Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From the Almost-Dead Files

I realized something the other day, something that filled me with regret. It doesn't look like I will ever finish -- much less publish -- my first novel. It's called Black Mesa Triptych, and true to its name, it tells a single story from three points of view. Here is the first character's opening section. I'll post it, and if you have opening lines from your first novel-that-will-remain-unpublished-for-whatever-reasons, feel free to post!

Clifton
It was not until a year after his beloved Michaela's death did he really understand what had happened to him.                  
It was on the first really chilly day of late Septem­ber.  He had no real plans for the evening, his mind torpid as koi in a sluggish pond, the sinking feeling of exhaustion he knew so well. This sensation had become his familiar, hated but endured, something like having your house occupied by a mild-mannered enemy soldier.
 He had reached back deep into the hall closet for his overcoat (since Michaela's death he had abandoned certain of her rituals like the seasonal storing-away of garments in her cedar chest), ordering his body to go out and bring in a few pinion logs to make a fire in the beehive-shaped kiva fireplace.
He paused just before going outside, distracted by the voice that came from the television, the voice of an old woman, her speech halting, cadenced with foreign rhythms.  He idly reached his hand into the pocket of the overcoat and touched a small card and knew what it was, even without taking it out to look at it; even though it had been a year since he had seen it.
Clifton stared at the picture on the television screen, trying to concentrate on the white-haired woman there and not on the memories of the year before. I have seen the same look on the faces of automobile accident victims who survived when their families died, he thought.
The little woman's voice was flat and dispassionate.
"In the Holocaust, my father was killed like that.  My mother was killed like that.  I saw them.  I saw them die.  My sister was killed like that, and my grandmother. They were shot before my very eyes." 
Clifton stroked the embossed surface of the card in his pocket, the last poem Michaela had written him.  Its words burned into his mind, searing pain, galling, gagging.

 You

     "But my brother and I, we were in the barn.  The Ger­mans didn't find us until later.  Then they took us away.
 "The first day we rode all day in a cattle car.  There were so many of us that no one could sit; we all stood through the day, and then through the night.  Those who fainted, died beneath our feet.  We could do nothing; our shoes trampled our friends and neighbors and strangers."

You yet dazzle

     "Then the second day they put my brother and me, all of us, into ox-carts, hauling us like beasts over the roads to the temporary camps.  We traveled from dawn until sunset without food, without water, without hope. 
"I held the railings of the cart until my hands lost their feeling.  And then I realized that the rest of me had lost feeling, too, but in another way.  And so I closed my eyes, and I decided that I would die."

You yet dazzle
The eyes of my heart

“And then I heard a sound, faint, like a child's whispering, you know?  And it wouldn't stop, it just wouldn't stop.  It became louder, a little bit at a time. 
  "And then I realized that it was someone saying my name.  'Rivka, Rivka, Rivka.'  I wanted it to stop, but it wouldn't.
“'Rivka, Rivka.'  It seemed to grow closer. 
   "I opened my eyes.  My brother was still beside me in the oxcart, but he was holding me up.  And he was shouting in my ears.  Not just calling my name, but shouting.  And he had been shouting it for a long, long time."

You yet dazzle
The eyes of my heart
For you

And now all the pain came back, as he remembered the night Michaela died, and how he had said her name, over and over again, even after all his hope had seeped out of the room where people watched him with downcast eyes, waiting to rob him.

For you

But he couldn't bring Michaela back.  She was gone, like his hope, like the warmth out of this September room, like an emptied-out bed, like lost, locust-eaten years.

For you                                                                     
Are the color
Of light 



8 comments:

Celeste said...

This is one of my favorite and most memorable pieces of your writing, Mom. I love you!

Megan Sayer said...

Latayne that is beautiful! I'm captivated, and yes, a little regretful too that you don't plan on finishing or publishing it.

My first novel will never be published mostly because it is bad.
It wasn't bad at the time - it was the best thing I'd ever written at the time, and it went for OMG 30 whole pages, which is like, forEVER, and I even used talking in it.
I was fifteen. Need I say more?

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, Latayne. How heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing it. I really would like to read more of it.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you for the affirmation, dear ones.

SO-- no one else is willing to resurrect the dead or nearly dead?

Cherry Odelberg said...

It is not dead yet (my manuscript that I may never finish) and of course, it could not possibly be shared without a lot of re-writing.

And why is yours dead? Can you not repurpose it? Make it into an online serial so that we can read the rest?

Sharon K. Souza said...

Latayne, I wish I could find a copy of my first novel. I'd share the opening, with my face covered with my hands. I'd like to think I've come a L-O-N-G way. I really enjoyed reading yours, loved how you wove the poetry through the novel's beginning. It said so much more about the situation than narrative or even dialogue could have.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I'd love to post the first lines of the first thing but it is buried so deeply in the bookcase I can't find it. It was about a girl who lived in a world where time moved very quickly. There was a blurred barrier where her world rubbed up against a slower moving world. She worked for a mysterious professor who studied the things and scraps - sometimes of people - who came through the barrier. Then one day he invited her to go through with him.
The thing I liked best was the characterisation of her mother who was insane and wove huge tapestries because she failed to weave people's lives to her satisfaction.
If you never publish your novel, Latayne, at least you have shown us your talent is pure and abounding from the beginning. The masterful out-reeling of the emotion held me tight.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you for the kind comments. May......be I will find the time in my life to finish it.