Inner Magic

Look a little deeper

Eventually I set aside what I am reading and write. It is best, or so it seems to me, to arrive at writing from a place of stillness. There is depth in such writing. I recognize the depth because I have the sense of someone else there doing the work; it arises and sets itself on the page, then I show up and do some useful editing. This is ordinary magic, there is no effort to do anything.

The following bit is the start of a fairy tale. There seems to be a fairy tale need in me these days. I have been re-reading Joan Aiken and she has that effect on me. This is only the start of one, so be patient with me please. It has been a while in the making.

Look a Little Deeper

So, I knew this man once, who came home looking for his lover, but she had run off.

Run off with the butcher’s wife?  No, no, just… off somewhere.  She had something to do.  When he left that morning she had been looking for her shoes, so he had had a hint.

It wasn’t that he was worried.  They had always, so far, been good lovers: sweet and constant.  He wasn’t worried that she wouldn’t come back.  It was more about who would she be when she did get back? She had the tendency to be, well, perhaps a little extreme, sometimes.  Once she had come home with a saxophone and a saxophone teacher. The three of them had lived together in the same bed for 4 months.  The saxophone teacher was very nice, if a little young, and she made very good eggs at breakfast.  But then, he had never liked saxophone very much and it really was a very small bed.

So, he was actually, just a little worried and slightly curious about what happens next, (aren’t you?)

She had first arrived one evening as he sat outside his flat.  It was summer and hot; he turned off everything and opened everything and sat outside in the semi-dark drinking beer.  She was selling flowers, or at least that is what he decided. She knelt before him in a brown gathered skirt and a white men’s shirt rolled up at the sleeves and tied at the waist.  She looked into his eyes and smiling happened.  He was taken in that moment.  For all his life after, he thought of that twilight moment as the hinge of everything: of all happiness and certainty.

She pulled a cloth from her pack and spread it at his feet in the dust of the walkway.  She did it with the flourish and poise of an entertainer, every once and a moment catching his eye.

On it, laid out in a single motion, were flowers made of everything; of wire and paper, bits of metal and plastic used with incredible delicacy; puckered, bent, crimped into authentic flowerhood.  He stared at them, feeling his mouth fall slightly open.  She tilted her head as if to ask what he thought.  He bought everything she had, with everything he had; 17 pounds, 22pence.  He offered her a beer and she stayed; to his everlasting amazement and curiosity.

Gary was one of three Gary’s in his class at school.  It was a popular name that year.  It was the only thing that was popular about him.  He was a quiet boy who did what he was told with good will.  It was for that reason that his teachers never remembered him, and his parents seldom did.  He was not a squeaky wheel and if he earned any attention it was usually a sigh of relief, that at least one child in the bunch was not causing trouble.

Gary decided at some point in his education that what he wanted was to be a success. He was not sure how this was accomplished, but he determined from the subtle comments of his betters that it was by diligence alone.  Therefore, rather than go on to school, at 18, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and make the family farm a great success. He approached this with abundant industry, the afore mentioned diligence, and, his father’s somewhat skeptical blessings.  He was the eldest child, after all, and the only son, so it stood to reason, and his father was not a man to stand in the way of hard work.  It was on the day after Gary cut the tips from three fingers of his right (and dominate) hand on what might be considered ‘complicated farm machinery’ that his father took a different view.  Gary came into his mother’s kitchen, bleeding extravagantly, but quietly.  Jeannie who came weekly to help around the house, and who was one but not the other, made up for any silence with memorable expletives and a full length passing out in the doorway.  His mother treated him with a constant headshake. After his hand was wrapped, his father stood and looked at him thoughtfully, fists shoved into his pockets, mouth pursed and his headshake at the same cadence as his mothers.  Gary remembered thinking that his mother and father had lived together a very long time.  His father’s head abruptly stopped its wag and his lips un-pursed.  He looked into Gary’s eyes and said “So. Son. What is it you think your calling might be?”

Gary went away to school.

By the time he met her, there remained only a strange bevel to the tops of the last three fingers of his right hand.  She said her name was Jezz, after Jezebel.  She said her mother liked the Bible.

Gary was shocked and incredulous.  “But why name you after that story?” he asked.  

Jezz smiled sideways at him. “I said she liked the bible, I didn’t say she’d read it.  I think she picked names from it at random to name her children, and her dogs for that matter.  You need to meet my brother Judas.”

Gary winced, but said nothing and Jezz smiled widely.  

“He calls himself Jude and tells people his mother liked the Beatles song.  I think she did, too.”

On the first sunny day after they met, they laid a blanket in a field just out of town and made love in the sunlight.  This was a first for Gary, and although it was Sunday and there was little chance of being interrupted by the farmer, Gary felt somehow wicked, but not bad, not bad at all.  After, they ate the lunch they had brought.  Gary pulled his jeans on right away, but Jezz seemed to not think of it at all.

For Gary, Sunday had been his day of rest, or at least change, which they told him, was as good as any rest might be.  As a child, he attended church with his mother, after chores and any schoolwork.  It was something that he continued to do into his teens, long after his two sisters had found reasons to avoid it.  

