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Archive for the ‘Stories Told to be Forgotten’ Category

It was one of those moments when perception was more like the vanishing point on a painting. A long, smooth, gray carpet rolled out from somewhere within the structure. Climbing stairs, walls that narrowed due to distance and size, and long rolling garden made the obviously huge structure look tiny. On either side small white crosses and old worn stones marked the otherwise innocent yard as a gravesite.

Above the endless deep blue sky of Kentucky signaled a beautiful day. A gust of wind pushed Clay’s straight as a board body toward the sprawling Monastery. The gritty sound of rubber tires slowing on tar notified Clay of a car behind him. One door opens, shuffling feet, then another door opens, more shuffling feet, then the trunk opens, bags hit pavement and finally a ‘thank you’.

The voice was suddenly next to him in physical form. A tall slender shadow torso stretched across the light gray walkway and deposited the head in the grass. The smell of dominance wafted from him. It was a strong, clean, spice. It was a scent Clay had smelled before on high end authors of stuffy nonfiction. He was inevitably wearing a clean black suit tailored to his body, a simple solid tie, and a white undershirt.

His suit was actually gray. The tie was blue. As Clay turned his head to observe this the man greeted him with sunglass eyes and extended a hand. Movement in his eye brow alluded to a wink. He was massive, manly, a 7 story mountain. He was clean shave, slightly tan, well kempt, and obviously confident.

“The name is Clay.” Clay said meekly extending his hand to be swallowed by his.

“You write those trash novels.” His voice implied a jocular sense of friendship but it was one of clear pity. The type of sense that an older brother has when he teases his younger sibling. It was five seconds into the conference and Clay was being pitied.

“Trash sells.” Clay fired back.

“I wouldn’t know.” The man said as he winked again and walked toward the monastery. Clay thought about saying ‘nice to meet you’ but he hadn’t really met him at all. The man never introduced himself, never eluded to his works or why he was here. He merely walked like he owned the place, a colossus straddling the world, with his feet in the clay and his head in the heavens.

Again the feeling of flesh and muscles were absent. It was middle school all over again. The wind past right through Clay and deposited his soul at the door of the Monastery. He was greeted by a man dressed in white with a black shawl. He bowed as two others took his bags. Without mass time meant nothing. Things became simple. He was inside. That inside was particularly warm and big. The inside’s roof was too high. He felt small inside. There was a big circle. Few people in the circle. The colossus was inside the circle. The room was white.

There were candles. There was an altar, a huge organ, a giant tapestry. It had what appeared to be saints in a Christmas tree reading. It had one word on it: “Caritas”. It was unbearably hot. More people entered. Some in the monochromatic penguin habits. Other’s in business suits. One was disheveled and wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He tried to smoke inside, the penguins surrounded him. He grinned, took a couple puffs, and then flicked it into a bowl of holy water.

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“Yes.” Slow motion city environment passed outside the window of the car. A gentle rocking meant movement. It was dark, then it was light, it had been another day. Towering buildings would appear in the distance and then pass, covering Elle in shadows and then revealing her into the light of day. It was the water boarding one becomes used to when you live in the city. “Naked.”

Elle’s mind went back to that night in the old man’s study. She and her mysterious lover had broken into a house in a fit of romantic passion. They would’ve sooner gone at it on the fresh grave if they had known. “Dead. Apparently for some time”. Now Mr. Fletcher “Pierce Fletcher. A writer apparently” wanted a go at her after his long retreat to Kentucky. Just her luck, when it rains it pours, and all she wants is an umbrella.

“Of course you’ve never heard of him. He isn’t published.” Writers were all the same. Each and every one was a Romeo. Young, stupid, brash… the Don Quixote’s of love. She was a windmill to be conquered. “Cute, I guess. A little foppish.”

Her mind finally honed back to reality. Another strip of shadow passed along her face allowing it to cool off. She was in the passenger seat of a red Buick Park Avenue. Its driver was another Quixotic writer but luckily a female.

“Writers are the best you know.”

“Best what?”

“Lovers.”

