Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Old Man and the Sea

A woman sat on her front doorstep sweeping pine needles into piles with a small handheld broom. Her eyes looked down at the copper piles, saw them blurry and unfocused. She looked up at the blue sky, a swatch of blue, of small white patterns of clouds. She was waiting. Her shoes needed mending. The brown tongue hung over the broken laces like a panting dog, it moved when she moved and she rocked back and forth. Humming.
When the piles were made she brought a hand full of berries and set them circular around the pine needles. Red ringed copper. Satisfied she moved off the stoop onto the dirt in front of her house, a little cabin at the edge of a wood and pushed herself upright. She was a large woman, bountiful, her wide skirts over wide hips and her apron hung snug at her middle. She had large breasts and a ruddy complexion. Her eyes were soft, unfocused, her hair was brown and smooth, reassuring. There was something peaceful about her, this woman who spent her days on the doorstep in simple hope and prolonged waiting.
"I've realized this has become a story," the woman said to the trees around her.
"I don't like stories," she said with her hands on her hips.
Her lips were berry red and warm.
"I won't sit on the doorstep today," she told the few birds perched in the trees.
"I've had enough of your judgements, I am not a character, I will not become a story, I will not wait, and I will not wait somewhere else."
She struck off southerly, down a dirty and overgrown path, watching the brown become shadowed as the trees became more dense. Humming was resolute, her large body cut a swath, trees trembled in her wake. Becoming red-faced, pounding along the dirt down the path into deeper darkness. The truth was that she hated waiting. She exuded calm, radiated peaceful satisfaction, but she was turbulent, her large stomach churned with more than indigestion. She was ravenous, unsettled, her eyes and their soft focus seemed to propel her, she was tunneled in by them, looking forward always to that thing that would happen, if only she knew what. It was waiting that made her anxious, though she never seemed so. Waiting made her irritable though she was placid; her face was becoming lined with the strain to relax her features, always working against the tension in her muscles. Poor woman.
She walked on, her big boots stamping through fallen leaves, over rocks and breaking branches. A deer lay at the side of the path, its carcass hollowed out. Briefly she raised her hand to wipe away the flies that came, attracted to her sweat. She passed countless trunks and as the leaves grew thicker, the branches lower, the sky grew dim and patchy, soon to be blotted out completely. After a long time walking she came to rest at a fallen log. Ants plodded on their path, shifting the trail to run over her large fingers, her heavy hands. Her stomach clenched so she buried her hands in her apron. Several ants came with them. She dug out some rolls and a pad of butter. Some ants stayed in the pocket. After eating, refreshed, angry, she stalked off further into the woods.
Was night falling, or was it the darkness from the trees? She couldn't tell, her anxiety had swept her off her feet and she continued to follow the path, muttering to herself.
"I've had enough of this story, I am not a fool. I am not inelegant, I don't have to listen to her. If I had my own way, I would not be sitting on the doorstep waiting. What am I waiting for? It leaves me dry, I have nothing more to say. I have nothing to do, this waiting. A thief. The best days of my life spent baking rolls and sweeping the pine needles and they just continue to fall. Nothing, nothing."
The squirrels thought she was nuts, animals gave her booming hooves a wide berth. She was fuming, raging, pushing branches out of her way as she moved on and on. After a time the woman reached a cave and its dark mouthlike entrance enticed her. Here she would rest before moving on. The cave smelled like lemons to her, it was pleasing and it made her hungry. She sat at the mouth of the cave and looked out. Just brown and trees and rocks here and there. As she ate more rolls with butter (how the ants made a pop in her mouth!) she brought pebbles that lay around her to her hip. They collected, little piles of silver and blue. When she finished her roll she swept the rocks from the back of the cave, from outside and brought them in. Eight piles stood at the mouth of cave, stacked like pyramids in the dark.
Thus stated, the woman fell asleep. The ground was hard and though leaves and twigs lined the path remaining quiet was easy. The man didn't need to step or break anything. His feet were rough and small, they were able to pick their way nimbly around any fallen objects to avoid a clatter. He swung his arms as he walked. By the time he came to the cave entrance he was aware of the bulky woman inside, her sonorous snores rose and multiplied from within, her mass heaved in dreams and in waking. He padded softly over. He noticed ants crawling around her chin, they hovered over her ears, seeming to sniff or feel out the hair around them. How now, fallen lady, he thought to himself. How easy it would be to fall at her feet, clutching. To make her rise and walk with him beyond the wood. It had been a long time since he last saw a woman, the woods remained lonely and uninviting, he had half turned feral but recognized the gentleness in her sleeping form. He came close and sniffed at her hair, fondled the brown strands in his thick hands, they were long nailed and white.
The woman groaned, woke up, startled screamed and reached her hand grabbed rocks and made a fist with them, pounded on his shoulders. Howled, jumped up, startled ran around the cave, pulled at his hair, grinned at her, jumped. She was stricken in his wild display.
"What are these acts?" she said. "He dances the fool, and I marvel at him. This is surely a plot device, I must surely be going mad. Or else he is."
The man thought to himself, no not mad, we are not mad, the woods are mad, this darkness, prevailing. Let us flee. He thought, and he ran.
She wondered, following tentatively and he stopped and beckoned her. After his shambling gate, his limping jumps, heavy sided, she followed her bulk shifting one way then the next as he swayed along the path.
After a time they came to a clearing. They moved beyond the woods, in to a dale, walked on till the sun rose again and all was yellow and warm. They walked on and on down a small hill, scaling an old worn path down a cliff. The ocean spread out before them. It was new, blue, they had neither of them seen an ocean before; the sprawling expanse of it, the glitter of it, the rushing sound it made, striding and purposeful. They walked on, into the blue and it was cold and it was wet but it was welcome and the woman laughed and the man cantered and they were swallowed up by the lips of it, and buried beneath the hands of it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creation Myth

