Art: The High Priestess of Jacmel by Mari Hall
Simbe stepped outside her back door in her gardening gloves. “Another pretty, pretty Florida day!” she exclaimed out loud to herself. She raised her arms to the sunny sky and began to dance toward her garden chanting a blessing in her native Haitian. She danced to the middle of the lushness and ended her garden blessing by grabbing dirt in both hands, kissing it, and throwing it to the wind. She brushed the dirt from her mouth with the back of one gloved hand and breathed the clear morning air deeply and gratefully. Then she happily bent down to begin the business of weeding. She’d been at it only twenty minutes or so when she heard a car drive up. She stood up to see who it was and saw her oldest American friend hastening toward the front door. Simbe waved and hollered all singsongy, “Ooo-hoo, Marta! I am here! In de garden!”
Simbe could hear Marta’s footsteps reverse as she shouted back, “Oh hi, Simbe! OK!” And then she saw Marta come back around and down toward the garden. Marta began to run and Simbe waited, grinning warmly with arms outstretched ready to receive her friend. Marta rushed into Simbe’s arms and they hugged for a lifetime.
“Now den, let me take a look at you!” Simbe said pushing Marta out to arms length. Then she broke into raucous laughter and said, “Oh, I can not! I have left my right glasses for looking in de house.”
Marta laughed, “Oh Simbe, me, too! I’ve at least three pairs of glasses now!”
After both women recovered from their laughter, Simbe spoke, “My dear, dear Marta! It has been four monts, no?”
Marta smiled sadly, “I’m afraid so. I’ve been so unbelievably busy and I’ve a story to tell you.”
Simbe nodded in her all-knowing way, “Mmm, yes, I feel de weight of someting on your head. Well, dat is what I am here for. You have helped me much and I will help you much.”
Marta frowned, “Where to begin? Whoo… Well, soon after I last saw you, I took in a boarder. I rented my son’s old room to a lovely young woman, Julie, just out of college and working at Perrard Systems as a computer programmer.”
Simbe motioned for Marta to follow her to the patio, “Come. You have much to tell. You become comfortable and I will bring out some of my iced Haitian Bleu.”
“Oh, thank you, Simbe,” Marta breathed gratefully. She put her purse down and settled into a big green, cushioned patio chair.
Simbe came out with a beautiful hammered silver tray and pitcher and two huge, tall clear glasses filled with ice. She set the tray down, poured both of them some iced coffee, and settled herself happily into a chair next to Marta. “So this Julie. She is nice, you say?”
Marta smiled, “Oh, yes, just darling!” Then her expression darkened and she continued, “Well, she used to be… But about a month after moving in she began seeing a horrible young man. Derek. He’s just 22. At the time she met him he was living with his parents and going to college. But after about three weeks of dating Julie he dropped out of school and began bumming around his parents house making no effort to find a job. Apparently his father had spent a lot on college tuition for nothing, and the kid was being rude to his mother and not helping at all around the house. So his father told him, ‘You have one month to find a job and get out of here. Either way, job or no, you’re out of here.’”
Simbe wagged her head back and forth, patted Marta’s hand and said, “Dat was de right ting to do. Dat boy is an evil one for sure.”
Marta shook her head, “Yes, he is. And I tell you it’s not just his mother he’s rude to. He’s very rude to me. I see nothing in that kid that Julie could possibly be interested in. In fact, one morning early on in their relationship I asked her, ‘What do you see in Derek?’ and she could barely contain herself! She gushed, ‘Oh Marta, I love how he is so sure of himself and takes no guff from anyone. He does only what he wants to do. He’s his own man. And he is so handsome. And he treats me like a princess!’ then she giggled, hugged me, and left for work. Unbelievable! You know, what she calls ‘sure of himself’ is belligerence and what she calls ‘taking no guff and doing only what he wants’ is arrogance!”
“Indeed!” Simbe agreed. “Go on, my dear.”
Marta was all wound up now and an angry river of words rushed out, “About a week after Derek’s father’s ultimatum, Julie comes to me and asks if Derek can move in with her in her room. I told her absolutely not! But she was so sweet to me and promised if I let him move in it would only be for a month while he looked for a job and found a place of his own. So I told her ‘OK, just one month.’”
Simbe gasped, “You did not!”
