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Aaron
05-23-2007, 10:41 PM
This is will be my thread for prose and fiction, though I don't have tons that I would want to post. But here ya go...

This first piece is a short story that I wrote a while back and never really did anything with. I've nearly submitted it many times, but always end up talking myself out of it. Either that, or I simply forget.

Anyway, it's kinda fuckin' weird. I can say, however, that it does pretty much follow my thought process as it was written, and was never intended to be a story. More of an exercise. But that's enough talk. Here it is.


Writer's Block and River Gods


empty…empty…The emptiness again.

A stark white page unyielding before me, I smirk and grumble the familiar laugh of the uninspired. No stories to be told tonight; my thoughts are but pulp and rotting ideals. I’ve nothing to offer. I must overcome.

Pain.

I wonder why it is that a person will sometimes ache for no apparent reason. And I don’t mean mere physical malady—nothing as easy to place as a sciatic pinch or a dose of the clap—what I speak of is a hurting on the inside, in the corner of the self not quite within the realm of the describable; I scarcely know that it exists.

Should I even attempt to illustrate this agony? Should I use colorful metaphors: a case of the blues, a black morbidity, what Capote’s heroine called the “mean reds”? Nonsense. Right now all I see is the whiteness of the flawless stationery, and in focusing upon it I concede to the suffering of my strange unnamable ailment. I see it for what it is. It is nothing; a great, magnificent nothing that I can feel under my skin, a dark and wondrous parasite that warms my sinews while chilling my bones, sluggishly murdering me in sparing drinks.

I’ve sat idle on my amorphous cot for the past three hours—a time so brief when blissful, so endless when the “nothing” is upon me—and my unfinished fictions lie scattered about. I have reread them all in my imagined eternity, and haven’t found a single word to add. I tell you, I hate my writing so very much. I always have. When I write it is like a lusty, forbidden affair, in which I am thoroughly seduced by my pedantic doggerel. But soon after, the excitement fades. Like a bitter lover freshly tasting the cruelty of licentious betrayal, the hate sets in and I begin to resent my own words.

So now, having condemned myself to a biting session of self-loathing— and one must be honest enough to realize that when you despise your own creations, you are blatantly execrating yourself—I have only compounded the Nothing (now I’ve taken to capitalizing it—have I gone mad?), and I am drearier than ever.

Moments ago, I swallowed two pills: a purple one and a white one. I do not know what they were, nor do I care to know. I didn’t even ask the rude ghetto apothecary that gave them to me. Whatever they may be, I hope terribly that they do something, anything, to alter my current state. I used to tackle all of my troubles in this manner, my favorite pastime. I found multitudes of consolations amid plumes of cannabis smoke, tantalizing my clouded sensibilities with its exquisite tang; or while choking down the thick, metallic drain induced by line after line of the manic ivory powder. So long ago. I cannot remember, hard as I try, how the warm cuddling of artificial endearment felt, only that it had been wonderful and unreal. How I still long for it…

Perhaps the pills I’ve ingested will take me back. Perchance they can transform these “blues”, which I have aptly designated as the Nothing, into their respective selves: the purples and whites.

I take the case from my pocket and roll a cigarette. Butane fire and burning life cells; I breathe in the pedestrian nicotine. Puff-puff. My lungs complain and the taste is rancid, like a lie. I throw it away.

Unable to spark a fresh adulteration between my gray matter, pen, and page, I have decided to continue in following my thoughts, fleeing from my destitute creations, recording only what is my current reality. This is a common exercise of mine when lost to words, although under normal circumstances I most often just write various descriptions of myself, as though I were a character of some sultry tale. I speak of my eyes, hazel-green so abysmal and knowing. My windblown brown hair and stolid frame. Sometimes I’ll compose treatises about my average penis, which I am self-conscious of without reason. But not tonight. Things are not right with me this evening. All seems different, as though anxiety has become a fatal cancer of stealthy malignance. I need direction.