“I am sick of lovers and of love.” Nothing could be further from the truth but closer to her heart at that moment. Love blinded her mystery lover and made him cold and ruthless in his love. Love blinded Mr. Fletcher by allowing him to forgive her sunbathing incident without a second thought. Imagine if he had walked in on mystery man lying naked on the desk. Elle imagined an old fashioned western erupting between the two. For the first time in 24 hours she smiled.

“So that’s why you clearly need to get back on the horse… or even better… the cowboy.”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. Could you repeat that?”

“Very fun Ms. Scardanelli. You know what I mean.”

Elle’s eyes shifted from outside the car to it. “Well Ms. Fu. I am sorry my hearing is so poor.” A shadow passed over her face from the outside illuminating her profile.

“What about Mr. Mysterious. We should really give him a nickname. Something fitting.” The car entered a tunnel.

“How about Holden?”

“A little too Catcher and the Rye, don’t you think?” Elle visibly detested her suggestion.

“The invisible Bellarmin would suffice.” She rebutted.

“I don’t even know who that is.”

“Well then you throw something out.”

“Odysseus. Master of Artifice.”

“You always had a thing for the Greeks. I think it’s a stupid name.”

“Well I am beginning to think that Kasmira Fu isn’t such a hot name either.”

“Well my parents didn’t get the memo that Chinese and Russians weren’t allowed to have children. At least I grew up learning the two best languages for literature.”

“Oh because the Italians and the English never wrote anything great.”

“Oh please. Writing is easy with Italian and English. Everything sounds pretty. Anyway back to young Odysseus.”

“He’s a writer. We made an agreement to not exchange names. I told him Elle was a fake name and told him to call me that.”

“And now you’re in over your head.”

“He said I was his key to immorality. He said that I was going to make his name echo through eternity.”

“Imperishable renown is cold comfort when you can only enjoy it in the tomb. He was saying those things to charm you. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Yeah. I guess.” But I wish he wasn’t.

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Typical. The rolling green hills that folded into each other. The arcing pine trees. The clear blue sky with small cotton clouds in it were all typical. The clear reflective water was typical, the bumpless road was typical, and the idiot driver blathering about the beauty of it was typical. The rather regular and utterly predictable man thought himself rather sophisticated as he pontificated upon the infinite beauty of nature. Clay, on the other hand, had long risen above such pointless adoration and was desperately trying to change the topic.

“I hear the Maker’s Mark distillery is around these parts.” Clay inserted this as the driver had digressed from the wonderful beauty of the natural surroundings to what seemed to be the history of Kentucky erupting from such beauty.

“Yessir. Finest whiskey the world wide. Nothing compared to the natural spring water though.”

“Or a woman’s kiss…”

“Well that neither I suppose.” The drive got that look in his eye that Clay knew and loathed. The look reflected in those blank siphon eyes were always followed by something like the words that then came from the driver’s mouth. “What brings you to a place like this?”

“Business.”

“I don’t reckon too many businesses are like yours then.”

“That is certain.”

“You write, don’t you?”

“Occasionally. Are you a fan?”

“Oh no. I keep to reading the bible and perhaps the life of the saints.”

“I see.”

“Do you?”

“Excuse me?”

“See. You said ‘I see’.”

“Oh yes. I mean I understand.”

“Oh. Well I just reckoned that you were here for the seminar on God’s place in literature that is taking place down here in Gethsemani.”

“A seminar?”

“Oh yes. Authors from all over are coming to discuss the topic. They say Fr. Raphael is the best at drawing out the soul and then puttin’ it on paper.”

“I find ink works better than soul.”

“You’re the author not me.”

“But where would I be without a driver?”

“Nowheres… that’s where.”

“Exactly, now if you wouldn’t mind the process of getting to know someone is rather intense and I have writing to do before we reach Gethsemani.”

“I bet this beautiful nature will sure help.”

“I tend to keep my eye on the paper.”

“Yeah but it must be nice to draw inspiration from all this.”

“All what? Some ancient trees that strive only for height? Grass that exists only to be cut? Water trapped in a cycle of purification? This is all purposeless, meaningless stuff that you only admire out of ignorance. Its just big and complicated. There is nothing beautiful about it.”

“I reckon you’re right. But I hafta disagree with you.”

“If I am right, how can you disagree?”

“Thats easy. I just don’t agree.”

