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Saturday, August 14, 2010

MARK TWAIN_WEATHERFEST_THE WORST STORMS ARE IN THE HUMAN SOUL


Ghostly Samuel Clemens here, on behalf of Roland.

He gave his word to have an entry on whatever they call it …

oh, yes a weather blogfest of all things :

http://littlesliceofnothing.blogspot.com/2010/06/hey-look-its-one-of-them-things.html

The poetry of the earth is never dead, yet Nature is red in tooth and claw. Those two facts clash over and over again inside the human soul.

And to spotlight that fact I have chosen this snippet from Roland’s FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. (It's worth the ride if you choose to take it.)

It the first evening following Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans.

Samuel McCord and his best friend, the vampire priest, Renfield, are stepping out from McCord’s supernatural jazz club, Meilori’s, to view the carnage Nature has left in their beloved city :


Renfield stiffened as we walked out onto the submerged sidewalk. “Dear God, Sam, did you ever think we’d see our city like this?”

I looked at the battered club fronts, the boarded windows, the two-by-four’s driven like crude knives into the very mortar of the buildings, and the crumpled remains of people’s lives floating down the flooded streets.

It was eerie. The utter blackness of a once bright street. The deep quiet of a mortally wounded city.

I looked about at the shattered world around and within me. Withered leaves of my soul seemed to fall away from me in the dark breeze of this night.

Shadows flowed through my veins. The night and eternity mocked me. They seemed to whisper : “This is all your struggling achieves -- Life runs, falls, and spindles slowly into the abyss.”

Renfield and I were standing on the threshold of something that befell every person, every civilization, but with each at a different cost.

I moved through the moments but was far them. And as the night descended, it felt as if I were leaving home. I was swept up in a sense of the missed opportunity, the lost chance, the closed door.

In my mind, I heard Bette Midler singing “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today.”

“Broken windows and empty hallways,
A pale dead moon in a sky streaked with grey.
Human kindness is overflowing,
And I think it’s going to rain today.”

I sighed, “It’s like looking at the hell in the streets of London after the first Nazi bombing in ‘40. The sheer quiet that follows a whole city being gutted, that stillness that comes right before it screams.”

He bent down and picked up a floating child’s doll, its false hair soaked and hanging. Its glassy eyes reminded me of too many human corpses I had seen floating down this same street.

Renfield stroked the plastic cheek softly as if it had been the flesh of the girl who had lost her doll. Closing his eyes, he dropped the doll with a splash that sounded much too loud.

That splash said it all.

The world had always been dangerous and full of fear. It had only been the lights and the illusion of civilization that had kept it at bay. But the world was patient. It knew its time would come sooner or later.

And in the gamble called life, the House always wins. Renfield looked my way with eyes that clawed at me.

“But the Blitz came from Man. This .... This is from God.”

I just looked at him. From God? I bit back the words that first came to my lips. It was plain he was hurting inside. And I put up with such talk from Renfield. He was my friend. And he was a priest.

Priests were supposed to see life through the filter of faith. Still, I had lost faith in the unseen long ago. It had slowly faded like mist on a summer sea.

But there is a toll to such a thing. I looked around about us, trying to see it through my friend’s eyes of faith. I failed. Not a first for me.

Renfield’s head was down, though his eyes followed the floating body of the plastic doll as the currents pulled it under the black waters. “Do you think He finally has had enough of us, Sam? Enough of our cruelty, our madness?”

I rubbed gloved fingers across my face. Like I said, I was at a loss at whether the Great Mystery even existed or not, much less be able to give a true answer to that question.

But Renfield had his own doubts about God. He was my friend, and I wouldn't push him over that dark edge.

“Hell, Padre, I don’t know. Could be.”

I smiled bitterly. “You know the Lakota Sioux call God The Great Mystery.”

“You call Him that, too, as I recall.”

“Yeah, ‘cause what He’s up to most of the times is surely a great mystery to me.”

He studied me. “You’re not ---”

He waved a hand around us. “ --- mad at Him for all of this?”

Mad at someone who might only exist in empty prayers to equally empty darkness? I saw the anguish in my friend’s eyes. I chose my words carefully.

“Hell, Padre, we all chose to live in a city seven feet below sea level right by the coast, protected by levees built and maintained by a corrupt government. What did we think would happen?”

Renfield shook his head. “We all denied. It’s what humans do.”

His lips twisted. “Even those of us whose humanity is only a memory.”