Hot black coffee in a blue cracked mug. Steam drifts to my reading glasses--embrace the foggy perception.

A vision has entered my mind, a not infrequent occurrence. Nothing divine or vicarious as such—they never are—rather, it is merely the ghost of a chapter yet unwritten. A bizarre chimera, it is a vision of the Ganges River, slithering across the northlands of India like a cobra on the prowl. I’ve never actually seen the river, but I feel this yearning toward it. On and off for weeks now, it has been as though it were calling out to me from the other side of the earth, beckoning my fingers to formulate new combinations of letters, to pluck inspiration from its depths, to rape it as my muse and father a tale. I imagine it would be a strong, literary piece, a work of overwhelming artistic proportions that would assure me my immortality on the page. But, truthfully, I don’t fancy myself up to the task. I haven’t the patience, haven't the skill. I would fuck it up.

I am smoking again. The cigarette tastes the same: still sour, still ugly, a perpetual prevarication. A small piece of tobacco has escaped the filterless end and is stuck to my lip, stinging and burning as it moistens. Moments ago, I found motivation sufficient to lift myself from my pitiful bed, just long enough to empty my bladder, and have returned. My mind is mutinous.


_________


The Ganges, vehement and stubborn, has taken upon itself an omnipresence in my brain, refusing to be shut out. Acceding, I study its current. I see it as a wide, muddy behemoth. I am on its bank, absorbing the scene that surrounds me. The great river smells of earth and excrement, like a massive grave flooded with sewage. The odor is revolting, vomit-prompting, and so wonderfully real—borne on a defiled wind into my face as I walk along the embankment.

Forthwith, I see a filthy hovel just off the river—hardly larger than my mother's closet—that is contrived of mud and sticks. Remnants of an old fire dispel smoke into the hot sun, embers occasionally escaping the ill-stoked pyre, becoming evanescent wisps unto the sky. Several meters from the primitive residence stands an altar.

Some ninety centimeters tall, the altar is constructed of river stones, and was obviously erected with greater care than the small hut. Soiled flower petals circumfuse its base, their original colors faintly recognizable. Atop the altar sits a row of statuettes: Ganesha and Skanda on the ends, with their revered parents, Shiva and Parvati in the center. A circle of pebbles lay directly in front of the idols, and in the circle sits the head of a lamb, with blood congealing the stump of its neck and a piece of bone protruding. Its eyes are cloudy and gray like the sky above, sightless but staring at me in an odd, lifeless manner. I look away.

Drawing nearer to the decrepit home, I see a rubber kewpie doll floating in the river’s slothful current. It catches on a piece of timber that juts from the green-brown water. Watching it, I imagine an unwanted newborn infant being flushed to drowning in the toilet of some ladies’ room on prom night, and I shiver at the horror of it. The Ganges flows around the trapped doll as it floats, unmoving, from its perch. I carefully roll another cigarette, fighting the wind as it strives to carry the small tobacco strands from the thin rolling-paper, and nestle the finished product between my anxious lips. When I light it, the taste is smooth—not like the others—a warm essence within me, like a wayward spirit come to take residence in my flesh. The smoke filters out the inexorable piss-shit odor, yet I'm not really happy to see (smell) it gone.

A woman appears at the entrance to the hut, swaddled deep in cloth. Half of her face is wrapped tight in concealment, her dark eyes and the peeking tica-dot between them the only portion of her visible. She shoos a young, half-naked and barefoot child from the residence, never looking my way or seeming to note my presence, and disappears once again into her dark and dirty home.

The child is a boy of perhaps six years. His skin is dark from a life lived daily under the sun, and from the pure Indian blood in his veins. He is shirtless, and there is a sore festering on his right shoulder blade. Thick, black lice-infested hair; a small twig is in his hand, which he puts in his mouth and sucks like a pacifier. He also does not seem to notice me standing on the riverbank. I watch him as he skips toward the water.