Marta dropped her eyes and said, “Oh yes I did, and I’m eternally sorry for it now! During the month he moved in, he did absolutely nothing to find a job and he was always trying to push me around. In my own house, mind you! And Julie! Derek has an unhealthy power over her and it’s as if she has become him. She’s as rude to me as he is. And when I went to Derek after his month was up and told him he needed to leave immediately as agreed, he told me, ‘I’m not going anywhere, woman.’ They’ve both become intolerable. They torment me mentally. I swear the two of them are trying to drive me crazy so I’ll leave the house screaming and let them just have it for their own! Simbe, I can’t take it anymore. But before I start legal proceedings, I’d just like to see if you could offer me your spiritual help.”
Marta barely got the last few words out before breaking into uncontrollable sobs. Simbe got up from her chair, pulled a fresh handkerchief from her pocket, and offered it to Marta, “You need a hug, my friend! Come,” and she helped Marta up from her chair and hugged her for a lifetime.
As Simbe rocked back and forth with Marta, she cooed, “Oh my dear friend, why did you not come to me sooner? I can help you. Yes, yes, dere, dere…”
When Marta had recovered, Simbe held her at arms length, a hand firmly on each shoulder, and told her, “Marta, you must first know dat we all have access to de same power. Some do not know dis or do not know how to tap into it. You must understand dis. You are not mentally weaker den Julie and Derek. You are just as strong as dey are. It is just dat dey have found a weak spot in you and maximized it to de point dat you feel less powerful. And dat is deir only edge. Dis will be easy to fix.”
Marta dabbed at her eyes and half smiled. Simbe shook her, “OK, my friend? Are you wid me now?”
“Yes, Simbe,” Marta said, beginning to feel better. “Yes, I am!”
“OK, den!” Simbe laughed. “You did worry me! Now den, come into my kitchen and listen to what I have to say.”
Simbe led Marta into the house and pulled out a chair for her, then sat opposite her. She leaned toward Marta, her eyes intently willing her the power to understand, “Alright, my Marta, because you have become what is going on in your life, in relation to Julie and Derek, you have both power and unpower from it. You have power because you deeply know de situation and yet you have unpower because it has knocked you off your center. Do you see de dilemma? You have de power but you don’t have de power. You are stuck. You don’t see your way out. I will be your re-empowerment guide. I will supply you my power if you fail while I am leading you trough a purging process dat will not hurt dem but take away deir power to hurt you.”
Marta said, “That sounds wonderful. How do we do that?”
“It is like dis,” Simbe said. “I will dress for purging. We will go into my special room. I will sit across from you at a special table much like how we are sitting now only I will be holding both of your hands in mine. And I will be holding dem tightly because it is important dat dis connection not be broken until de purging session is fully completed. I will tell to you everyting to do while purging and re-empowerment is happening.”
Marta felt a small fire of hope building in her and she squeezed Simbe’s hand in gratitude. Marta smiled, “I’m ready, Simbe. Let’s do it.”
Simbe smiled back lovingly at Marta and said, “Aright den. I will dress now.” And she disappeared for a few minutes. When she returned she was in a white skirt and shirt with a white bandanna tied around her head. “Come wid me now,” she said to Marta.
Simbe led Marta into a dark room with strange pictures and artifacts and goat heads and furs all over the walls. On the left was a wall-length bookshelf stuffed full of spiritual and magical books. On the right was another wall-length bookshelf that contained not books but jars and jars full of liquids, some with plants in the liquid, and others with unidentifiable things floating in them. These reminded Marta of her old high school biology and anatomy teacher with his creepy animal parts and skulls and reptiles and fish in jars of formaldehyde. In the center of the room was a small, round table, like a cocktail table at a restaurant. Two old wrought iron chairs with worn-out puffy seat cushions sat opposite each other. Marta noticed the table was placed in the middle of a large hexagram that had been painted in blood red on the floor. She wondered if it was blood…
Simbe interrupted Marta’s thoughts by pulling out one of the puffy-seated chairs and telling her to sit down. Marta sat and Simbe pushed her chair closer to the table as a gentleman would for a lady. Then Simbe went to the shelf with the bottles and chose a small vial of goat’s blood. On her way back to the table she pulled out a drawer of candles and smiled when she’d found just the right one. She brought the perfect candle and the vial with her to the table and sat down opposite Marta. She opened the vial and emptied it onto the top of her head. It saturated the bandana and spilled down onto her right shoulder. Marta recoiled in horror.
Simbe patted Marta’s hand, “No worries, my dear Marta. Dis is de blood of life dat will give me infinite strengt to prevail. ‘Tis very important. It will protect us bot on our journey.” She smiled at Marta warmly.
