Saturday, 1 October 2016

Repent, a fable

What follows here is the first chapter of a novel fable I've been working on for a few years. Repent is the tale of the transformation Jack, a lost and mildly degenerate artist. The story starts with him as a standard sort of ant-hero that is common in contemporary art film and literature. The sort of character we are told is 'believable'. His utter lack of greatness makes him good, or so the archetype goes.

In this story Jack will learn to expect more from himself, and those around him. He will be faced with a call to real greatness requiring him to leave his broken though familiar and comforting life behind.


Repent
a fable
by William Scott

 Chapter One


“Hello.”
“Jack?”
“Lori?”
“Mom’s gone”
“Where”
“She’s . . . Gone”

These are the first words we’ve shared in 3 years.  Lori and I do not talk for any better reason than we cannot talk.  We talked to mom and she talked between.  More interpretation than mediation.  Our oath-less conspiracy allowed our mother to create the family story to her liking.

“. . . She’s dead. “

“How?”

“Heart attack.  In the pool.” 

Oh God!  I meant to see her again.  I ever mean to see her again.   Lori lives in the same town as mom.  Just a few miles apart.  She managed  to keep her house, to keep her husband and to keep mom involved; off to church on Sundays,  too the pool on Fridays, and endless cups of tea,  Mom’s pot handle sticky with the syrupy melancholy of her evaluations.  I moved far away as soon as possible, but the tack was refreshed on my fingers every time I picked up her calls. 

“Jack!?”

“y-Yes” 

“Well?”

“When’s the burial?”

“The funeral is next.  A week Saturday.”

Open casket.  Family thing.  Facing the death in yourself, something.  My great grandmother, me only six picked up by dad to look in.  “Where’s Nana”, I said.  She looked like a wax clown, grandma too.  Thinned lips, sewn together I suppose to keep her from getting out one last word.  More make-up than she had ever owned, upon her face.  Eyelids sewn too it looked, stuffed behind the lids, with clumps of mascara that looked like they might drop off the lashes onto her powder pink cheek; the proud work of some artisan at the mortuary.  How do you train to paint doll’s faces on the dead?  Maybe they all have to do it in turn. 

Putty forehead, cool,
unyielding as I bent to kiss.
Once, a boy upon your knee,
through folds of severity,
in sparkled tear I caught a glimpse, 
of your maiden bliss.

The men are always cremated. 

“You going to make it?”

“‘Course”

“Need money?”

“Maybe to get home?”

Too soon for snide.  I want to mourn, to chasten my neglect, my cowardice of so many years, to miss her (I have always missed her), but not with Lori on the phone with only a satellite’s veil between.  All the fragments of my memories of home, all the unfinished intentions are beating at the backs of my eyes to be let out.  I want to tell mom what to tell Lori.  I want to hang up!

“Have you told your kids?”

“Joan won’t comprehend it much.  But we did not want to tell Jack or Jessica ‘till you knew.”

“Uh hmm.  Thanks.  How do you think they will take it?”

“As well as I do.”

Control and order. I am her shabby brother.  The longer I tread my ‘courageous’ road the more I crave the disposition to live like Greg and Lori.  What have I to show for all my heroic journeying?  A dry cough, dark circles, and --most like-- liver spots.  I am 15 women’s ex- boyfriend.  My progeny: an aborted zygote, an aborted fetus, and one solo art show.   They have what most everyone has, and yet they have so much.  More than I could bear. 

“You’re just not cut out for marriage, dear.  You’re an artist like your father”, every time we spoke, without fail (without conviction).  “But I still pray the good Lord will send you an angel to soften your heart.”  At some point I could have carried on my conversations with mom by myself, picking one of twenty or so aphorisms to answer any need more or less poorly.

“Was it quick?

“She drowned.”

“Jesus!      . . . sorry.”

“The lifeguard thought she was just diving to touch the bottom, she liked to do that.  That poor boy is a wreck; he emptied her lungs and administered CPR while the girl lifeguard ran to get the defibrillator.”

Sheepish, mom confided once -deep into the box of Chablis- she tucked pennies under the bottom edge of her swimsuit bellow her right hip.  Her father threw pennies into the pool at the Okanagan resort where they vacationed, the siblings struggling under water to bring up the most.  “It is silly and girlish I know, but I dare not ask anyone else, so I let them loose when no one is watching, and I dive down to gather them all up myself.”      

“He really worked very hard to bring her back, Jack.
ha huh, who’s the poet now?”

“I’m not a poet.”

“More than me.”

“Just mouthy sometimes, with rhymes, not publishable.”

“You were always too hard on yourself.  Mom still has that one you left on your wall, about dad, she still cries when she makes herself read it.  Says she’s sorry you had to learn all that, no matter how beautifully written.
You still painting?”

“I'm a print maker”

“Oh, yes.  Mom has that one you sent.”

“Really?”

“Yes, on the fridge.”
“Really!?   Ha. I guess that’s where it belongs.”

“I said I would get it framed for her, but she insisted you would pick out the frame next time you came out to see us.”

“I gave her the moulding manufacturer and profile number.”

“Jack, we don’t understand all that.  Maybe you could get it framed while you're here.”

“Too late now, I suppose.”

“I’d like it.  I think it’s beautiful.”

“Really?”

“Yes, of course Jack. You are very gifted. Or do you think I'm too low class to appreciate it?"
"No. I didn't mean . . .    " I might have.

"I don't have any fancy words as to why, may be that you made it, but it makes me happy.
When you come you should stay for a few weeks, if you can, the kids should get to know their uncle Jack better, and I’ll ask Greg if we can pay to get the picture framed.”

In the cardboard house
Holly Hobbie’s cups set neatly out.
he still-sad while she buzzed about;
Father placed freshly in the ground.
Paused when she beheld his frown,
wiped his tear as if her own;
humming soft ‘anon, anon’,
she kissed her father’s brow.

“God this is so awful”

“I know Jack”

“I really am flat too, but I have some money coming in a few weeks”

“It’s okay I’ll book your ticket online.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You have to come.
While you’re here you can give the kids some art classes, Lord knows I’m no hand at it, and private lessons are so much.” 

“You sure?, I’ll pay you back”


“Of course.  Don’t worry, we’ll be together soon.”