Once there, he shimmies his ragged short-pants down and begins slowly urinating into the water. He pees and pees, seeming to spill forever from his small uncircumcised penis, the ammoniated fluid shooting like a fountain through the air and into the brown mire of the Ganges. I throw my cigarette in as well, exorcising the smoke spirit that has possessed me, and it floats lazily downstream past the pissing child. The boy’s bladder is finally emptied and, as he pulls his shorts back up, I kneel down—for no rational reason that I can muster—and cup a bit of the river into my palm. The water stains my hand. I bring it to my lips and drink it down; I imagine it tastes like wine. I am insane.

The Indian child gazes at the river a moment and turns to leave, but then stops when his black eyes fall upon the entangled kewpie. He stares at it as though considering, seeming to have made contact with its painted eyes, and picks the sore on his shoulder with the twig. Having finally decided his course of action, he tosses the stick to the ground and enters the water. The boy swims toward the toilet’s center where the jetsam has imprisoned the doll. The water of the Ganges is very deep in some areas, but here it is not, and there are many places where he is able to stand along the way. He seems to know the river well, but still he takes care and is cautious. After several minutes he reaches the doll, plucking it up from its captor, and begins studying it in earnest, turning it over in his hands numerous times. Ultimately, he smiles in satisfaction.

A loud shout draws his attention back toward the bank. The woman—his mother, I presume—has returned to the entrance of the hut and is yelling loudly in Hindi. In her hands are two wooden buckets and, though I am not familiar with her words, I understand that she is calling for the boy to come and fill them. He shouts something back and the woman sets the buckets down. Into the hut she vanishes again.

The child swims back to dry land, emerging with a milky-brown sheen upon him. He wedges the kewpie doll into the waist of his shorts and hurries to fetch the buckets. Taking them back to the water, he fills them with the urine-and-feces-infested liquid, singing all the while a garbled Hindi gibberish hymn. (For some reason, the image of a lonely, one-armed Hare Krishna with a cymbal-less tambourine comes to mind.) The full buckets are too heavy for his starving thin arms to carry both, so he lugs them laboriously one at a time to the hut and inside. His task completed, he exits the hovel and walks to the nearly dead fire.

A mosquito buzzes near my ear; I swing at it and miss. Sweat trickles down my spine, despite the mild temperature, and I feel slightly faint, but surprisingly good at the same time. The boy is pleasant to watch.

The boy takes the doll from his waistband and squeezes its malleable rubber body, emptying the river water that it has amassed through a hole in its back. He grasps a long blackened stick from the fireside and pokes it into the ashy heap, stoking the coals to life. Adding kindling, the flames are soon quickened. Holding the doll by its feet over the fire, at a reasonable distance, the child allows the heat and smoke to permeate its bedraggled form. Once it is dried to its liking, its synthetic flesh softened by the warmth, the boy retreats into the hut again. The mosquito has returned and is singing poetry into my ear. It wants to love me. Dementia is my forte.

When the boy reappears, there is a clay bowl in his hands, filled to its brim with fresh flower petals of various miscellanies and colors. Approaching the pyre, he scoops up a fistful of ashes and sprinkles them into the bowl atop the flower petals. He tucks the doll into his waistband again and pulls a long shoot from the flames. A hot, red ember glows on its tip. Carrying the bowl in his left hand and the shoot in his right, the boy scurries off in the direction of the stone shrine. I follow, entranced.

After arriving, he places the smoldering stick into a notch set in the altar, holding it upright, silky plumes of smoke floating high. The boy empties his cinder-petal mixture onto the altar next to the lamb’s head, and scatters the flower petals about, carpeting the sacrificial stone. His head comes to a bow and his thumb taps his brow.

With an awkward hesitance, he gently places each of his hands under the head of the lamb. He pauses. Slowly, he lifts the head and kisses each of its dead eyes. Its time has come to an end.

Turning, he walks toward the river, his steps measured and purposeful. A Hindi chant emits from his lips in a whisper. At the bank, he kneels and sets the head into the water. It sinks like a stone, but not before the mourned animal has one last chance to stare me down in thunderstorm sightlessness. I feel gasping in my soul.