Marta relaxed and Simbe lit the candle she’d chosen, then she said a few words in Haitian as she waved her hands in a circular motion above the flame. “Let us begin,” she said as she took both Marta’s hands in hers and squeezed them tightly. Marta could feel a good warmth come into her hands and move up her arms and into her chest area. “Close your eyes, Marta. You will be picturing what I tell to you and you need be free of distractions.”
When Simbe saw that Marta had closed her eyes, she closed her own and began, “Marta, I want you to clearly picture Julie and Derek in your mind. Now bring dem togeder into your living room. Picture holding dem still and silent in a powerful gaze. Dey will just stand dere looking at you and understand dey can do noting at dis point. Has dis been done, Marta?”
Marta smiled, “Yes, Simbe. I have them in front of me. I feel the power over them.”
“Good,” Simbe said. “Now lead dem outside to your patio. Dey will just follow you obediently. Position de two of dem standing facing de sun. Position yourself opposite dem, your back to de sun. Allow de heat of de sun to pass trough you so dat you are untouched by it. Channel de burning intensity of it into Julie and Derek, from de tops of deir heads down trough deir bodies and out deir feet onto de heat of de patio stones. Has dis been done Marta?”
“I have them positioned and I am working on the channeling,” Marta answered, “But I feel heat myself and I’m afraid I’m not doing something right.”
Simbe’s voice soothed, “No worries, dear Marta. Here is what you do now. Tink of yourself as powerful and cool and fluidly moveable in de center of de biggest pyramid of crystal clear ice you can imagine. De sun cannot touch you but you can direct it like a laser, de tickness of de beam being up to you to determine as required to work on Julie and Derek. Do you feel dat power and ability now, Marta?”
“Mmm, oh yes!” Marta answered happily. “I’m using a three-foot diameter beam and have it trained on the tops of their heads. I’m concentrating on conducting the heat downward through their bodies. I see already that the patio stones are very hot. Julie and Derek are melting very quickly!”
“Very good!” Simbe smiled. “Now, as de liquid of dem pools on de stones, I will incant a neutralizing prayer, so dat as de liquid flows away from you and your house it will not harm anyone else, eider. Continue de heating process. Take every ounce of desire to make dem leave your life and channel it into de heating process. Use all your energy. Dere will be plenty of time to recuperate once Julie and Derek have no power over you. Now, tell to me how dis is going while I incant for innocence, for neutrality,” and with that Simbe began a low mumbling of soothing words.
“They are reducing, reducing…” Marta reported. “Julie is all gone. She is just a pool for you to bless…”
Simbe interrupted her incantation to ask, “And Derek?”
Marta’s body stiffened. Her face registered horror.
Simbe squeezed Marta’s hands with all the power she had as she invoked the highest power for good to transfer from her into Marta. But Marta was in shock. Simbe immediately snapped into action. Still squeezing Marta’s hands she got up from her chair and moved directly in front of Marta. She leaned toward the candle and took in a lungful of air above the flame, then she blew it powerfully into Marta’s face. Marta’s eyes opened and she returned to the present moment visibly shaken.
Simbe breathed an almighty sigh of relief. She continued to squeeze Marta’s hands invoking power and then asked, “Tell me what happened, my dear Marta.”
Marta croaked, “Der…” She cleared her throat. “Derek wouldn’t melt all the way.”
Simbe asked, “What do you mean, my dear?”
A shiver shot through Marta and she looked directly into Simbe’s eyes. She gathered herself and said, trembling, “All but his skull melted.”
Oh dear, Simbe thought. She didn’t want to further traumatize Marta so she calmly said, “De strengt of Derek’s evil will take a little more doing, my dear. We’ll need to go back to your patio and gadder wood in preparation for a small bonfire. Derek’s skull will need to be placed on top of de stack of wood and doused wid gasoline and den we will light de fire. Do you feel strengt enough to continue, Marta?”
Marta showed signs of acute distress. She just shook her head, “I don’t know, Simbe, I really don’t know, I just don’t know…” She squeezed Simbe’s hands and tried to shake herself free, but Simbe wouldn’t let go. “Please!” Marta said. She felt herself starting to panic.
Simbe said sternly, “Marta, I did not want to scare you, but dis is serious. I have no idea what you will find at home if we abandon dis purging session at dis point.”
Marta began to cry. She sobbed, “No Simbe! I’m sorry I came here. I’m so scared and this just feels so wrong. I can’t continue. I’ll go home and deal with this legally like I should have in the first place!”
Simbe just looked at her, disbelieving. She held Marta’s hands all the more tightly, her look imploring Marta to reconsider. She started to speak but Marta interrupted her.