Once upon a time there was a man who was very old. He lived in dark brown house in the middle of a forest. Every morning he woke up and stepped outside. It was always shady. The old man would stand on his door step and stretch his crumpled back. His shirt was white and had blue pinstripes and his brown trousers were held up with suspenders. The suspenders had gold buckles. One morning, during his regular stretches, the old man looked up through the leafy canopy and noticed a flash of red. The red darted black and became green again as the leaves steadied once more into focus. The old man remained bent backward for a long while, staring up into the leaves until the outlines faded and all became a whirling mass of green and black. He bent down to do toe touches. On the ground he noticed a spot of gold. He brushed dust and fallen leaves from the glittering item and held it close to his eye. It was the hook from his suspender. The man looked down at his trouser; there was the loose suspender flopping against his thigh. The old man Harumphed and walked down the winding path deeper into the forest. His gate was ambling, every once in a while he stopped to smell a flower or pluck a twig from a tree. The woods were silent and he was used to the silence.

Something about the air told the man that this day was different. From far off sounded drums, a thin flute writhing up and down in an uncertain tune. The old man was startled; he began to run down the dark path deeper and deeper into the woods. He crunched through leaves, fell over a stray branch that had fallen, perhaps stuck down by lightning. The noises followed him, drums beating faster, mocking his own terrified heart. Suddenly deep throated bassoons sounded, bells tinkled far above the trees, and the man ran without looking back. Static formed far above the trees; a storm was at hand. He ran blindly trunk after trunk passing, brown, brown, darker, brown, dark, black, the branches twisted strangely above his head, the man ran on puffing his own breath coming out tattered the one long suspender flapping tail-like after him. The flutes began anew, starting low and trilling upwards and as the man took a heaving step into the mouth of a cave the rain unloosed itself from the angry sky.

The music drew to the cave mouth; the man stepped into the darkest recess, cowered. One of his polished brown shoes had broken a lace, the man leaned back and gasped into the damp air. Rain lashed at him, wind blew the hard drops through the mouth of the cave and he was soaked, drowning; each gasping breath drew moisture from the rain and suffocated him, formed a thick hymen in his throat, he called out but nothing could be heard. Tears mixed with rain, the flutes trilled gaily, the drums danced merrily about the cave mouth the rain and wind drew together like old lovers, sharing moments of spontaneous laughter. The angels came down from the sky prepared for combat. They swooped down, one by one, slowly, seeming suspended by wires, each one a magnificent array of colors.

One was a flurry of shimmering blue and black, another an opalescent pale so bright against the deep green the old man had to shield his eyes. Hundreds of them poured into the cave, wings batting against the old man as he struggled to fend them off, his thin arms waving wildly as they landed and fluttered close to his rough cheek. A huge one, red and black and furry beat right at his chest, rent the shirt open and pushed its elongated tongue into his chest. The old man cried out his fury but it was stoppered in his mouth. His voice traveled back down his throat, into his intestines, his stomach, wriggled through him like a parasitic worm and burst through the hole in his chest where the angel fed.

Sound and tongue entwined the horrid birth of a thing both alien and wonderful, this angel been given voice. But a screeching voice, a loud and thunderous voice, piercing. This red and black creature lifted into the air, pounded its heavy wings through the rain, spiraling upward, the sound of its cry a high wavering note on a violin. Or perhaps a fiddle; the sound so loud and clear the old man's dried body shivered and burst. The angels gathered around him, fluttering gently, close.

The rain calmed its lashing and thunder stole its booming call from the body of the man. The trees began to shake, a soft rustle could be heard, like the man's deep sleeping breath. Slowly, scuffling could be heard from the lowest branches. Squirrels leapt about, their soft chatter multiplying until a cacophony of sounds filled the air. Birds dove and screamed, monkeys yelled playfully and pushed each other about. From the ground where the body had lain sprung a dark pool, a rustling stream that gurgled and bubbled down the path all the way back to the old man's house.

The next morning, the old man awoke and went out to the doorstep. The early bird calls greeted him and he smiled, bent his crooked back and looked up at the shifting shapes in the trees.