The boy returns to the altar.

Taking the doll in his hands, holding it there, the child gazes oddly at it—into it. Reaching his arm at an impossible angle, the boy picks at the lesion on his scapula until it begins to seep blood. His finger crimson and gleaming, he wipes it in a diagonal streak across the pale chest of the kewpie. With great reverence, he sets the rubber doll on the altar in the heart of the flowery soot, at the feet of the statuettes, as though pleading for their acceptance of this new sovereignty.

I have bitten my lip and it is bleeding; my mouth tastes like copper and iron and life. Buzz, buzz, says Raja Mosquito. He doesn’t speak Hindi either.

Quietly, the young Indian bows upon his knees and mumbles entreaties and devotions to his new idol, his faith in the sullied doll-god so acute that his brown cheeks reflect trickling pious tears. I sigh, but want to laugh. Tap-dancing butterflies rejoice in my belly.

The holy Hindu family is staring at me, much in the same way that the lamb did; the exalted kewpie has joined them—a pagan conspiracy. I try to look away…I cannot.


_________


The Ganges fades, the scene in my mind not puissant enough to remain. I bid it adieu and know with concrete certainty that I shall now never write of the polluted river. It would prove a tale too grim, too fantastically real to be bearable--I wouldn't be able to endure the fact of its existence. As soon as the last word had been set upon the page, that final climax of my lecherous literation (is literation even a word? don’t care…), I would hate it, abhor it as one might a lousy pubescent prostitute with gold teeth and bubble gum-pink lipstick, torn stockings pulled past scabby adolescent knees. I wonder, though, if the Ganges of reality is very like the river of my imagination. Are my musings near to the mark?

In any event, it doesn’t matter; accuracy is not my concern. Doing my part in the machine of deception.

The nothing (lowercase once again, my sanity somewhat restored) is not as dominant within me now. It hasn’t left me, but has been subdued for the moment. It seems I have successfully--once again, thank you--written the utter blankness back into the shadowy realm from whence it came. I miss my mosquito friend.

The pills are beginning to take effect; they sing me tired lullabies. I am thinking I shall burn these pages come morning—I loathe them already. But perhaps I will forget, and they will survive another reading. I don’t really know. Whatever their fate I think that, for now, I will sleep my beloved purple-white sleep. Leave my worries for the morrow.


May 16, 2004
12:44 am

Matt
05-24-2007, 11:16 AM
I am not sure how to say how much this affected me Aaron. Knowing you and what you have been through means I can feel a bit of the pain like it happened to me through your writing.

I hope we get to see some more and I also hope that the therapy side of writing is always able to keep your head above water in the trying times.

Hannah
05-24-2007, 02:38 PM
Good stuff. The imagery is fantastic. Your writing reminds me of something from a long time ago, old and wise. That may be because you use a lot of big words and stuff. :P

My only criticism: the first part was not easy to read or get into. That may have just been me, though.

Aaron
05-25-2007, 05:25 PM
Thanks for the feedback. It's enough for me to just know that you took the time to read it. But thank you for your kindness, nonetheless. :huglove:

Count Olaf
05-31-2007, 08:10 PM
I have always enjoyed your writing Aaron and knowing a bit of your history makes me understand/appreciate it all the more.

Frunobulax
06-13-2007, 10:12 AM
I'm the most in-the-dark of all the readers to comment. But that out of the way, I thought your works were fascinating and absorbing. The vivid descriptions and imagery are a definite plus.

Hannah
02-17-2009, 06:01 PM
So I'm posting this because I feel like it. This little short short happens to live in my computer, and I could bet that Aaron has almost forgotten that it even exists. Surprise, honey!

****

Marcus Reynoso was a tall, formidable man with dirty blond hair that fell past his shoulders and a prominent scar that ran the length of his right arm. He received the scar in combat during the upheaval of the Carmine clan almost two decades previous.