The Reverend Thornhurst was loud and fiery.  Gary may have gone for the simple contrast his sermons made to a quiet home life.  Shortly after Gary was born, the Reverend had arrived in their parish. He was a practical and earnest man, married to a mildly pretty woman of good family. She left him in under two years, to much local speculation.  The Reverend never spoke of it, but his sermons took on a touch of frenzy (and occasionally spittle, for those in the front pew).  Over the years, the many, many wicked women of the Bible were outlined in detail. Even the Virgin Mary was given a careful going over in the Christmas season. Somehow Gary associated women and Sunday. It was good to find it was something sweet and wholesome after all, just as his heart had always hinted.

Gary and Jezz stayed for some time in the field, enjoying the sunshine.  Gary on his stomach watching the slow progress of life in the grass, turned to look at her.  His Jezz; sitting naked and unconcerned in the sun, braiding grass stems with deft art. The look of concentration that had gentled her face, gripped him somehow.  His throat grew tight and he smiled, thinking he should read the story of Jezebel sometime and see what he thought of her now.

It Is Said A Fox May Grow Gray…

Photo by Linnea Sandbakk 

This is a continuation of the earlier story:

“What May Enter Here” Part Two

     He dropped by the first time like a new neighbor: casual, carefully neutral, vaguely friendly. A painfully bright red on the landscape, which approached my back door, then sat on his haunches waiting, toenails just barely skirting the edge of my threshold. We contemplated each other for a moment with equal curiosity. He tilted his head in foxy interrogative, then he stood in a flourish of transformation. Now a naked, tall man with painfully red hair in just a few places, I blinked several times before tossing him the tea towel I had dried my hands on. He held it loosely before him and tilted his head again.

     “Come in, shut the door.” I called over my shoulder on the way to accumulate some clothing. The click sounded behind me, nothing more. If I had not been expecting him it would have been distinctly off setting. As it was, I was already sweating and wiping my face as I walked with what I hope sounded to be authority, in my own home. I returned shortly with pants and shirt from Dain’s closet. I had not touched it in 4 years, I took a breath, let it go and set them on the kitchen island between us. Todd, for it could only be Todd, whom I had called, put them on clumsily.  “They suit you well. Would you like some tea?”

     “Yes, please. Have you honey?” 

     He smiled now in a dazzle and I reminded myself that he was fey to the core and not to let this influence my mood of resolution. He was adroit and seeing my resistance toned it down a bit. I liked him for that and returned a curt nod.

     “Honey it is. Please take a seat in the front room and I will join you.”

     I brought in a tray to set a formal mood. I wished I could appear formidable, but knew my stature for what it was: tiny. The tray held scones, cream and jam to balance the teapot. It looked bountiful. It was a small tray. Todd’s proud carriage and dexterous, self-possessed movements were worth watching. He was a spokesman of redoubtable presence, and some fame in his own place. I knew that when I named him. Dain spoke always of him as a friend. That gave me courage and a snippet of hope. I sat a little straighter with my cup resting on its saucer quietly. This was no time for nerves. Finally, he set down the cup and I followed suit.

     “You wish to Parley?”

     “I do.” The following silence made me tighten.

     “Is Culley here?”

     “He is at the neighbors; she asked him to bake tarts. He loves sweets.” Nothing had been said and already I felt myself losing ground. My shoulders were dropping with my heart. The fox smiled again; not so many teeth this time.

     “Why did you call me, may I ask?”

     “Dain named you as friend many times.” I glanced down feeling too weak for this, too powerless.

     “Your power lies in your love.” He spoke quietly, reading me easily. I flushed and tears rose, to my shame. “Dain was won over by that very power. Rest in it.”

     I looked up at him, ginger halo caught by the sun from the window. He was watching me, but what I had anticipated as calculation had melted from his face.

     “I have no idea where to begin. I only fear to lose him. To lose him, too.” Something moved in the creature’s face, something I would have known as compassion in a human, but my mind strove against it. We are such pathetic beings; tortured by our ignorance and defined by our arrogance. I held a flicker of hope then and carelessly brushed it aside. He laughed at me. I saw it and was consumed by my shame.

     Contemplating my ruddy flush he spoke again, this time more gently, as if to a child. “I will not seek to manipulate you, but I am sworn to my duty. You called, I was asked, and I accepted. This is all outside of any friendship I have ever held. If it is not, it is meaningless.” He waited for my acknowledgement. I sat straighter and turned up my eyes to him.

     “I asked for you because I hoped you would honor us all. All concerned here held Dain in our hearts.” For this I received a whisper of a smile. “I called for you with the understanding that the outcome would be binding. I am frightened, not perfidious.” This time I let go of an edge of my fear and smiled back at him. He somehow emitted radiance that out played the afternoon sun. Hope wormed its way back into my heart and we began to talk in earnest: to plan, barter and plead our cases.

     When evening fell and Culley returned with a plate of warm tarts to show me, he looked around expectantly.

     “He was here!”

     “Oh yes.”

     “Have you agreed?”

     Ah, the simplicity of childhood; love them because I do. All will be well!

     “We have. You will live with me, just as you would at regular school. Lessons begin after the summer.”

     “Are you happy?” Culley’s candor was always foremost. I hoped it always would be. I smiled easily at him.

     “All will be well, my darling, all will be well.”

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