Category: Prose

Eating Among the Dead

(For lack of a better title.)


On nights like this, when the rain drums the roof, I slide between wooden rafters, though my body is not as slim as a child’s anymore (after all, my breasts have grown over the last year and my stomach is anything but small). My hands bear splinters from climbing the walls, from tearing the sheets and scraping ropes; I’m covered in scars from constantly moving and never finding a decent resting place. Sometimes I toss sheen of spider webs into the way of the exit, praying they don’t look up and see me staring down. Usually it’s enough.

Using my gatherings, I create a makeshift bed of coarse blankets and wooden ceiling. Under my touch the boards creak. Quietly. Step. Hop. Toss a rope across for safety; tie it again on the opposite side. There. I lay down amid the cold and dankness, eyes on the roof. Shadows are moving across the moon, and I see craters, as if the hand of a child reached upward and colored in black spots. Tiny snatches of starlight the hue of honey, but nothing substantial. My mind drifts no further than the first crack, where the roof peters out and darkness dominates.  

They come, they play, they leave. It’s simple. Not for my mother, who taught me to melt into the roof. Here, she would say, pushing on my bottom until I fit among the walls and plaster and paint. She climbed in with me, shifting her body and shawls so she could crouch, and began to paint my face with chips and clippings of cement. I pulled her hands away once, a question in my eyes, but I never asked why.

It wasn’t until years later I understood. And I hid.

If I look closely, I see Mom’s gaunt face against the wall, always reminding. Her hands still linger on my cheeks. Sometimes, just before I drift into sleep as the night wanes and sunlight spills through the rafters, I burden my body with shawls. Though they add no extra warmth, I find solace in remembering. And they never see me, here among the paint and plaster and chippings; they leave after playing a round of poker on the ground floor. Laughs. Dice. Gambling. The scent of beer. Guns cocking. Showing off in that manly way.

Earlier today I crouched; back against the wall and legs tangled, with five good shawls and a bag of brownies I stole. If I stole them, that is, because the woman behind the counter at the market had seen me several times before but never said anything. She’s gray, wears a bun and too big clothing. When I drifted around back of the building to search the bins, I found scraps. Plucking them away, I thought I saw a hand pull the blinds open, someone watching me.

I ran home, dodging beneath the gate as I entered the compound. Everyone was asleep by this time, and a silence settled above the gray buildings. Guards crossed to and fro, across the lawn; when they stopped to smoke a cigarette and consider the clouds, I took the chance and darted in the direction of the hovel.

Inside once more among the dust and cobwebs, I shared my food with Mom, who looked as pale as ever. I spoke for a while and she listened, as she always did. Tired. Her shawls looked happy bunched at her feet. I touched her face, the sallow skin, and she swatted me away. There was a smile, though, so I knew she meant it as best. After a while, she sang lullabies low and quiet.

The joy was a thin sheen of glass under which flowed moody waters; too easy to crack.

Now we lay waiting, listening.

The men come after while but leave earlier than usual. Loud as ever. They smell of smoke and boot polish. Their laughs drift alongside them, out into the yard where a man can be seen walking his dog and a young woman smokes a cigarette on her doorstep. I’ve the suspicion she knows I’m here. She drifts in and out of view in her window, always staring at the top rafter. Always watching.

The houses are squat and darkened, each bare, each facing the blacktop. The yards are scant, as rain is scarce. What little bit of weeds there are have blackened over time. How I long to live in one of the others houses. I tell Mom this, and she looks at me with a sad smile.

“We will one day,” she says quietly, plucking a piece of hair from my eyes.

“When we’re millionaires.”

“When the war ends.”

“If it ever could.”

“It will, just give it time.”

Mom and I laugh. She makes jokes about the men and funny faces, and then she tucks me into her side. Drapes shawls across our laps. Sings some more, but fruitlessly, because the night is cold and no amount of singing can warm our bodies. When the room quiets, she whispers promises: “We’ll have a house.” “We won’t have to hide.” “I promise you’ll go to school.” “Five stars meals, we’ll have, as well as new wardrobes. Anything you want.”

I listen; always close enough to hear her voice, yet too far to catch the meaning. It weaves different threads of thought into my brain, tugging, albeit unable to create a masterpiece. She places her fingertips to my forehead, my cheek, until her eyes close. Her chest slows, her breathing deep and even.

Eventually the night wanes, as it always does, and her touch and words fade from my side. Echoes of laughter sound, quietly, momentarily, and then fly through the holes in the roof. Clouds scuttle away from the sun. Light plays on the rafters, searching for a sibling. Somewhere in the distance a bell is struck, and smoke wafts into the fortified shields. I want to sleep a bit longer.

In full daylight I sit up, the shawls turned to dust, the ghost of lips sweeping across my forehead. Mom stares at me from inside the wall.

Another day begins.




The Story Behind My Novel

Since many others before me have used their blog as an outlet for their work, I think I’ll give it a shot.

I’ll begin by stating my novel was not supposed to be a novel; in fact, it was supposed to be a simple short story. In the time before writing my novel, I had yet to even complete a decent piece of literature. I was nothing short of a short-minded writer (no pun intended). More into drawing than writing, I wrote sparingly.

It was while writing this “short story”, I had The Vision.  Yes, The Vision. It played much like a clip, this vision, and immediately I leapt up from the couch where I was watching TV, and wrote down, in detail, what I’d seen. The next day, I found myself prolonging the beginning of the short story into chapter one. I had told my mother the night before that I would start another novel and her only reaction was to nod and smile – as if she hadn’t heard those words from me before. We both didn’t expect me to follow through.

Chapter one and day one turned into the first week, and then the first month, and pretty soon three months passed and I had the impossible sitting on my lap: a novel, written in full. I’d gone through the heck of editing, plotting, planning, and drafting. Now it was done.

So naïve at the time, I thought I would leap off and publish it. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been considering publishing before finishing it – I mean, I had frequently. But now that it was done, now that I had some claim on the literary world, I contacted tons of publishing houses. Learned that they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Mulled over my decision further, and then decided I would go with a self-publishing company.

I can only say I’m glad that I wasn’t able to do this, if only because of our living circumstances.

Financial burdens fell on me, rendering me publisher-less. No problem, I thought. The publisher will come along one day. It was in this thought, I found solace. Until then, I edited. And edited. And then let it stagnant for a while and moved on to write two other novels. When I came back to my first, I realized its state of disrepair. First desperation and depression set in – I had created a monster. I didn’t want the tedium of editing; instead, I put it away again. A month or two later, I returned. I had built a resolve in my time away: I would edit and re-edit this novel until it was perfect. I became determined.

Today I still edit this novel, seeking perfection. It’s been over a year now and I’ve learned so much. And while my two other novels are being neglected as a product of my re-writing, I’m stable with my voice and persona – finally. I have mostly my dedicated readers/critters to thank for their hard work and willingness to guide me into the light. I would be nothing without them.

I’ve joined several writing communities over the last six months, finding only one that I actually took away from. Since then I’ve learned the hard way that my rhyming poetry sucked beyond belief; I have skipped over to non-rhyming poetry. So far I think I am soaring pretty smoothly. My prose had advanced, my novel is pulling along great (this is the fourth time I’ve rewritten it), and my life is solid for a change. Today I hit ninety thousand words on the novel rewrite, so I’m exceptionally stoked about that.

I don’t have much of a social life anymore, sadly, though I do keep in touch with my friends. My persona does not require someone there to hold my hand and say, “Yeah, Lynsey, everything is fine, I’m here.” Nah, I’m good. Can do things on my own.