8.27.2006

Finishing the story - a draft

“They say that Trice wrote a poem that night, by moonlight. Would you like to hear it?” He added sternly, “It is a sad poem.”

“Oh, yes, daddy – tell me the poem!” He loved the way she said “poem,” accenting both syllables carefully: “poh-em”.

“Ok, I think I've got it written down here, somewhere...” and he began fumbling through his pockets. “Ah, yes, here it is.” He pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his breast pocket. He winked at Emily and opened the scrap very slowly.

“Daddy, you're doing that on pur-pose!” She folded her arms in protest.

“No, I'm not. I'm just getting myself in the right frame of mind.” He kept the mock-lofty air with which he'd spoken that sentence until he began to read the poem, when his voice sank into a sickly melancholy. “The flames licked and flicked around her waist. Orange dawn was still a fresh taste in the air, whetted with smoke and the birth of fire. I would stay until I could only smell wet ash and crisp flesh, and longer. She was a martyr, and her eyes were blue. She said it was the only thing to do – she said that death is good and as the wood began to catch the man next to me, on my left, yelled out: "Witch! Wiiiitch!” And I held my breath. I thought of the secrets I alone now kept. I closed my eyes and wept.” He wondered suddenly if she was too young, but when he looked at Emily he saw the particular furrow in her brow that told him she had listened with an ear of discernment. She did not speak before her father continued the story. “And finally, when his tears could be controlled, he left. He went home, and he did not leave his home for many weeks. When he did, his hair had grown long, his beard had collected hundreds of meals' worth of crumbs, and his clothes nauseated passers-by.”

“What's 'nauseated', daddy?” She had not pronounced it quite correctly, but she had tried mightily.

“Well, when you smell something nauseating, it smells so bad that you almost have to throw up. I doubt very much you've smelled anything quite that bad.”

“Yuh-huh.”

“Really, what?”

“Var's diapers: I've smelled them when mommy changes him.”

“All right, then, you know what it is. Can I finish?” He did not wait for her response. “To put it mildly, Trice didn't look so good. He wandered the streets for a few hours, and he eventually found his way to the town square. There he found a good many people, doing a good many things. He figured it was as good a time as any to start. He stood on the base of the statue that stood in the center of the square's lawn and tried to gather as many people as he could. 'People! People, listen!” he shouted. A few people stopped and turned to see who was shouting, but most just kept about their business. He shouted some more. 'People! You there, with the small boy! And you!' He pointed to a man in a brown hat. You, with the face! Listen to me!”

“What a silly thing to say, daddy.” Emily laughed.

“I know, but that's why he said it. And a few of the people laughed, just like you did, there. And apparently that was good enough for Trice; he figured he had the attention of a good number of people, so he began talking. He declared as evil the motives of the town elders, who had had Madison killed. Then, he did something not everyone expected. He told the people he was not angry with the elders, because they didn't realize what they were doing, and he began telling them the things Madison had told him.

He did not talk for long, mind you, no more than twenty minutes. When he had finished, he got off the statue, walked out of town and back to his home. There, he cleaned himself up and went to sleep. Every day, right after dinner, for the rest of his life, Trice did that exact same thing. He told people how the town elders had Madison burned at the steak because she had called their authority into question, and he immediately forgave the elders.” Varjak leaned in close to his daughter, and whispered, “They did not particularly enjoy that part of his nightly address. Then, he told the people many of the things he had learned from Madison, and he went home. For years, until he died, he spent his evenings standing on the base of that statue and yelling into a crowded square, but when he was gone, he was eventually forgotten, and his stories were eventually forgotten, as well. There are only a few who still know anything at all of Madison Arling, and now, Em, you are one of them.” He paused and could think of nothing more.

Varjak Paul sat on his daughter's bed. He was tucking her in and wondering how he had ever managed to finish the story at all. Little Emily, always precocious, decided that she was not completely satisfied with the ending. Varjak had known this would happen from the moment he decided upon the ending. All life is story, he thought, all lives, and though there are many variations, there is only one theme. He knew this was the best way he knew to teach her.

She looked up at him and asked, “But why did she have to die? She could have helped more people the way she helped Trice and that beggar girl.”

“Indeed, she could have, Em. And she did.”

“So why did she have to die?” Her question had the inflection only a child can create, reserved for answers that do not answer properly.

Varjak smiled. “Let me tell you.”

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3 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

i enjoyed getting another bit of VP, and i anxiously await more. great writing.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Miriam said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Josh;
great writing Matthew!

I look forward to the day (maybe only a few years from now) when you can more completely devote yourself to thinking, writing, creating.

So proud of you!
Love,
Mom

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Miriam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:22 PM  

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