Book One – Prologue Excerpt

Okay, so people say I shouldn’t be sharing my ideas so freely here.  That I will get ripped off. Well, maybe, maybe not.  One thing I know for sure is I’m not a stupid naive clueless bitch, like I’ve been told by others.  Too nice they’ve called me. And yes, I’ve trusted too much and subsequently, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been ripped off. Lesson learned, and now, I know how to protect myself. I share here in my blog house but now everything is protected and I have an arsenal of legal experts to call upon should the need arise.

With that said, here goes the sharer with her sharing. Please note that I share not because I think it’s good enough to share, but because I want to have the knowledge that some other living person, has read it and thought it either good or bad or has been moved or felt indifference. Someone other than myself has read my story, shared my imaginations, and wondered at possibly the same things I wonder about that come out in my stories: God, faith, pain, hurt, betrayal, goodness, kindness, evil, redemption, greed, the human condition that makes us so very fragile in our very short time here on earth, yet despite our frailties we all believe that we are invincible and we fail to recognize that “bigger than life” is just another way of saying “bigger than God”.  Can that be right?, is what I wonder about and try to hammer out as I write.   Pathetic, my wonderings, I suppose, but that’s what I am….the pathetic reluctant reclusive writer who today shares her work in progress.

 

Book One – Sin / God Had Use of Me

In the dead middle of the sweating night,

I lost my name; and that was my delight; . . .

The mirrors melted down and flowed away,

And God had use of me on that dark day.

Theodore Roethke, “The Dark Angel”

Prologue

June 11, 1998

10:00 p.m.

St. George Catholic Church Rectory

Conrad, California

(A Northern California coastal town that is situated across the San Francisco Bay)

Martin sat by his bedroom window looking across the bay at the car headlights that bounced off the water as people made their way home across the San Mateo-Hayward bridge toll.  Every night he sat in this spot and counted the cars that made it over to Hayward and then back again to Conrad. For each car he counted, he drew a line next to the written date on the legal pad balanced on the window sill.

Yesterday he had counted 469. The day before 532. The day before only 184, but that was probably because it was a Sunday, he surmised. Less people going to work, he reasoned. He was thinking of other possible things that could keep people from going across the bridge when he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t startled. He never was. Not anymore. After all these years, he knew who it was.

“Sit, Martin. Today is the day.”

Finally, Martin thought. After all these years, he was more than ready.

“I can’t see you,” Martin whispered towards the shadow, as he turned away from the window and faced the shuffling sound coming from the center of his bedroom. “I can’t see you.”

“Does it matter, Martin?”

“Yes, it does.”

“There is nothing to see, Martin. Nothing for you to see.”

“But you promised that I would gaze upon your face on the last day.”

“Really, Martin? Last day? Isn’t that a bit over dramatic and biblical sounding? Gaze upon my face on the last day? Ha, ha, ha. Martin, you’re really too much.” The high pitched voice of the shadowy figure let out a raspy clicking chuckle.

“You’re laughing at me.”

“You amuse me, Martin.”

Martin realized in that moment that he had grown tired of this person, or thing, or shadow or whatever it ended up being that had been a regular visitor of his for the past  23 years and he let out a deep sigh.

“Would you like to know what I’ve been laughing at all these years?, Martin”

“23”

“23?”

“Yes, its been 23 years.”

“Really?  I could have sworn it had only been 5 years or so.”

“You weren’t always moody, only in the past five years you’ve become such a mean son of a bitch. You were actually good company at the beginning.”

  “Whatever Martin. 5 years or whatever, does it really matter? Really, you are such a pain in the ass. I’m so glad that this will all end soon.” He let out a long exhale. “ I want to explain to you why I’ve been laughing at you today and everyday I’ve come to visit you. Aren’t you curious?”

“ Not really. I’m used to people laughing at me. Being the joke doesn’t bother me, anymore. Reggie says…..”

“Oh, who the hell cares what Reggie says or thinks. He’s wrong Martin. Reggie is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. God!!! I hate that man! “

“Reggie?”

“Stop Martin. Focus, Martin. You must know, why I’ve been visiting you. Let me begin. For the past 5 years I’ve been watching and laughing at you and your buddy Reggie’s blind devotion, faithful fellowship, constant belief that this particular holy torture both of you endure day after day serves a greater purpose, a greater good, a higher power and that it would all end one day and in its’ relief, you would find the glory your heart burns for, lives for, sacrifices for. Him.”

It was pitch black in the room now, but Martin could feel the brush of the shadow’s cloak on his upper arm.  If he reached up he could grab hold of its arm, wrap his other arm around its waist, and push and pull it down to its evil knees. Wouldn’t that be beautiful, thought Martin. To give a push to this hissing shadow.  Perhaps he could. He wasn’t entirely broken. Reggie didn’t think so. He told him that every day.

