It’s been a while. It’s true, I must admit, that I was swayed somewhat by the argument regarding putting one’s work up on-line and how that might deter anyone ever from anywhere buying whatever you write from here to eternity (Unless you end up writing From Here to Eternity).
But that’s only part of the reason I haven’t been teasing. The other is that I haven’t been writing anything new on my work-in-progress. I’ve been writing lots of short stories, poems, and blog posts, but have stayed my hand from KINGDOMS OF GOOD AND EVIL. Mostly, that’s because I’ve been trying to go through and revise GOD’S TEETH, my first novel, and one that can be whipped into shape, I’m sure, with a decent amount of effort and a minimum of textual violence.
So, to inspire my continued reworking of GOD’S TEETH, I present to you here and now one of the few sections that will probably remain unchanged. In it, Darren is taken by Orlin to the House of He That Holds to create a memorial of kinds for Capricia, a friend who was his first kiss, and who also was killed a few weeks before.
Instead of knocking, Orlin pushed on the door. It swung open easily with only a slight creak. Beyond the doorsill a large room blazed with light. The room was striped with shadows from columns that were scattered as randomly as a forest’s trees, all focused around a large bonfire recessed into the middle of the floor. No one was visible inside. Orlin walked in and Darren, reluctantly, followed. The priest shut the door behind them, sealing them into an atmosphere of dry heat. The roar and crackle of the fire filled the large room, and the shadows cast by the columns veiled the walls. Orlin faced the fire and murmured words Darren strained to catch but couldn’t understand. Darren copied the priest as he made gestures with both his hands, clasping them together, touching his fingers to his forehead and his palms to his cheeks. He didn’t know if this was part of the memorial for Capricia or simply a greeting to the god of this place, but felt it safer to join in as much as he could. Orlin made no comment on his mimicry.
Orlin led the apprentice to an array of sculptures hidden from view behind the columns. Racks held tiny stylized hands balanced on thick wrists, palms upward, fingers together. In their cupped hollows objects had been placed. Darren recognized folded scraps of paper, coins, lit candles, locks of hair, and pieces of dried fruit. Other hands held rocks and small clods of dirt, bits of metal, strips of cloth, and other things he couldn’t identify. Orlin took coins from his purse and placed them in jar next to the racks, a jar already brimming with money. He took from shallow bowls under the racks a candle, some paper, and a bright red ribbon. These he handed to Darren, and then walked away towards the central fire, disappearing behind the wealth of columns.
There were plenty of empty hands. Upon closer inspection, he saw that each hand was unique. The lines on the palms differed, as did the finger lengths and the shapes of hands, as though each was modeled from a live person. Some had rings breaking the monotony of the finger, and a few showed evidence of scars and wounds, missing parts of fingers or whole fingers, leaving a gap running its way into the palm. Darren chose a hand without deep lines, that seemed young. He placed the candle in the center of the palm and looped the ribbon about its base. He rolled up the paper and used it to light the candle and then left it to burn, carefully balanced on the tips of the outstretched fingers.
He didn’t know if this was all he was supposed to do. Was there a prayer as well he should be saying? The ranks of prostrate hands, each laden with miniature, indecipherable monuments, filled him with a deep sadness. Was it enough that something held these prayers, these wishes, these memories? Was it enough to believe that there was something willing to hold? The smoke from the burning paper curled and slipped in the air like an acrobat. Darren watched the paper burn until it was ash and the last of the smoke had cleared itself into the air.