The Ritual

“Please come with me,” she whispered softly.

And who could say no?

We drove in silence, her eyes straight ahead: focused, determined, anxious, but also frightened.

The forest was dark, the evening cold.

“Here,” she said.  We pulled over.  Stepped out.

“Wait here,” she said, and vanished into the trees.

I waited.

There were no stars.  If the moon shone, it did so darkly.  It was eerily silent.  Bitterly cold.

I waited.

Nothing.  More silence.

I waited.

But it was too dark.  Too cold.  Too long.

I stepped into the forest the way she had gone.

Nothing.

Darker.  Deeper.  Deeper darkness.  Deeper silence.

I continued blindly.

Until, carried on the wind, a soft song.  A humming, whispered, thrumming chant.

I aimed in that direction.

A dark prayer rose through the trees like smoke.  No language I had ever heard.

I drew closer.

A hint of light teased the corner of my eye.

I drew closer still.

A glow rose now with the prayer, the song, fire-like it flickered, but smaller, though also rising.

Then I saw her, and here was the moon, shining almost blue on her bare back, lotus legs, arms out like Guanyin.

Chanting.

I pictured candlelight dancing with shadows across her chest.  I watched.  And waited.

Her arms went down, raised up again, holding something now.  Glinting.  Sharp.  She raised it high.

Silence.

And then a scream (mine? hers? someone else’s?).

I tore through the forest, limbs and blackness ripping at my clothes and skin.

Had she seen me?  Observing her observe her mystery communion with…whatever?

I made it to the car.  Got in.

Time passed.

And then her door opened, a powerful waft of incense and pine, cool air and a salty, familiar tang.

I was scared to look at her directly, but thought I saw her lick something dark and red from the corner of her mouth.

And, despite myself, all I could think about was how my hands would feel against her still icy, just-dressed skin.

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Summertime in a College Town

At first, it seems like laughter, rising from the street below, trickling through his window like wind chimes, free and reckless.

But then, he is standing, despite pending deadlines, and crossing the room, almost against his will. Peering down.  Beckoned.

And they are everywhere: like modern-day Sirens, singing for his eyes, a harmony of summer dresses and bare shoulders and long, tan legs, and toes painted brightly.

He nods to his weakness; they are not satisfied.

Now he crosses the room again, forgotten all previous tasks, no match for what calls from beneath.  He descends as though summoned.

Outside, he can breathe their song, too, taste their melody of fruit-sweet perfume and sun-warmed, just-washed hair.  He feels the air change as they pass.  He holds his breath.

And they smile at him.  Seem to smile at him, in his nice suit and crisp shirt and pastel tie.  Maybe they are smiling at everyone.  Every man.  Or maybe they are just smiling to themselves, smiling at this strange summer world where they hold their fledgling non-innocence, in one hand like a secret, in the other like a bludgeon…

Enough.  Back to work.  No good can come from this sitting here.  This smiling.  This holding of breath.

The festivities extend past evening’s shadow.  The revelers laugh gaily, joke loudly, the night itself more intoxicating than anything they are drinking.  He hears other music.  Pictures dancing.

It is late now.  Dark now.  Even though it is summer, it is late now.  Dark now.

No more work tonight.

Heading for his car, they spill, still, into the evening, these night sprites, midnight fairies, eyes aglow.  He has no mast, no soul.  He is never more than one “hey, can I buy you a drink?”, one “excuse me, would you like to dance?” away from disaster.

They call to him, call to him, call to him…

He hurries home.  Kisses sleeping babies.  Slips chastely into bed, and whispers: “I am clean, I am clean.”

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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

marriage-plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

When I saw that my beloved Jeffrey Eugenides–author of The Virgin Suicides and the Pulitzer winner Middlesex–was writing a novel ostensibly about college, a love triangle, English majors, depression, and religious awakenings, I was prepared to be disappointed.

It just didn’t sound ambitious enough. Not that Eugenides should care in the slightest about anyone’s pre-reaction to his work.

Virgin and Middlesex were books that,  both in plot and in execution simply could not have written by anyone else. Of course they had themes that pop in in zillions of other books, but they were distinct.

I am happy to report that, for me, The Marriage Plot isn’t just Eugenides’ “college novel.” It’s more than an excuse for Eugenides to show that he has studied semiotics, Irigaray, Mother Teresa, Victorian and Regency literature, and the yeast HO gene. Continue reading

Rich man poor man beggar man thief

Several weeks ago I was approached by a woman that said her name was Helene.  She also claimed to be a part of FBI counterintelligence.  I thought this was suspicious, as she had a British accent, but she was also very beautiful, so I decided to let it go.  I have a soft spot for the FBI; I always wanted to be a Special Agent, helping to recover famous paintings or something.

“This is your mission,” she said.  “You need to take this briefcase and meet our contact exactly three days from now, at 3:45 p.m. sharp, directly outside the Delacorte Press Building across from the International Finance Centre.”

“How am I supposed to know who he is?”

“He will be disguised as a blind beggar,” she said.

“There are a lot of blind-beggar-types down there; you are going to have to be a little more specific,” I said.

“Well, he looks a bit like Bruce Springsteen,” she offered. Continue reading

The Mosquito Coast – Looking For A River

mosquito coast bookI take nothing at face value, I am proud of finding things out for myself. Don’t believe me? Tell me anything and I won’t believe it, not at first. Tell me that my shoes are black…ha! I’m not wearing any. But if I was wearing black shoes and you told me that I was, I wouldn’t believe you until I looked down and proved it, not even if I had just looked down at them five seconds earlier.

I’m not a contrarian. I’m a skeptic, a brilliant one. Once my mother told me it was time to go to bed and I asked her to show me the proof. She menacingly showed me the paddle of her canoe and I had to bow to her logic. But I asked her, defiant and proud.

Now then– Continue reading