Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Ghost Story at 52K

With a little help from my friend Sue, I'm calling this one "Shattered Spirits" and if there's a sequel, (and I think there is) it will be "Unfinished Business". At least that's what I've decided for now. I really have a hard time with titles.  It's something I struggle with in everything I write, from blog posts, to poetry, to short stories, to novels.

I have to trust the the right title will show up one day.

Here are some first draft words from Marco's POV.  He's my ghost character, murdered 6 years earlier in his beloved amusement park.  One of the story threads in the ghost story is Marco trying to discover and take his revenge on his killers. This is a scene when he revisits home and his parents for the first time since he died. As you can probably see in this snippet, Marco has issues with his family.

First draft warning applies--typos, awkward prose etc, ahead.

. . . .

I raised my hand to knock before I realized how stupid that was and slid through the front door. The entry hallway was as narrow and dark as I remembered. Patterns of vines and roses climbed in parallel lines across faded wallpaper. The ticking of the grandfather clock sounded like a heartbeat. It was claustrophobic and stifling. Exactly the way it had been when I was alive.
The clinking of silverware and the scrape of a chair against the floor were the only other sounds in the house. No conversation, no laughter. This was a mistake. How was I going to find a connection to Teflon Tony here? But that wasn't really the reason I wanted to flee. Not if I was being honest with myself.
I hovered just outside the dining room trying to find the will to see them again. My parents. Tired, old, and rigid, even in my first memories of them. I was a late in life baby, after my mother had endured years of miscarriages that when the doctors couldn't prevent, she turned to the priests and their prescription of prayer. When I was born, she made a vow to dedicate me to the church. Too bad I stopped believing in her god when I was still a kid.
The soft chant of a prayer in Italian drifted from the dining room. It was my mother saying the apostles creed over and over. Io credo in Dio, Padre onnipotente, creatore del cielo e della terra; e in Gesù Cristo, suo unico Figlio, nostro Signore, il quale fu concepito di Spirito Santo. . . Unbidden and unwanted the translation bubbled up from deep in my memory. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.
If listening to the thud of dirt on your own grave as you panic, trapped in your corpse is hell, then I'd been there. It was less than three days and I did eventually rise from the ground, but I certainly wasn't in heaven and I definitely wasn't any sort of saint or diety. I couldn't be certain God didn't exist, but I knew I hadn't run into him yet.
My father's voice mumbled the prayer along with her, both voices blending for the 'amen.' I slipped into the dining room just as my mother began to clear the table. My father poured himself a glass of his home made grappa. It was the way every sunday dinner I could remember ended, but the years since my murder hadn't been kind to either of them. My mother was stooped, her gray hair tucked in a neat bun covered by black lace. Her hands were distorted by the arthritis that had always pained her when the weather turned and deep lines creased the skin around her eyes and in parallel lines across her forehead. My father didn't raise a finger to help. He stared straight ahead, sipping the grappa slowly, but steadily until the small glass was empty. Then he refilled it from the unlabelled bottle and drained it again.
His hair was still dark, but thinning, his narrow face and small dark eyes made him look a little like a fox.
"Hello, Father," I said. "At least some things never change."
He downed another glass before setting it and the bottle in the center of the table for my mother to take care of. He would sit there while she cleaned up from supper, washing and putting away all the dishes. Then he would demand his coffee before retiring for the night. I hated that he treated my mother like she was little more than his servant. And I hated her for letting him.
I left him staring straight ahead while the candles burned down and wax dripped on the lace tablecloth to follow the sound of running water in the kitchen. Drying and putting away the dishes had been my job once I could reach the cabinets with the small stepstool tucked between the refrigerator and the stove.
It was still there, the hinges rusty. The overhead light buzzed and cast yellowed shadows on the dingy linolium floor. My mother used to scrub it every saturday morning on her hands and knees, but the tiles were so old and worn, nothing would help except for tearing them up and starting all over.
She turned off the water and dried her twisted hands, staring out the window.
"Mama," I said softly, even though I knew she couldn't hear me. "You should make him help you." And I knew that could never happen either.

No comments:

Post a Comment