“Simbe, I know you meant well. I’m not blaming you. I asked you to do this. But now I’m telling you I want to stop this…now.” Marta’s eyes begged Simbe to let her go.
Simbe held on defiantly and said, “Dis is so utterly and completely against my better judgment. I feel you do not fully understand de nature of de forces involved here, Marta. We must continue and get de job done right and completed!”
Marta had had enough, but Simbe’s grip was so intense she knew she’d have to trick her to get her to release her hands and end the session. She didn’t want Simbe to read her eyes so she kept them cast down, as if sad and unsure. She sweetened her voice and said, “Well, maybe…” She felt Simbe’s grip relax and with all her strength she yanked her hands out of Simbe’s so hard that the both of them were shocked by the force. They just stared at one another, Simbe in fear of the spiritual repercussions, and Marta in fear of Simbe’s reaction.
Simbe was the first to speak, “I am truly fearful for you, Marta, and I am saddened by your decision. You were not well enough informed to make dat decision. I am informed and your job was to trust dat. But it is done, now. You have taken control of someting you know not and all I can do now is to tell you I stand ready to help you furder in any way if you ask it.”
Marta felt bad. Simbe was right. She didn’t know what had come over her. Maybe it was Simbe’s stifling grip and the feeling it gave her of being trapped. Anyway, it was indeed done. She hugged Simbe and began to cry, “I’m so sorry Simbe. Thank you. I will call you immediately for help if I need it.” And with that she left the room, the house, and ran for her car. Before she got in the car, she looked back at Simbe’s pretty cottage with its adorable white fence and quaint little garden of herbs and vegetables and a wave of fear and dread washed over her. She almost ran back, but something drew her into the car and over the roads to her own house.
She pulled into the driveway and walked to the door. She paused. She remembered what Simbe had said, “You are just as strong as dey are,” and she stepped inside, into the kitchen. The cabinets allotted to Julie were all open. She poked her head into the dining room. Nothing. She went into the living room and saw a few tidy piles of Julie’s things. Then she heard noises in Julie’s room. She walked down the hall and found Julie’s door open. She knocked on the door jamb, “Hello! Julie?”
“Come on in, Marta,” Julie said politely.
“Alright,” Marta said hesitantly but she didn’t move.
“It’s OK, Marta. I’m decent!” Julie said and laughed.
What a difference Marta thought. Julie was being nice to her again. She went ahead into Julie’s room and found her packing her things. “Oh!” is all she could say.
“Yeah, Marta, I’m moving,” Julie said cheerfully. “It’s time, like you said. I’m so sorry for the way I treated you. I’m clear-headed now. I can’t believe I would let someone like Derek get to me like that and turn me into a beast like he did.”
Julie began to cry and Marta held her and hugged her. Then Julie’s crying stopped short. She drew in air abruptly and, still clinging to Marta, whispered in her ear, “Oh Marta! I have to tell you Derek’s still here. He’s outside. Or he was, the last time I looked. There’s something radically wrong with him. Mid-morning today he just snapped. He started accusing me of all manner of things, of putting a poisonous powder in his clothes and in his food…”
“Well, well, well, if it’s not the two conspirators!” Derek bellowed all high and mighty. He stood blocking the entire doorway, his arms folded across his chest, with no intent to move. Marta and Julie abruptly pulled away from each other and stood stiffly, side by side, on high alert, facing Derek.
Derek’s voice was ominous, his eyes black. “I know what you did, woman,” he said to Marta.
Marta’s insides went crazy with panic. How could he know what she’d initiated and done at Simbe’s? Her thoughts moved at high speed through the maze of her mind, bumping into possibilities for escape, for resolution, for something, anything that would put an end to this.
Derek saw the intense, darting fear in Marta’s eyes and laughed. He took a step closer to the women. They stepped back. Then he drilled his eyes into to Marta and said, “Yeah, I know, woman. You think you’re so clever using your connections to sic the CIA on me, but I’m cleverer than you and them.” Then he just stood there shaking his head up and down feverishly, chuckling maniacally.
Marta was relieved that he wasn’t referring to what had happened at Simbe’s, but she was all the more fearful of his actions. She decided not to confirm or deny the CIA thing since either choice would probably enrage him. She could hear Simbe’s voice again, “…we all have access to da same power…you are just as strong as dey are,” and she felt a surge of power within.
She looked calmly at Derek, leaned toward him and whispered, “Your skull is on fire.”
