I’m plagued by a story I have no time to write. I can see that it won’t go away, and I’ll have to write it even though I have more pressing commitments. I met the little one in the story first. She sits on a bench and quietly watches. She seems inattentive, even vague, but she’s not. She has two older though not particularly elderly caretakers, a man who is slightly stout and a woman. The woman is a problem for me. I see her two ways. In one vision she is tall and thin. In another she is in her mid 50’s, at least by appearance, and as thick as the man.
I see a wounded man. He isn’t physically wounded, but mentally so. He’s taken the house across the street. This is in America, but he is not American. He is English, I think. He wants to smoke. I don’t want to let him smoke, but he persists in that filthy habit. I may have to relent and let him.
The two houses are on a hill. I know this hill, but as I see it now, it is different from the place I knew. The original of this is desolate, arid. Wild garlic grows there and stunted sage, but not much else. In my story-vision, the hill is green, verdant, and pregnant with forest sounds and smells.
Because the houses are on a hill, the “man’s house” is lower than the “small one’s” house. To get to street level, he must climb stairs. They’re granite, worn in the center by many feet. Too many feet have trod on the steps; they’re out of sync with their location. They’re ancient steps, not part of but in the time of this story. This is not something Mr. Man is aware of; to him they’re just his path to the roadway.
The small one is dressed by her people in frilly dresses, pretty things, expensive and well made. She never wears shoes, though she wears stockings. Most days, after her caretakers turn to other duties, she quietly slips them off and primly folds them, wiggling her toes in the freedom. It is her manner of dress that first told me what the “when” was that I was seeing. This is the late 1870’s. This is on the East Coast of the United States. Connecticut persistently intrudes into the story, and I don’t know why. The forest I see would not be in Connecticut. But, since some of this is fiction, Connecticut may get forested areas it never had. We’ll see.
The man is, I think, suffering from conscience issues. He’s changed his view of life and responsibility. He believes new things, holds ideas his friends and family reject. He has become a man of peace in a warrior dominated age. Yet, his decisions trouble him for reasons clear enough to me, but not to him.
The story each tells me is about how this man interacts with the small one on the bench. The small one is witch-girl to an obnoxious pig-eyed boy from down the hill. There is another boy. And this boy seldom talks to “small one” but he is her friend. It takes a while for Mr. Man (He hasn’t told me his real name yet) to see this.
Things happen. The pig-eyed boy produces the first whispered conversation between Man and Little. It is an eye opening experience and disquieting to Man.
Man takes to wandering the forest near their houses. It’s really new forest; parts of it were cleared in the colonial era. The remains of a farm are out there: red brick foundations, now over grown with trees; a rock wall covered in vine and bramble.
A new character shows up. Mr. Man watches from his second story balcony. The new character is a young man. I think he’s 27. He looks twenty-seven to me. He’s tall, thin, walks and stands as if he’s used to parade stance. His presence produces considerable reaction from Little One. There are hugs and kisses to cheeks and the rapid opening of a wrapped present. (I’ll not tell you what that is.)
Little one’s caretakers find the youngish man. They’re as excited to see him as the Little One is. There are more hugs, and they go inside.
Mr. Man watches this, as I said. The word “soldier” crosses his mind. He frowns. He had been a soldier once.
There is a confused bit next. Everyone tells me a different story, and I’m not sorting it out well. I think each sees what happens next in a different light. There is no absolute truth in any of their accounts, only point of view, a way of understanding that none completely shares with the other.
Mr. Man’s walks into the forest grow longer. They take him into places where I’ve been. These are places that can exist anywhere. They never look exactly the same, but they are the exact same places.
If you learn to hear the forest; if you learn to smell the forest, or the deserted land, or that space in the upstairs closet, you know these areas for what they are. They’re normal places made unclean by those who live in or cross them. Some are places where great evil and considerable good met, and the good did not triumph then. Both good and wickedness are persistent, implacable. One must yield to the other, but they seldom surrender.
And that is all they’ve told me. Except I know there is a stone in the forest. I’ve seen it covering a grave in California; I’ve seen it as an alter half buried in a hedge row in France, and I’ve seen its sister in the jungles of Yucatan.
I wish this story would go away. I haven’t got time to write it. I have more important things to write. And I’ve got my own wars to fight and nightmares to vanquish. These people will not leave me alone. Mr. Man in his sorrow and fear is pitiful. Small One is gentle. I know her, you see. We’re related in blood and attitude. But she’s as persistent as her neighbor across the street.
The youngish man I do not know. He is new to me, and he is quiet. I don’t hear his story. I only see it unfold. I wish I could take him to Starbucks and tell him things. He seems not to know just how deeply he’s fallen into a strange and sometimes difficult way of life. Love does funny things. It blinds us or opens our eyes. Sometimes it does both. He’s in love. Poor blessed man.
I’m thinking of closing this blog. I invest more time in it than I have. And few read it. I appreciate the regular readers I have. But there are no signs of real interest except for the rare comment. I should never have closed it when I started to decline. When I was a regular on Miss Snark’s blog, I had a considerable following. They all went away when I shut down the blog. It’s my fault of course. I can’t expect them to find me again after all the time that has passed.
And some days – many days – I don’t write anything. All I have to say on those days exposes misery. I don’t need to share misery. Those are dark days and, unfortunately, their number increases. I fill my blog with photos that please me or make me think or that simply interest me.
I talked to my favorite cousin this morning. We could pass as sisters. We look enough alike. Her German accent and my neutral American accent reveal that we are not. I miss her. I wish she’d move closer or that I could go see her.
It’s only vaguely related to what I’ve said before, finding a place here because of my comment on accents. I had an odd experience in the public library. One of the children’s librarians asked me to repeat something I said to one of my girls. I gave her a funny look but did as she wished. She nodded and said, “You speak English as it should be spoken.” I’m honestly not aware of speaking differently than most people who live here. I do not know what she heard in my voice. But it was an interesting comment, leaving me puzzled over what people hear in other’s voices.
One last thing. I've been reading a novel that is both distrubing and hard to put down. You've probably read books that made you feel uncomfortable and yet you could not simply abandon the story. This is one of those. I will comment more about it in a few days, maybe. ... But tell me, what books or book did you find both disturbing and addictive?