I clamped a hand on his left shoulder. “You’re human where it counts.”

His face twitched as if his tongue tasted bad. “And where’s that?”

“Your soul, Renfield, your soul.”

“I lost that a long time ago, Sam.”

I might be at a loss about God, mind you. But I was sure about the soul, for I had seen its lack often enough in too many eyes. Just like I saw its solid presence within Renfield's.

“No, you didn’t. Like mine, your soul is a cocklebur. You can’t shake it no matter what you do.”

He smiled wearily. “I must have missed that verse in the Bible.”

“Gotta read the small print, Padre. Gotta read the small print.”
***


30 comments:

  1. That was very nice, Roland. You are always so much more poetic than I am. The song lyrics made me wonder, though, as I just read something this week about how hard it is to secure rights to include them in writing.

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  2. Ted : It is hard to secure them. I put them in because they fit. If I cannot secure the rights, I will just say Sam heard Bette Midler singing, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today."

    Most readers know the song. The words will come to them without me having to quote them.

    Still, with Sam owning a supernatural jazz club, music plays a big role in the background of the novel. I often just mention the artists who are playing and singing, both the living and the undead greats.

    The readers will just fill in what jazz songs they believe are playing at the moment. With a title like FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, how could music not play a major role in the storyline?

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  3. The last line is great. I think it kind of reflects the denial of the truth and the details that people ignored living in the city below sea level, too-- emphasizing that element of the scene. Interesting!

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  4. Hi,

    Poetic leanings and atmospheric taste of disaster and destructive force of the elements - the unknown, often unbidden, and the awfulness of impending threat - never quite knowing who will suffer most and in the wake of its passing who will sutvive!

    Loved it.
    best
    F

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  5. That was a great piece of writing. Poetic, and it certainly conveyed emotion.

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  6. Sorry Hon, I cheated.

    I watched the video first, because I just knew it would be moving. I wanted that first. And as for Bette Midler; well, she is one of my all time favorites. Her movies are inspirational, her songs just beautiful. So, I read to the part of Bette Midler and BRING ON THE RAIN, and went to google and pulle up the video.

    BEACHES; one of the best movies ever produced. Ranks up there with STEEL MAGNOLIAS and THE GUARDUIAN. I own The Guardian; tomorrow (today) I'll have to buy the other two now.

    I live on the San Andreas Fault. Earth quakes are no big deal to me. Yeah, I've seen some property damage, and loss of life; but nothing on the scale of Katrina.

    I moved to Tacoma Washington 3 months after Mt St Helens erupted. The horror stories of the "refugees" from Yakima were horrendous. My husband was attached to the special forces that went in and did rescue and clean-up in the most devastated areas. He needed to relate what he'd seen, done; but I almost couldn't listen.

    Still, I don't think you can get a true sense of the horror the weather can impart unless you've lived through it. L'Ausse Denise gave an accurate rendetion in her Drama Fest posting regarding the Austrailian Fires.

    I know; I'm not commenting specifically on your post here Roland. That doll just brought up so many memories for me.

    Weird how one simple item will bring up a multitude of emotions and heart break.

    .........dhole

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  7. Thanks all of you who have commented. I was driven from my city by Hurricane Rita and drove the devastated streets of New Orleans, delivering rare blood to hospitals right after Katrina, smelling the stench of decaying human flesh on the too still air.

    I came back to my devastated city and delievered rare blood down hallways filled with hollow-eyed people with nowhere else to go and nothing to look forward to.

    I stayed working at the local blood center during Hurricane Ike and Gustav, walking the flooded streets, the water at my hips as I carried out supplies from the building to waiting National Guardsmen.

    So this hurricane season, the pit of my stomach is tightened, and the memories are whispering ghosts at my side.

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  8. Wonderful entry, and I love your skills at dialogue! The padre discussing God--and the floating doll was poignantly sad.

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  9. Beautiful. Moving. Poignant. Poetic. Tragic. Insightful. The city, the people, the characters, may be bleeding out, but you still offer solace with your compassion, your love, and your endurance. Your humanity is the balm that can heal-may you never lose it.

    Beautifully written, my friend. You paint the loveliest, most heartbreaking pictures in my heart with your words....

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  10. Lots of emotion in this snippet. I agree with the others, you have a poetic style for sure. my favorite line: "Renfield and I were standing on the threshold of something that befell every person, every civilization, but with each at a different cost." It just hit me like a ton of bricks. well put.