Clay’s mind tried to wrapped around the driver. It always offended him that others could be so simple. All this man wanted out of life was to drive and see nature. He aspired to no greatness, aimed at no virtue, and just sat and admired nature all day long. Though he didn’t harm a soul, his way of life still irked Clay for some unknown and secret reason… a secret even to himself.

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Previous Entry Found At: http://veritasexlogos.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/stories-told-to-be-forgotten-vii-the-intruder/

The darkness was pierced suddenly by the sliding open of the channel between Clay and the father. Inside the cramped iron maiden the thick dust could be tasted but not seen. Clay let out a choked whispered prayer for forgiveness later rattling on uninterrupted about the plethora of sins both new and previously omitted or more likely forgotten. The father sat in silence out of disbelief or perhaps even shame over his fellow man’s emotionless enumeration of his adventures. When silence finally returned to the chamber the father groaned and pulled from his vocabulary the one word Clay did not expect to hear.

****

“No I shant have it, your my guest. Well, my father’s guest. Take a seat and I shall fetch the tea.” The foppish man waved his arms hysterically before retrieving his spectacles from his pocket. He seemed old in motion but youthful when still – his dress reflected something of a by-gone era but his angular features and beardless face made it look modern and stylish if not slightly outlandish. He wore a navy blue bowtie and suspenders over a plane white dress shirt. He had draped his sports coat over a antique looking chair before shooting off into the kitchen.

“I think we have some misunderstanding.” Elle pleaded while still standing.

“Nonsense. I see things all too clear. My father, like all men, has given into the nature of our kind and found himself a youthful mistress. For what other reason would you be in his study without a stitch of clothing on.” He paused as he fiddled with the oven. Elle searched for the proper words to say, to come clean, to admit to her sinful night and beg for this strangers forgiveness. But before her heart compelled her to speak, he continued.”

***

“You cannot be forgiven. What you have done is completely contrary to God’s will and you have done it more than enough times to make a habit of it. Until some way of education can be devised to purge from you the taste for sin I cannot in good conscious forgive your sins.”

“Is it a sin to give into your nature?”

“To be a beast?”

“To be too human?”

“You cling to your beastliness for justification but what of the other side… the higher side?”

****

“This explains why father was so happy before he died. Even as the Alzheimer’s gripped his mind he kept saying: My soul has ascended. The old man was all doom and gloom ’til that moment. He would shuffle around this house finding solace in antiques and books from exotic places. It was unnatural. A man cannot go that long without a woman’s touch.” Something in the way he spoke brought comfort to Elle. The man wanted his father to be happy, and if that belief kept this man afloat than why bother his bliss with such a trivial matter of detail.

“I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name.”

“Pierce Fletcher. Yours?”

“Elle Scardenelli.”

“A beautiful name, for a beautiful woman.”

***

“Even Adam, before sin gripped his bones, was undone by a beautiful woman.”

“You quote scripture to suit your purpose, but you throw out the rest. Even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose, Clay.”

“I need this.”

“For what, Clay? To write another one of your trashy novels.”

“With your grace perhaps I can make them more than trash.”

“You’ll have to ask the Lord about that issue. I have a higher side to worry about as well, and it will do nohting but poison my spirit if I forgive you on the grounds you have provided.”

“Then educate me. What is it that I can do to atone?”

***

“I write novels. Well, sort of. Father said it was always a waste of time, that I would never be like Homer or Shakespeare, so why bother? Unlucky to be born at such a point in history were all understanding of art has lost. It takes a civilization of immense culture to produce such a writer. By we’ll never know if we don’t try, right? I want to write something great, something sweeping, a definition of our time and place.”

“What will it be about?”

“Haven’t really gotten that far yet. I am taking a trip for inspiration.”

“Where to?”

***
“I know some monks that might take you in.”

“Monks?”

“Yes. They live a secluded life up in the mountains. They offer a retreat for spiritual travelers looking to come to the grace of God. I believe one of the brothers there was a writer like yourself. People go to him for teachings on the written word.”

“And if I don’t go. You don’t forgive me.”

“That’s the deal.”

“I suppose the fresh air might do me some good. Where is this place?”

***

“Kentucky.” The foppish man replied without missing a beat.