Derek was so shocked, so unprepared for such an off the wall statement that it looked like he might not recover. Marta pierced his head with her eyes as she ran thoughts in the back of her mind of his skull breaking down from the raging fire, his evil power breaking down and turning into dust that blows away in the wind. She tried to think of the blessing to put on the dust that would neutralize it and prevent it from hurting anyone, but she couldn’t remember it.
Then Derek broke into a sick grin and said, “Oh I know what you’re trying to do!” He laughed wickedly. “You’re trying to confuse me! The CIA is on its way here to kill me, but I’m ahead of them and now you’re trying to buy time, but you can’t, you bitch woman!” He leaned back, rocked a little on his heels and laughed his wicked laugh.
Marta didn’t break her piercing gaze or her thoughts that were turning like a video loop over and over with pictures of Derek’s skull on top of the fire that she was desperately trying to keep lit and raging. Every once in awhile a nagging thought would vie for her attention, something to do with why she hadn’t finished this at Simbe’s, and it was all she could do to hold her concentration and keep what little power she had left on the fire, to keep it going and burning Derek’s skull.
Then Derek stopped laughing and his face clouded over with darkness and he started walking toward Marta saying, “No, fool woman, the CIA will be too late to save you, because I will kill you first!” Then he sprang like lightning, like an agile cat, so fast toward Marta that she had no time to react. Derek grabbed her around the neck and began choking her.
Julie jumped aside from the action screaming bloody murder, “Oh my god!” over and over as she ran from the room. She ran desperately from room to room in the house screaming, “The phone! The phone!” She couldn’t think. Then she froze. She heard a different sound in her room. It was Derek screaming something different. She couldn’t make out exactly what he was screaming but the sound of it jogged her enough to remember where the phone was. She ran into the kitchen and lunged at the phone, yanked the receiver off the hook, and dialed 911.
The 911 operator came on and began to run Julie through the questions, her location, her phone number. When the operator got to asking the nature of the emergency Julie lost it again. She screamed into the phone, “He’s gone crazy! He’s trying to kill her!”
The operator calmed Julie down some and then asked, “How many persons are injured or involved?”
Suddenly Julie was petrified with the realization she could no longer hear any noises at all coming from her room. She whispered into the phone, “It’s him and it’s her and I’m here and I think he’s coming for me now!”
The operator said, “The police should be there any second now. Can you make it to safety?”
Julie whispered, “I don’t know.”
The operator asked, “Can you hear anything, see anything now?”
Julie whispered, “No. I don’t know where he is.”
Then the front door was bashed open and two policemen burst into the kitchen, “Where are they?” one yelled at her.
Julie pointed down the hall and tried to tell them it was the last door on the right but she couldn’t speak. The policemen took off running down the hall. She heard the doors slamming back as they cleared each room. She counted the doors: Marta’s bedroom, the the closet, the guest bedroom, the guest bathroom, her room. Then the slamming stopped.
“Holy Christ!” she heard one of them say. Then there was a rush of radio calls and she heard the two policemen talking hurriedly between themselves in their code language.
It wasn’t long before both policemen came back into the kitchen and stood in front of Julie. The one who’d asked her where Marta and Derek were, spoke to her again, “I’m Sergeant Behrand, Ma’am. This is Officer Reinman. Are you alright?”
Julie mustered energy from somewhere and squeaked, “I don’t know. I guess…”
The Sergeant asked, “You’re Miss Julie Dirk, the one who made the 911 call, is that correct?”
“Yes,” Julie whispered, then cleared her throat and added aloud, “I am.”
“Miss Dirk,” the Sergeant said, “can you tell us what happened here?”
Julie answered, “I think so… But…” She bit at her lip and looked down. She almost didn’t dare ask, but she had to. She looked back up at the Sergeant and blurted out, “Is Marta OK?”
“They’re both dead,” the Sergeant said. “The female was strangled, and the male…there are no signs on his body that indicate the cause of death. Our forensics team is on the way.”
Julie felt light-headed, could feel her eyes begin to roll up. Her eyelids fluttered and she began to wobble.
“Ho, now, Miss Dirk,” the Sergeant said as he grabbed Julie’s arm and shoulder and helped her over to the kitchen table, helped her to sit down. “Stay with us!”
The Sergeant looked at the Officer, “Water, Reinman?”
Reinman opened a few cabinets, found a glass, filled it with tap water and put it on the table in front of Julie. “Here you go, Miss Dirk,” he said.
Julie grasped the glass with both hands like it was life itself, raised it to her twitching lips, and gulped at the water until she was out of breath. She gasped and set the glass down hard and hopeless, her eyes stared vacantly at the Sergeant.
