Fiction, literature, prose, Uncategorized, writing

The Mexican

distantstars

Rumor was he came from Mexico. A big Mexican — the biggest I’d ever seen. But he didn’t look Mexican. He was a gringo with red hair and green eyes. A giant Mexican flag.

Hammer, he said.

I hefted the sledgehammer with both arms and handed it over to him. Wind ripped and tugged at us violently. The big man took the sledgehammer with one hand and set himself to strike the coffin. Bare branches crashed and screamed above our heads. It seemed the wrong time to ask where he was from.

The big man smashed the wood with one blow. Darkness surrounded us everywhere. We always worked by moonlight, but tonight the skies had shifted unexpectedly, veiling the moon and leading the storm’s charge. The big man tore at the coffin with his bare hands, his massive back to me. I heard a noise like a pig squeal and swung my rifle in that direction. Wind perforated my clothes, cut into my skin.

I’ve got something, he said.

I leaned over his crowded frame but could not see in the darkness.

What is it? I said.

He stood, unfolding his shoulders to stand erect. His body extended vertically so that it seemed he was being born, his head rising upward to the skeletal tree branches whipping with the gales, to the moon shrouded in the distant black. He turned and I noticed the eyes first, golden light embedded deep in the eyes of the skull, the Mexican’s hands enveloping the artifact to respect its delicacy and power.

What is it? I said again, mesmerized.

Then weightlessness, light fading to black.

I woke on my back with the Mexican standing far above me, trees surrounding him in the moonlit background. The wind had calmed. I could not move or speak, but fully sensate and aware, felt the granules of earth on my skin, felt the coolness of the dirt on my face rolling down my cheek, as the Mexican worked silently, just the rhythmic scrape of steel shovel into broken earth.

 

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Excerpt, Fiction, literature, notes, prose, Uncategorized, writing

Echoes of silence

 

notes

I imagined him leaning over the page by candlelight while the rest of the hospital slept, night after night, his true voice pouring from the pen in measured strokes, filling the void of sound in his throat and in that quiet building with the voices of multitudes. The cold winter months abated, new growth sprouted in the crystalline valley below Clyvesell, and Wade was there looking out the window and writing. Sun scorched the mountain relentlessly in the summers and Wade was there with his notepad, cloaked in the solitude of night, stealing sleep during the day when he could. He worked his jobs, he attended therapy sessions, events, activities when required, which was often. But he lived for the night, when the echoes of silence throughout Clyvesell could not hush his mind, his pen.

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Excerpt, Fiction, literature, Pessoa, prose, quote, Uncategorized, writing

Others

MadTree

Last week I drafted a short piece in my notebook about other people, namely my aversion to them. Today I read a passage in Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet that puts my piece to shame. This from Pessoa:

Isolation made me in its own image. The presence of another person — one person is all it takes — immediately slows down my thinking … When I am alone, I can come up with endless bon mots, acerbic ripostes to remarks no one has made, sociable flashes of wit exchanged with no one; but all this disappears when I’m confronted by another human being. I lose all my intelligence, I lose the power of speech, and after a while all I feel like doing is sleeping. Yes, talking to people makes me feel like sleeping. Only my spectral and imagined friends, only the conversations I have in dreams, have reality and substance, and in them the spirit is present like an image in a mirror.

The whole idea of being forced into contact with someone oppresses me. A simple invitation to supper from a friend produces in me an anguish difficult to put into words. The idea of any social obligation — going to a funeral, discussing something with someone at the office, going to meet someone (whether known or unknown) at the station — the mere idea blocks that whole day’s thoughts and sometimes I even worry about it the night before and sleep badly because of it. Yet the reality, when it comes, is utterly insignificant, and certainly doesn’t justify so much fuss, yet it happens again and again and I never learn.

‘My habits are those of solitude, not men.’ I don’t know if it was Rousseau or Senancour who said that, but it was some spirit belonging to the same species as me.

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Excerpt, Fiction, literature, memoir, MuñozMolina, notes, prose, quote, Uncategorized, writing

Muñoz Molina on the novel

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The novel subjects itself to its own limits and at the same time opens itself up to an exploration of depths that are within and without (the writer) and that only (the writer) was meant to discover. You’re writing even when you don’t write. Narrative imagination does not feed on what is invented; It feeds on the past. Every minor or trivial event that one experiences or discovers in the course of an investigation can be valuable or even decisive for the novel, occupying a minimal but precise place within it, like an uneven cobblestone …

… The novel has developed on its own with the unlimited richness of reality and the blank spaces I haven’t been tempted to fill, spaces in the shadows that cannot be illuminated …

…The novel is what I write and also the room where I work. The novel is the fine-point pen that ran out of ink one day when I wrote for five or six hours without stopping and filled an entire notebook. The novel is made with everything I know and everything I don’t know, and with the sensation of groping my way through this story but never finding a precise narrative outline.

— Antonio Muñoz Molina, Like a Fading Shadow. Translated by Camilo A. Ramirez. Published by Editorial Planeta, S.A., 2014. Translation copyright 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

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Fiction, literature, prose, writing

After midnight

The phone vibrated on the sink, startling me. I lay sweating on the bathroom floor in the dark. A faint halo emanated from the device and illuminated the room. I looked up at the walls, the ceiling. Fire razed my guts. It was night, it was night out there in the world. The phone buzzed. What had I done? I tried to push myself up, hands slipping in the contents of my stomach, now cold. A shot of lightning flashed at the window, briefly illuminating the revolting scene. I rose to my knees, then staggered afoot. My shirt was soaked through. Half-digested tablets and capsules cracked beneath my feet. I stripped nude and lay atop the bed, shaking, my hair wet. I struggled beneath the covers. What I remember next was the smell. I hadn’t smelled it before, or I wasn’t paying attention. It was all over me, all over the room. It was the air itself. I rose from the bed as each cell in my body protested. Daylight attacked the bedroom’s only window. A song entered my head — a Mexican folk song my grandmother sang when I was a child. Then it was only the music of her voice, whispering: I’ll be here when you wake.

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Excerpt, Fiction, literature, prose, quote, religion, Uncategorized, writing

one in the chamber

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Neither mood nor biology shifts according to a calendar. This body runs on its own time. The mind operates in several time zones at once. Electricity powers the heart. I eat almost nothing, fueled by liquids and books and nerves. Love, too.

I try to read the dictionary every day—at least a page. I wish I had the dedication of Malcolm X, who copied the dictionary repeatedly by hand to teach himself to read. He was in jail at the time, a petty criminal whose initial way to the light was religion. He learned that Allah’s message was a necessary truth that had somehow eluded him, had been stolen from his youth. This knowledge became an impetus to act, requiring more study. He became a teacher. His internal truth continued to evolve, much like the reader and the writer of these words.

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To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. — Emerson

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There’s a case, there’s a man and a case, and that man and his case penetrate time and space. Reader beware, keen reader beware, what you’re reading is rare and took care to prepare.

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