“Kentucky?” Elle prodded further.

“The trappists have a monastery down that way.”

“A monastery?” Elle tried to imagine this professorial type in robes.

“A trappist monastery. In New Haven. Its called the Abbey at Gethsemani.”

****

“You want me to go to a monastery. In Kentucky.”

“Only there will you find salvation.”

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Previous Entry found at: http://veritasexlogos.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/stories-told-to-be-forgotten-vi-clothing-makes-the-man/

Lights struck each particle as it hung aloft in the air by unseen breath. Each miniscule, insignificant remnants jerked unpredictably, as if by its own will, either falling or rising. Countless others certainly existed where curtains cut shadows on the floor, but they couldn’t be numbered or known – only those graced by the light could be seen. This common phenomenon struck Elle for the first time as her head hung over the edge of the desk. The upside down world outside the window had not pulled her from rest for an entire morning.

So it seemed her unknown lover was no more than one of these specks – one that came in and out of the light. Their intimacy would remain intact until she finally removed herself from atop the desk and got on with her life. So she waited, not for the sake of him, nor out of any self-pity or loathing, but for the sake of reverence as one sits in the pews long after a funeral without crying. Such was the necessary action she took to remedy the world outside the window that currently had trees for sky, and sky for ground. Her eyes darted back and forth around the room of books and antiquities and then back outside. A tree then a bible. A sword then a cloud. Grass and then an ashtray. The globe, then a face. Then a face.

Elle whirled from off the table spilling whatever books clung around her form. Desperate hands found an old newspaper to cover her body. Outside a foppish looking man was covering his eyes and stammering inaudible apologies through the old thick glass of the window. Elle quickly grabbed her clothing – her sudden recognition of the previous night’s sin having filled her ivory body with red patches. Luckily by the time she reached the back entrance she was clothed enough to once again find the foppish looking man averting his eyes.

Various half-syllabled words left her mouth before a shy ‘sorry’ followed. The young man’s gaze nevertheless counted blades of grass.

“I was just sunbathing.” Sunbathing? Her mind rebuked.

“Sunbathing?” He spoke as if a mind reader. “In my father’s study?”

“Your father’s study?”

“Well his former study.”

“Why former?”

“He is very dead.”

“Oh dear.”

“So I came to collect some of his stuff. I didn’t know he kept things like you around. He was more into books.”

“Oh dear. I am not…”

“No explanations necessary. Mother has been dead for some time now, in case you were worried. I am actually proud of the old man. He vowed chastity after she died. A little old fashioned for our times though. Such is life I suppose. Can I come in?”

“This is your house.”

“Oh. Right. Well then, please come in. Make yourself at home.” The odd man half-pushed Elle out of his way and into the house behind her. She was stunned. She had thought that the old man had simply vanished. She hadn’t seen him since she was a girl. The house had begun to all but rot away – hence the late night break-in. Now an apparent heir informs her of his death and all she can think about is her unnamed lover and how she would never see him again. “Come in. Come in. I’ll put on some tea. We can sit and chat. I would love to hear how you became so acquainted with my father.”

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view previous entry at: http://veritasexlogos.wordpress.com/2008/02/07/stories-told-to-be-forgotten-part-v-a-ghost-caught-in-the-wind/

The massive bronze gates yawned like the mouth of some epic beast. The soft aromatic breath of some ancient deity pouring forth as an invisible insurmountable tide. The ghostly visitor pushed desperately against it using its loot as an anchor. The wind could not be trusted to deliver him, but the soft melodies of a molten hymn could. Grabbing the oars of sheer human will the ghost emerged from the rain and into the light of the Cathedral.

 

He was in the light that made everything appear old. Massive columns whose size could not be perceived but only felt stretched from the floor until it met fantastic arches. In this way each massive column was woven into a network of colossuses. On the backs of these Atlas’ an entirely different world hung. The ceiling was a solid but churning blue with aspects of gold. A sudden flash of her eye as it opened in the dark took control of his mind. His mind raced away from the blue onto the gold capitals and down the ribbed nave ceiling trying to escape the burning memories.