The Sergeant softened his voice a bit and said to Julie, “That’s why we need to know what you saw, from the beginning of this whole thing to the time we entered your residence.”
Julie stared and nodded but said nothing.
The Sergeant upped his volume and jabbed her sharply with her own name, “Julie!”
Julie blinked back to reality, looked at the Sergeant, and the dam broke. She began to sob wildly, convulsively. Reinman, in anticipation of his next order from Behrand, had already located a box of tissues and now set it on the table in front of Julie.
The Sergeant gave Reinman a nod and said genuinely, “Thank, you, Officer.”
After they’d calmed Julie down to just the occasional sniffle, the Sergeant asked again, “Julie, please tell us what happened, from the beginning.”
Julie sat with downcast eyes, resigned to having to talk about the whole thing. She did her best to be helpful, to put the events in the proper order in which they’d happened and to give the most complete information she could. She told the Sergeant about Derek just snapping earlier that day and accusing her of poisoning him, how she’d finally convinced him that she was the least of his troubles, and how after that he’d pretty much left her alone until Marta arrived. She told the Sergeant how she’d tried to warn Marta but Derek came in and started accusing Marta of turning the CIA onto him to kill him. She told the Sergeant how Derek had lunged like a cat at Marta and started choking her, and how she’d run terrorized from the room.
“Is that all?” the Sergeant asked.
Julie nodded, “Yes.”
“No fire, no flammable materials were involved at any point?” the Sergeant asked.
“Why, no!” Julie answered, and looked up at the Sergeant, confused.
Art: “The High Priestess of Jacmel” by Mari Hall found at http://www.blackcommentator.com/165/165_art_form_haiti_jacmel.html
Art: skeleton from Getty Images http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xt/73324432.jpg?v=1&g=SRM&s=1
This piece was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#119 – my oldest friend.” Click here for more on prompt #119 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
no time to read everything now but so far so good. and sweet!
devil mood: girl???
okay you wicked woman, you!!! — bamboozled again by the bad ass blogger i am — this is like a story i wanted to just sit here reading all nite till marta got herself outta the mess, but the end came hard and fast, and as usual i can’t catch it — like why the question at the end about flammables if she got chokened off and not a mark on his bod??? — shee-it, i’ll be damned if i know where you get this stuff! – love the patois as you wrote simbie’s part, and the richness of the spiritual stuff in the back room – kept me under a spell right to the end when i hit the wall one more time — most unusual and original of all the best friend stories, me thinks — you write a baaaad story, sister!!!
Okay. Haven’t read any of the other comments ‘cos I haven’t read your story yet, and I don’t want to read any spoilers. I’m just getting in and out real fast.
Just wanted to tell you this:
Thou hast been tagged!
Ah, finally read it now! So entertaining and you really managed to scare me half-way through when Marta decided to abandon the session.
It’s a mystery how you get these ideas because you really need to be inside this whole scenario to write this. How you manage to jump from one theme to another completely different every week is beyond me.
Well, Zora Neale (or should we say E. Danticat?), you certainly cover de waterfront. Gotta say, Simbe’s patois did not work for me on the first read, but it did the second go-round. There’s a very different rhythm to this piece: it lacks the jangly edge I’ve internalized from your other pieces: problem was, on the first go-round last night, “Power Interrupt” kept working against the earlier rhythms in my head. Slowing down, really catching Simbe’s rhythms, made a big difference. This is nice stretch. It’s still got your wonderful gift for details; often it’s the tiniest ones that I really like: “She danced to the middle of the lushness,” “She brushed the dirt from her mouth with the back of one gloved hand,” “they hugged for a lifetime…” My favorite line, to me the story’s fulcrum: ‘She looked calmly at Derek, leaned toward him and whispered, “Your skull is on fire.”’ What a wonderful shift for Marta (and what an awesome piece of writing), catching the fire within herself…but then the scramble as she fails to find the neutralizing spell.
