So you can read my books

Thursday, April 19, 2012

R is for RENFIELD_What We Choose to Believe


He never gives anyone his first name.

Sister Magda, his former wife, now head sister at his church, calls him Renny. He has been the close friend of the cursed Samuel McCord since 1853.

Now, in the year 2005, Hurricane Katrina has gutted New Orleans. Worse, something older than the Earth has been released:

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

It certainly was a contrast to Meilori’s garden of ethereal beauty. No wonder Renfield was shaken.

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.

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.

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.”

Renfield bent down and picked up a floating child’s doll, its false hair soaked and hanging. Its glassy eyes eerily 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 and smiled as if his lips were an open wound.

“Perhaps that doll will find the spirit of the child who lost it.”

“You and I have seen stranger things, Padre.”

He nodded. “Yes. Yes, we have. I will choose to think the child’s ghost reunited with her doll.”

The thought seemed to give Renfield some small measure of peace. I think Lincoln had it right: we have the peace we choose to have.


  1. I imagine it would feel eerie. So empty. So changed.

  2. Alex:
    I was there. And it was eerie ... like being plunged into an Apocalyptic movie but without a Director yelling "Cut!" or a stunt double to endure the heat, fear, and predators coming off their drugs with no way to buy more.

  3. Man...Roland, what an empty feeling I got when I read that. So empty, so dismal. Whoa.

  4. You must live in or near New Orleans. We get hurricanes here, but nothing that has so totally wiped out our town. (Although the aftermath from Fran in 1996 was freaky.)

    New Orleans is on our list to visit in the next few years.

  5. Jack:
    It was an empty feeling to behold your city like that. A part of you said, "This kind of thing doesn't happen in America." Your eyes and heart told you differently.

    L. Diane:
    New Orleans has staggered towards recovery, so I think you will enjoy your visit. I live in Lake Charles now ... which was hit hard by Hurricane Rita. You just can't win on the Gulf Coast during hurricane season! :-)

  6. You have a talent of bringing the emotion off the page/screen, my friend. I felt it. You are fabulous. :)

  7. I like this excerpt. It showcases your ability to flesh out a scene, while still moving the action along. You tend to be dialogue-ish in style (LOTS of character interaction), which makes the introspective scenic scenes all the more noticeable.

    - Eric

  8. Morgan:
    Thanks so much for the kind words. Did you receive your autographed photo of Cate Blanchett?

    I do like dialogue to move a scene. I learned that from Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler. You are nice to say that about my introspective scenes. Some editors truly hate introspection. LOL Roland

  9. Bon soir, Roland,

    Liked and tagged Nocturne on Amazon. I visited New Orleans in August 2006 for a psych conference and unfortunately I hadn't seen the city in all her glory before Katrina's devastation.

    This is exactly how I felt:

    "I was swept up in a sense of the missed opportunity, the lost chance, the closed door."

    It's the perfect setting for your ghost story.

    "the two-by-four’s driven like crude knives into the very mortar of the buildings"

    Loved this.

  10. Thank you so much, Jennifer:
    Sometimes I feel as if all my efforts are grains of sands tossed by the winds. You and my other blog friends lift me up.

    Yes, I wish you could have seen New Orleans pre-Katrina. A culture, a way of life, an oral history has been destroyed.

    Thank you again. Oh, and further along in the novel, Sam sees the ghost re-united with her doll in what I tried to make a moving scene. Roland

  11. That was both cool and creepy. I love the part about the doll and finding the spirit of the child.

  12. What I saw on tv was bad enough Roland. I can't imagine actually seeing it live. It would mark you forever.


  13. Stina:
    Thanks. You would probably like the scene somewhat later when Sam is approached by the ghost of a small girl ... holding that same doll ... and her eerie request of the undead Ranger.

    It did indeed leave a lasting impression. May your weekend be lovely. Mine is a working weekend, of course! Roland