 

The natural fluidity of the architecture brought him to rest on the altar. Its bronze fixtures provided some rest. The soft music suddenly ceased. Unperceivable silence followed for a time unknown to both the ghost and his watcher. Appearing at once from behind the altar he revealed himself to the ghost and at once bone, muscle, sinew, and flesh were thrown back upon him. Simultaneous strength and burden returned and the process was half completed.

 

“Why have you come here, Clay?” First the flesh, now the name. Clay felt the odious return of normality. The father had known him since a boy. ‘Clay’ meant an entirely different person to him. It meant the boy who ceased going to mass after confirmation. It meant the boy who had too often questioned the authority of the elders. It also meant the man who had a peculiar bluntness that manifested itself in his dutiful participation in confession despite his seeming disbelief in God.

 

“Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been 1 month since my last confession.” His voice sprung forth like an answering machine triggered.

“Hold your horses, Clay.” The father moved toward him, down three stairs, and across the floor to his side. “I’m not even wearing my vestments”.

 

“I do not have the time for your superstitions. Clothes do not give people special powers.”

 

“I am not saying it does. But like a fire fighter needs a uniform, like a policeman needs a uniform, or like a soldier needs a uniform, I need my vestments. Besides you are lucky I am even here. Why don’t you go sit in the confessional and I will be there shortly.”

 

Without waiting for a response the father disappeared once more leaving Clay alone with himself. Stepping into the confessional he immediately greeted by darkness. In his mind he could feel the kudzu growing rapidly as it devoured the feast of memories. All he needed was this one act and he would be free to put his greatest work onto paper – or perhaps his greatest travesty.  

 

 

 

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The maze of drunken perceptions had led him to the only place familiar to such a shadowed mind. He recalled little except drowning each word that rose from out his throat with alcohol. No matter, it was not as if they didn’t echoed in his head the same – Elle, why? He had made the error of all mankind, he tried to give beauty a name, confine it to a place, a time, a woman. He should’ve just left, when he felt that tell tale feeling. He knew he was in over his head – but he continued.

Rather than reclining next to Elle on the ancient oak desk he was sprawled as a disorganized mass across large granite steps in the shadow of a church. The familiar gargoyles had heard his woes before, always drunken, never heartfelt. The ritual was almost complete. He had started the chain of events which always led him to his computer to produce another book. The press would undoubtedly call it ‘ingenious’ and ‘inspired’ and with their permission the flock would unleash its gluttony onto every page – melting, swooning, blushing.

He thought of naming the main character Elle. What sickness he must have had in his mind to entertain such a notion. What perversion would he have been unleashing onto reality or onto fiction? The Created Lover would be the title. But such was not his style, he didn’t write tragedies. What he wrote was mockery, attempting honesty and beauty at the same time always falling short of actual experience. He was the tragic writer of the pitiful 20th century, and he had nobody to blame but himself.Greatness, this is what he pursued. What he got was popularity close enough in appearance to greatness to satiate him in his younger years. What other reason was there to do anything, if not out of some perceived greatness? What did throwing a hundred women to the ravages of their own mind mean when compared to greatness? Was it so bad to use other human beings if it meant fueling the pen which would turn the tables of time into the new era? Such was his attitude when he first found himself upon the steps of this very church, a decade ago.

Time had wrought an entirely different complexity onto his face. For as much as his desire for greatness had forgave his ethical dilemmas, nothing felt worse than realizing his perceived greatness was nothing more than illusion. What now could he offer to God as penance? What could be worse than throwing a hundred women into a lost lover’s despair? What was more damnable than using other human beings for fame? How delusional was he to assume to think that his works of straw would hold against the fires of time? He was a fraud.

Despite all this, he continued, for it was the only thing he knew. Was he free at all in the face of such fear? He knew no God, nor any comfort or love, but yet he returned to this place. A place familiar to him since childhood. Here is where people were forgiven, whether by God or by man or by self. He only needed to here three words. Once hearing those magic three, he would be free to write his magnum opus – whether for greatness or for self.

With this hope he rose. He was stripped of flesh, muscle, and bone; all lost in the labor of retreat. He was nothing, a ghost caught in the wind. Amidst himself he carried the book he had stolen after his encounter with Elle. It was heavier than his entire being, and pulled him low to the ground. Looming before him were the massive doors of St. Augustine’s Cathedral.

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