A bit of a debate, like danni, about the finish: is there enough? Not that explanations need to be piled on, but the clues to telling/not telling may be just a little too subtle. If the lack of marks on the “body” is the cop’s way of NOT saying what that skull looks like, that makes sense, the cops themselves are too traumatized to be clear themselves. You have a gift for suggesting more by withholding, so again the question for me comes back to your own feelings about the finish. Did you, in your estimation, tell us enough?
trying really hard to wrap my head around this, get more addled with each read – marta/simbe – twice they “hugged for a lifetime” – or on 911″it’s him and it’s her and i’m here” – and this julie chick with her eyes fluttering up in her head, setting her glass down hard and hopeless – maybe she’s not wrapped too tightly, either – gawd!!! – i’m screaming UNCLE at the top of my lungs – please do tell, miss a!!!
danni, you are a beginning writer’s dream. Your enthusiasm keeps my heart lit :- )
Oooh, Void, in choosing me you’ve tagged one of the meme’s greatest adversaries! It all started with my first clash with the imperious chain letter and I’ve never recovered. But I’ll admit some memes I’ve seen have value. So I checked this one out that you’ve got stuck into and it ain’t bad. It turns ones thoughts inside to dig around for something most would say is worth digging for. I’ll be on the road all day tomorrow, so if I come up with something worth posting it’ll be Thursday or Friday. Hey, thanks for thinking of me…I think.
Ms. Mood, I guess my mind’s a flying carpet, like Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” ;-)
danni and paschal: turns out this fiction stuff’s harder’n it looks! Is there enough? Hell if I know! LOL! I have an aversion to spoon feeding. I want the reader to have room to breathe, maybe with enough freedom to make the story be and end however they want. Sure I’d like it if they came to the same conclusion I had in mind when I wrote the thing because that’d freak me out in a good way, like a sign that my mind’s a party line and someone down the road has come on singin’ the same tune. Funny thing is I had a hard and fast punch line with Derek killing Marta then being cuffed and stuffed, but it felt like a copout. So maybe I went too far back the other way, but that whole knowing when to hold ‘em and fold’em thing is definitely a challenge I’m faced with. You guys made a good call and I appreciate your feedback like crazy. K now, here’s what was buzzing on the party line: Marta is doing her best with the fire burning/purging voodoo, even as Derek is choking her. Her efforts could go either way, but we’re with Julie running all around the house. When Julie finally gets her shit together enough to call 911 and it gets quiet down the hall, Julie thinks Derek has killed Marta and is now coming for her. But when the police get there and find Marta obviously strangled and Derek dead but find no cause and then ask Julie if she’s sure no fire was involved, and you know Marta was trying to burn Derek’s skull, then the Holy Christ might’ve been about the smell of burnt bone. danni: the “for a lifetime” stuff’s not integral, call it a decoy to give you needless creeps if you like. And the 911 thing: it’s him (Derek) and it’s her (Marta) and I’m here (Julie). And about Julie, she’s alright. Well-meaning, but a bad judge of character ;-) paschal: now you ‘splain to me! What is this “jangly edge” you speak of? Tell me cuz I don wanna lose no mo jangles if jangles is good!
Miss A: I hear you on the post-op considerations re: the ending: you ‘splained yourself just fine: you really left us (the readers) with the very playing cards I felt I had remaining in my hand: it was my responsibility to decide how I wanted that ending to configure in my own imagination, just what I thought the cops were seeing, smelling, what have you. Well done (the explanations, not Derek’s skull).
Besides, who am I to speak of spoon-feeding readers, I who generally start with blindfolds and blunt (at best) instruments? Derangement of the senses, doncha know.
About those jangles, sister, don’t you be doin’ a thing! Jangly edge was a just very simplistic way of contrasting the feel of this story with others. Neither jangly nor edge are deemed negative in the least: your other pieces have a very urban feel and landscape (even the Cannery Row story; if the Seer is not urban-ish, the narrator’s sensibilities still seem to be so): PI is, to my mind, different on a number of fronts, justing showing another side of your traveling imagination. By all means keep that “jangly edge” in your writerbody.
whao! i am left excited, yet not wanting for more. the ending was perfect – not the alls well that ends well hoghwash. there was that perfect amount of space for the reader to put things together and surmise, possibly imagine – imagination is important for reading, nay? as much as it is for writing!
the black magic stuff usually scares me to no end, i have *seen* people acctually affected by it, and they say there still are those powerful ‘craftsmen’ in unknown parts here in india – there was a point of time – back in the 70s 80s i think – when it was so bad that the law had to come down and ban them and what not!
i saw the length of the post and was a little hesitant – only to sit down and read it adn realise – as always, what a fool i had been. the warm cordiality between marta and simbe comes across wonderully well, as does the overpowering nature of derek. it was also eerie, to me, personally, for the derek reminded me of the dharmabum – and all the billigerence and arrogance that was a part of him once, and possibly still refuses to let go! some of the lines – like the hugging for a lifetime – are pearls in conveying the emotions. as also the instance where the cop picks up the box of tissues in anticipation and his boss smiles a knowing smile, is it?
you’re breaking all barriers in this craft, missA. when u do become a celebrity writer o somethin, the bum is gonna ask u out on a date and then go brag to the rest o de world ;)
Oh, now, Missalister, i liked the story well, too, and I am wondering what sort of voo-doo, what manner of skull burning you had to perform, to find this story in your head? When she whispers ‘your skull is on fire’ I know then there is humor in this, but no less horror. To me, that’s what made it fascinating.