He often told the story of the scar and the name it afforded him for all of the years to come. Reynoso was only a child of eighteen during the battle, a second year soldier in the Guard. Jean Callette, the now-deceased Chief of the Guard, led the advancement on the Carmine camp first inundating the enemy settlement with an onslaught of fiery arrows which were closely followed by an army of five thousand of the King's soldiers. Reynoso reached the burning encampment within three minutes of the first arrow strike, cutting down man and woman alike with the characteristic scimitar of the Guard. It was fast work and, if the blood that covered his lanky frame was any indication, messy as well. Reynoso was a warrior; he fed on the fear and decimation of the Carmine rebels. He had no mercy.

No mercy, that is, except to the young. The Guard's scouts had assured Chief Callette that the encampment was a rebel stronghold and that no children should be present for the fray. They were wrong. Very clearly wrong. Reynoso rounded a small smoldering tent as he sought the next to fall by his sword's curved blade, catching movement in the corner of his eye behind a woodpile. Advancing with a vengeance, Reynoso found that instead of a cowering Carmine there was a young girl, no more than eight years of age, whimpering with fresh gleaming tears on her cheeks, and the still-smoking shaft of an arrow protruding from her upper thigh. The fear in her eyes as she searched his face for salvation took all of the fight from the young soldier. Sheathing his scimitar, Reynoso rushed down to the girl's side. He put his hand to her cheek, brushing the trail of moisture and filth away.

"You need to be strong, lass," he said to the girl. "Strong as you can, for this shoot must come out."

Still weeping, the girl gave what looked to be a nod, which Reynoso returned, grim and doubtful of the result. The arrow had not pushed through to the back of her leg, which meant that he would have to force it. Pulling it out was not an option, as each arrow was set with barbed hooks on all sides, designed to kill upon removal. Without a word of explanation, he shoved the side of his left hand into the child's mouth, shoving the arrow through the flesh of her leg with his right before the girl could register his intention. Small teeth dug into muscle and the girl's eyes were frantic, like a dying animal.

The arrow broke through the back of the thigh with a slight pop and Reynoso snatched it out. The girl seemed to collapse in his arms, and the blood that trailed the arrow flowed in deluge. Taking a handful of grass, he stuffed the wound as best he could. The blood flowed on, and the child spoke.

"Come..." trailing off. She was losing the battle with nature. Goddamn those scouts, he thought.

Leaning in near enough to smell the spices her mother had doubtlessly bathed her in, Reynoso turned his ear to her lips to hear what he was sure would be her final words. She said nothing at first, and he thought she may already be gone, and then a trembling word came whispering to his ear. "Love."

Reynoso turned to look at her straight on and she continued. "I love--"

And as she said "you" a glaze of sheer madness took over her dying features, and--lightning fast--her arm arced out, stone blade whistling in the night, and Reynoso's arm was opened from wrist to pit like a busted seam. He pulled back, an instinctive cry in his throat, grabbing at his arm and pressing it in close to his armored torso in every effort to keep it closed. He looked deliriously back to the girl, but she was dead. The knife had slashed so quickly that the blade had only a single droplet of Reynoso's blood on its edge.

Attended quickly by his fellow soldiers, Reynoso was able to maintain the wound and his store of blood. Upon reporting to Collette of his injury and the circumstances surrounding, he told of the words the child, and was henceforth called Loverboy, a name he loathed at inception and grew into over the decades, and his scarred arm was its marker. It was with that arm that the negligent scouts one-by-one over the next three summers had their lives choked from them.

Love.

Aaron
02-19-2009, 11:41 AM
I really had forgotten about this--or, at the least, haven't thought about it in a long time. The above is a vignette that I wrote for a longer (unfinished) story that Hannah and I were collaborating on.

Count Olaf
03-01-2009, 12:09 AM
WOMEN WILL NEVER LET YOU FORGET.

The Lady of Shadows
03-01-2009, 11:10 AM
to quote red - that's goddamn right!