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Below is a draft opening for my novella, “Love’s Ragged Claws.” Feedback welcome.
x x x
It was dark in the small chamber behind the purple curtain. So dark Gabriel could barely see. So small he could barely kneel. The sound of wood sliding. A small sliding door. A tap of finality as the sliding door hit its mark. A dim light came through cross-shaped holes in the wooden panel, face-level, that remained before him.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Gabriel said.
“God forgives all who repent sincerely. When was your last confession?”
“Fifty years ago.”
A muffled aspiration could be heard from Father Angelo’s side of the screen – a sigh both of compassion for one so long lost and of relief for the prodigal returned. As Father Angelo felt this pleasant mixture of wholesome feelings in his heart and head, his stomach growled. How many times had he tried to put all worldly thoughts behind him to focus on the Lord’s work? And yet he was late for his lunch, and a little part of him, a sinful part, was demoralized at the thought of the day’s final confession dragging on.
“That’s a long absence from grace, my son. But your reconciliation is near. The Lord cares not how many the sins but only how true the penance. Fifty years of sins can be washed away in a day. Now recount your sins, my son, no matter how many. Begin at the beginning, and do not rush through, but reflect as you go.”
“But, Father,” said Gabriel. “I only have three sins.”
* * *
Eva gazed out from her cabin window in Colorado. She could see a few rooftops of the town, and in the distance, the forest, thick with blue spruce and bristlecone pines, rising vertically up to the snow-capped peaks.
Funny how she knew Gabriel’s knock, how deeply embedded it was in the rings of her memory. She opened the door, and there he was, smiling, a little older than the last time she had seen him, but still willowy tall with arms thrown about, a patch of thick white hair on his head. Still smiling the same smile.
“Hallo, love,” he said, tossing off his knit hat. Still a spring in his step, she thought.
“How are you feeling, Eva?”
“Good,” she said, and she let him hug her.
“More or less,” she added.
That’s my old Eva, Gabriel thought. In that one phrase, he recognized layers of her psyche at work. She had been a dental lab technician, crafting the tiniest contours of the human tooth, each one unique, in simulacrum. Good at it, too, but crippled by perfectionism. She could never finish anything for fear it would not be good enough. Never be too hopeful. To be hopeful is to be crushed when perfection is missed. She felt good in his presence; he knew that. And through the lens of that goodness he could see all the folds her beauty. Her features themselves, well, all her life she had been known for plainness of features. And look at her now. Still the round boyish face, the pixie haircut, but with more gray. Yet she knew how deeply Gabriel saw in her plainness a pristine beauty. And she loved it. But no, it raised expectations to an insufferable level. She must moderate expectations to avoid the crushing moment of their falling short.
“More or less,” she repeated, and they held each other’s gaze for one second more, a second in which each recognized the other’s penetration, saw their hidden graces and flaws exposed, the little psychological mechanisms that they could not control and that seemed so serious at other times, reduced to mere curiosities when unmasked by trusted eyes.
“Should we go into Boulder?” asked Gabriel.
“Yes, let’s,” said Eva, and down they went through the winding canyons.
x x x
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Gary Gautier is interviewed by Fiona McVie at Authors’ Interviews.
Second release, new cover
Click image to get your copy! Post a brief Amazon review when you finish!
Set in New Orleans, three kids poking through an abandoned house awaken ghosts of racism and betrayal, and join up with some quirky old characters to save the neighborhood from its own past.
Award-winning writer Gary Gautier has published a number of books for adults and kids. A screenplay adaptation of Mr. Robert’s Bones was selected to the second round (top 10%) at the Austin Film Festival. This family-friendly novel is good for ages 15-99.
SAMPLE PAGE FROM MR. ROBERT’S BONES BELOW
The three kids moved slowly into Mr. Jimmy’s dimly lit house. The two steel-hooped barrels sat fat, glum, solid as ever, like surly guardians in the dismal light, but with the incongruous festivity of tiny gadgets and figurines on their heads. The dark painting hung in its place, but the broad strokes of purplish-blue waves seemed oddly different, as if they had moved a few paces toward edge of the canvas. The bedroom, dining room, kitchen along the shotgun path of the house were otherwise just as they had seen last time, as if no one had lived there in the interim. Instead of conducting them to the back porch, Mr. Jimmy sat them in the kitchen this time, at one of the interchangeable thrift store tables that seemed to sprout up in various rooms and porches of this fantastic setting. Mr. Jimmy had apparently been engaged at the table a short time ago. A photo album, some loose photos, and reading glasses lay on the scored and pock-marked wooden surface. Mr. Jimmy put the reading glasses on and eyed a photo for the album, like the kids weren’t there. But then he spoke.
“You know the silver in Mr. Robert’s house?” faltered Melissa.
“I told you about it, didn’t I?”
“Well, we kinda been looking around for it.”
“I know you been looking. Well quit looking.”
Mr. Jimmy put a photo into the album and eyed another. Even Melissa remained daunted at his demeanor.
“Some people,” continued Mr. Jimmy, “knows more than you kids about that house. Some people knows more than he’s saying right now. That silver is tainted. Cursed. Blood money. Touched by the devil’s own hand. You understand what I’m saying?”
The speaker paused and let the question float. Then a heaviness descended on his countenance. With a delicate movement he took off his glasses and looked up. He stared at, or through, the kids with a fixed intensity that pushed a chill up their spines.
“’Cause this is the last time I’m saying it.”
The kids hesitated, immobilized by dread but eager to forge on. Mr. Jimmy put his glasses back on and installed another photo.
“There’s more, Mr. Jimmy,” Melissa said.
Mr. Jimmy continued to fiddle with the album.
“Well, what more?”
Mr. Robert’s Bones FREE this week
Poking around an old house for hidden silver, three kids awaken the house’s ghosts of racism and betrayal and join up with some quirky old characters to save the neighborhood from its own past.
Award-winning writer Gary Gautier has published a number of books for adults and kids. A screenplay adaptation of “Mr. Robert’s Bones” was selected to the second round (top 10%) at the Austin Film Festival.
Click image to enjoy your free kindle copy! Post a brief Amazon review when you finish!