Your writing reminds me of the writing of a guy I know. Well, I wouldn’t say I personally know him. But I know him through his books. Stephen King–have you heard of? There’s a quality. Well, there are a bunch of qualities: the characters; the details; the story with its basis in folklore, but new like I know I’m reading this for the first time.
It’s a fascinating read. You have a knack for fiction like I’d love. : )
You got me hooked.
Paschal: I’m thinking of maybe submitting this somewhere just so I can experience getting a rejection slip, or no word at all, and I want to leave more telling playing cards. For fun, I’ve got a poll going amongst a mix of fam and friends regarding a more shored-up ending, still allowing the reader’s brain a big ol’bone to chew on, but not pissing him or her off either. Personally, I hate an ending that reaches too far into the nether regions of Ambiguiousland and I don’t wanna be a total hypocrite! LOL! If Dolly hasn’t blown or flooded you off the map of the beloved state of Texas, and you’d like to toss in your ten cents, I’d be thrilled :-)
And them angles, I guess they’ll stay by default until such time as I scrounge down deep for time and energy to take a class or two!
Dharmabum: imagination is indeed important all the way around, anywhere, everywhere, anytime! It’s part our human inheritance. It’s life, it’s living.
Oooh, I missed the black magic goings-on in India in the 70s/80s. That’d be super-interesting to read about now. It doesn’t scare me entirely, mostly out of a largely untried, happy ignorance as bliss in the power of good. In other words, what I wrote in the story about all of us having access to the same power is my personal belief. This is not to say I’d want to go head-to-head with a practiced “craftsman”! But certainly in the run of the mill, modern day relational challenges I feel I’m as strong as the next person…and if I fail to access the power, well that’s my problem!
About the length of this post, yes I know! LOL! I thought of that. I do the same thing when I visit others’ sites. Although I’m daunted by a long post, I just jump into it and if the writer can’t hold my attention the whole way through, then sayonara! Same with me, if I can’t hold a reader’s attention, I’d absolutely understand a quick departure! So if you made it all the way through this piece, that’s a key compliment! I’m so glad you found some juicy tidbits. The cop/tissue interaction to me was mainly a mundane but genuine interaction that contributed to reality. Reinman, lower in the pecking order, seeing the pattern and bowing to it out of duty, but Behrand truly appreciating the forethought and rewarding Reinman with a nod and genuine tone of voice. Even the whole Derek thing! I must say I have to work my mind around a bit to attribute his overpowering nature to you. Your writing conveys a deep understanding of the world and any human power you might take from that seems tamed to a wise wielding of it by spiritual knowing. Well, if you were at all like Derek, but less so now, give it some more years. Your dad’s a case in point, right? ;-)
Either way, if I become a celebrity writer, I’ll meet you in Pune and you can brag all the way to Mumbai and we’ll listen to Ramesh tell us there’s nothing we can do to encourage or even discourage enlightenment from happening to us…oh dear, fame better happen fast, because Ramesh is 90 years old! ;-)
Bass! Glad you could make it and liked the story!
What sort of voo-doo? Well, I’ll tell you: it all started with “Bewitched,” which wasn’t too awfully bad until I stirred in some “I Dream of Jeannie.” Then it bubbled into big trouble, so I tried to neutralize it by adding some “MacGyver.” That seemed to be helping, or at least holding it all at bay, until I received the “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Extended Edition Box Set)“ for Christmas one year. That put me over the edge of this world into the next to the point of no return.
I enjoyed your observation. Truly, how bizarre the burning skull to the point of ridiculousness to the point of nervous laughter to the point of a cautiously raised eyebrow and a look over the shoulder!
Void: funny you should mention the style of this thing being King-ish! When I was visiting my parents in April, my mom had a copy of King’s “Insomnia” lying around with some other books she was planning to give away. I’ve never read any of King’s horror books, but I’ve enjoyed a couple of movies based on his books, and loved “Stephen King On Writing.” Perhaps the curiousity generated by King’s “…On Writing” is what prompted me to pick up “Insomnia” and begin reading it. And maybe some of it rubbed off… If so, you will not hear me complaining, no suh!