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  11. Thank you, Summer, that means a lot to me. I'm at work now. And I am alone, manning the blood center duties so I will not be able to respond as I would wish today. Thanks everyone for all the kind comments. Roland

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  12. Absolutely fantastic! Full of emotions and poetry, portent and loss. And that last line was a wonderful way to wrap up your entry.

    As always, Roland, storytelling at its best.

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  13. Thank you, Amanda. Your praise makes it all worthwhile. And, Kaelin, your comment helped make me feel as if I had hit the mark in my entry. Thanks. Gotta run that rare blood now.

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  14. ..."poetically" inspiring as always, Roland.

    The advice of our forefathers has always been to include weather, but to not allow the weather to overtake a scene.

    In your case, utilizing your knowledge of the area with your talent of description following Katrina's wrath, the weather must be of primary concern. A task which you handled as one would an icy beverage on the bank of the Gulf. (weather...get it? :)

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  15. Um, Roland? This is SO moving it gave me shivers. Especially, as Amalia pointed out, the last line with the "Gotta read the small print, Padre. Gotta read the small print." The doll was also a very moving image, I think, too.

    I'm not sure what I can add that hasn't already been said. This is SO SO good, I have no other words.

    Take care at work.

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  16. I very much like the image of the soul as a cockle bur.

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  17. This made me start to cry but then the ending, "Gotta read the small print" made me smile. Beautiful and touching as always.

    And yeah, I went through back to back hurricanes in Florida. Not as bad as yours, no levees but pretty awful, still. So, like you, my stomach tightens during the long hurricane season.

    Great writing, as always:)

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  18. Roland, I have enjoyed reading your stories for quite awhile, but this story blew my mind. So moving with its many images (and I don't just mean the video.) Loved the imagery of the doll and the conversation about God's sins. Powerful stuff. Down Under, we are used to one disaster after another, whether it's fire, flood, drought or lately, we've started having tornadoes! Disasters never stop - a thought to the poor people in Pakistan and China who are drowning as we speak.
    Very sombre, but your writing is inspirational..:)

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  19. Hi, Roland. That was fantastic. Truly authentic and deeply poetic. Very sad, yet managed to make me smile at the end nevertheless. Great sense of dialogue and character. Really impressed.

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  20. Your prose is unbeatable, every word a nuance, musical and clear as a bell.

    Moving. Heartbreaking. So real.

    I absolutely love this piece, that rebel, Olivia

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  21. I am late joining in today. Thank you for stopping by.

    And this entry--this entry does not need constant words to describe weather, the 'weather' part of your story is so big in most of our minds and so tragic that it needs little intro or written descriptions. Katrina was/IS her own character. Orleans is her own character. Both hang looming over this scene of wonderful dialogue between these men.

    I have not known you or Blogger long, so forgive the question, but how much of the above writings are things you saw of Katrina?

    Once again, a wonderful job. And I hope the long-distance run wasn't too taxing. Stay safe.

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  22. Nicole : Hurricane Rita drove me from me and the rest of Lake Charles from our homes. My blood center moved me and my team-mates to Richmond Suites in Baton Rouge where we worked delivering blood to many hospitals, including the ones on the outskirts of New Orleans.

    On my days off, I worked as a volunteer driver for local church groups delivering water and food to the homeless -- or for whatever charitable groups needed a driver to drive to and through New Orleans.

    I listened to the stories of the rescue workers. I provided a caring ear to those whose pain seemed more than could be endured.

    Since it was only two weeks after Katrina, I smelled the stench of decaying flesh in the too still air.

    On my lunch break, I walked alone on streets, seemingly from a post-apocalyptic movie set, in search of those who needed my water and food more than I.

    I looked into hollow eyes that only thought they had known what having nothing meant. I also met predators and learned the hard fact that it is unwise to walk alone in a war zone.

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  23. Again, we write what we know and then we hesitate to call it but it is therapy. You really are a son of the South...and a good citizen. Thank you for the response.

    And I hope that many of the injuries to you and your city are not permanent--just remembered as I am certain they will always be.

    What does not kill us...

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  24. Roland I am not a writer but loved reading this and your other stories. Thank you.You certainly have first-hand experience to write this story.

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  25. This rings with the truth of someone who was there. It's beautifully written (as your work always is).

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  26. Extremely evocative and yet very philosophical!
    I'd love a vampire priest as a best friend!

    Take care
    x

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