the flat of her palm. After a moment, she tossed it into the waves and prepared her mind for what she knew was coming, her husband’s request that they surrender of their beloved present and return to the turmoil of the past.





This self-infliction of clandestine suffering makes her feel forgiven for all the things, great and small, she does right.





I never felt so alive as on the day that I died.




Neither God nor science nor chance sent him backwards two hundred years and more to the frontier of Pennsylvania, where his wife dwelled in the first spring of her true life, before she discovered that she aged slower than most humans, or that it was to be her fate to bury all those she knew and witness ages yet undawned.




“Straight up, Bob-o,” Vaughn opined one day as they sat out in the dawn after a late night spent in a house filled with young, awe-struck girls, “all we are is scabs on the balls of life.”




Theory: It is not the beauty of women, but the desperation of men, that grants the female power.





I have a gift. One among several. This gift I have been granted—and have perfected beyond my natural talent—is the ability to discern the reality of the motives behind what others say and do. My own motives and motivations are a mystery to me, but the rest of the world I am good at zoning in on.




June 28, 1981
Charlotte my sweet sweet Charlotte do you know how it’s a torment to endure two weeks without seeing you when your family goes on vacation every summer? You’ll never know and wouldn’t imagine but Charlotte a part of me isn’t here any longer when you’re away.




She was not too tipsy to see mothers were not to be disparaged in front of good Irish family men like McNamara the Younger.





He passed the corner where she’d been grabbed three hours and a lifetime ago.
“This was all a mistake. We f**ked up. We never hurt you, did we?” Spencer demanded.
“No.”
Say it like you mean it.
“NO.”
“No what?”
“No, you never hurt me.”
“That’s right. Bought you cookies, right?”
“Yeah,” Jane agreed.
“Shared our beer. Took good care of you, right?”
“Yeah.”
“And you dreamed all this up while you were asleep at Tammy’s.”
“OK.”
“OK. You been dreaming. Say it.”
“I been dreaming.”





Daniel’s reply had been bitter. “I can’t be sick. I’ve had a blood test. You think I’ve been cheating on you. That’s what this is really about, isn’t it?”
“No! No…”
“Yes! That’s what you really think. That’s what you really believe!”
“It doesn’t have to be that, Daniel. It could be a hundred things. You have to get checked out!”
“A hundred things? Well thank you very much for that announcement. A hundred things! I could be sick with a hundred things!”





At the last, before the coma came, my three great-granddaughters visited me at the hospice by the old forest. They were beauties one and all. Their vivacity and life-force filled the gloom with brightness, and for an hour my situation was nearly forgotten. Abby, named for me, was nine, Antonia, six. Jordan, a girl’s name in this era, was just three. They brought me cards and sat with me a while, till their lives beckoned and, duty done, they returned to the business of being young, and I returned to my own profession of dying.






Her job is her dream, her job is her life.





She recalled the words of her grandfather: The only certain things in this life are death and the fact there is no good way to meet it.  




He felt like someone had come and microwaved his brain while he was lying across the girl’s bed in a cocaine white-out.




Having an abortion is like dying, because your entire life tries to pass before your eyes. That’s the first thing I find out. You start remembering your past because anyplace you’ve ever been is better than where you are. You remember the yip-yip bark of the dog you had when you were three. You remember that your fifth-grade teacher pronounced the “t” in “often.” You lie still and think.





It’s a shallow story, so I’ll tell it fast.





They never get murder exactly right in the movies.





“The raven is a filthy bird that loves death and carnage and hates man,” spoke the old soldier, as he stared intently down at his hands.




Eleanor had always been a pretty girl and had been graced with a certain unfiltered quality to her powers of attraction.





Because he was an honorable man, in awe of his own vocation, the priest took no steps to discover who the woman was, though by this time, three months into their acquaintance in the confessional, he was quite in love with her.




In later years as he committed his memories to paper, the writer thought the months in which he knew Ana should have always had slow music playing somewhere in the background.




After momentarily allowing his mind to range, Billings was brought back to focus when Hannah voiced a thought, for an instant not fully aware that she was doing it.
“Perhaps,” she declared, “our section will be something like Salisbury is in May.”
“What will be?” Billings asked.
“Why, you know,” Hannah stated softly, mentioning the inevitable at last, “Heaven.”





The decline of empires is no pleasant affair.





Kazimierez permits her to stay by the door, and they do not speak, but he kisses her as she allows herself to soften against his vast body---shoulders so strong, arms and hands like a titan’s, legs mighty and wide apart, torso broad and heavy---as her fears shrink to unimportance, the clutter of another life, not for the moment her own.





Hamal Henderson turned toward the Yankee horde and ran up the expanse of hill that remained, and as he did the bullets whizzed around him with the fury of wasps, unable to touch him, to do him harm. He was blessed and this was at last his glorious moment and he knew it had finally come. He closed the remainder of the distance in five mighty leaps and entered the ocean of living blue which seemed to part around him as if he were Moses at the waters of the Red Sea. And even then Hamal did not halt, for about him the world was glowing white and he had no past, no present, no future, no reality anymore, only a lone purpose, only fulfillment, only a single all-encompassing act, this… running… running… running…





That every person has three selves was a fact Eleanor Bonner always knew. Behind the mask on each human face a public self, a private self, and a secret self lay hidden.





The demons fell silent.




Morning snags the countryside in its needle-eye.




I'd pleaded to go along on the search, only to grow dizzy at the sight of death, regressing to a childhood state I thought I'd left behind.




To love is to wish to have that which you love close to you,
Yet this is oft the very act which proves love’s undoing,
So that the drawing-in of love,
Is that which pushes love away.





I have thought long and am certain—nay, convinced, that it all comes down to this one matter: if I could but learn to be humble, I would be perfect.


« Last Edit: March 19, 2021, 10:50:12 AM by ER » Logged

Das was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich noch merkwürdiger. (What does not kill me makes me stranger.)
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