“You’re not a splinter Martin. You’re a whole piece of wood. You are, friend. You are.”

Father Martin De’Brosian’s lost agency suddenly awakened with the recollection of Reggie’s words and the thought of landing one good punch on this shadow.

“Martin?” The shadow’s craggy hands reached out, placed them alongside Martin’s face, covering his bandaged ears and shook his head hard. “You there, nut case? You need to know….”

His hands. The shadows hands smelled like balsam wood. An oil scent. He knew that smell. That stench. Reggie had brought him a gift from a colleague that smelled like balsam wood.

“Save it, you pasty parasite. I know who you are. Maybe I always have.”

“Ohhhhh yesssss! I almost forgot you’re one of the chosen ones who KNOWS!!!!! Tell me Martin, what do you know? WHAT IS IT THAT YOU KNOW about US?”

So that was it. There was an Us. Not a Him, like he had wanted to believe. Needed to believe. Perhaps Reggie and him had been fools, all along. No, it couldn’t be so. No. There was something else and with the utterance of the word “us”, it all became clear to him. Crystal clear.  Martin understood.

“Listen, you lying spook, I will never tell you what I was told that night by the Angel with the smoke golden eyes. Never.”

“That Angel of yours was Satan, Martin.”

“No, she wasn’t.”

“You’re nuts, Martin. This angel of yours was a she, was she? How would you know what it was? Maybe she was just an illusion of that tired and sick little brain of yours, Martin? Did you ever consider that? Or maybe she was sent by someone to prey on your weak constitution.”

He said ‘weak constitution’ . Reggie always told him that was their favorite phrase. Finally, it’s all coming together. He wondered where Reggie was. If he was home from visiting the hospice in the San Francisco. Could he make a noise that would make Reggie check up on him. Run in and save the day. Reggie could punch this mother fucker masquerading as one of the good guys, right in the kisser. As Reggie powed him, maybe he could slide over him and pin him down, hold his head down while Reggie whaled good on this actor of actors.

“You don’t really think you’re special because you bleed, do you Martin?,” the shadow continued whispering as it tapped its fingertip against the bandaged place where Martin’s hand wound was. “Things that bleed are not blessed, but cursed, Martin. Cursed. You have a God rendered curse on you for being so damn stupid and ugly and vile and worthless and such a vacant hole, just like what is under this bandage.” Tap, tap, tap.

The shadow thing was so close to Martin’s face that his nostrils burned from the petroleum mingled with balsam scented breath this thing’s voice emitted. Martin’s eyes burned from the pent up tears he was determined to not shed. I have to fight back, he thought. I have to fight back.

“Your words can’t hurt me anymore. Or your laughter. Or for that matter, your particular stench. I will never tell you.”

“If not me, who then? You must have told someone. Tell me and I might spare your pathetic life.”

“Stop hounding me you stupid little cloud of worthless puff and shut up already. It is done.”

“Tell me Martin. Who have you told about us?”

“No.”

“Tell me.”

“No.”

The shadow stepped away from Martin and Martin collapsed on the floor with his feet crossed under him.

“You are a selfish piece of crap, Father Martin De’Brosian. A selfish and stupid piece of crap,” the cloaked thing said as he pushed him away with a kick.

“Well there you go. That’s no secret. Everyone knows that I am a worthless piece of crap, carrying these wounds forever for what? Worthless. I am finished. ”

Martin shut his eyes, spread his arms wide, began to laugh at the absurdity of his life’s reality. Then just as a wave of nothingness crept across Martin’s consciousness, a flash of gold fell upon him and the searing pain oddly made him laugh even more so.

In the past 23 years, Martin hadn’t said a word out loud in front of anyone besides his winged visitors, much less laughed, even with Reggie, his oldest and most trusted friend.  Yet right now in this very dark bedroom Martin spoke and laughed. He laughed with such force that his shoulders shook and his fingers waved, his back heaved upward, his knees came up to his chest and his hands shielded his shaking face. From his throat a gurgling, sputtering, wheezy projectile bound laugh came out to break him out of his 23 year confinement. Not since Marcella and he had planned his escape,so many years ago, had he felt so free and so alive and so loved and so full of hope. He was hopeful, again. Finally. He understood it all. Finally.

A watery-like substance began to flow from what he believed were the gaping tiny holes on his body he had lived with for decades. He could feel the streams of liquid that were meandering down his face, neck, chest, pelvis, buttocks and legs, dripping off the tips of his fingers, and puddling around him.

The more he laughed, the more it flowed and as the liquid poured out of him and onto the dark mahogany wood floor of his darkened bedroom, the 23 year old fog from Martin’s mind lifted for the first and last time. No more thick white fog clinging to his brain, his throat, his heart, his very soul.   

“Salve,” someone whispered softly. “Salve, Martin De’Brosian.”

“Salve?  No. Slave to thee.” he whispered back and then Father Martin De’Brosian was no more. The man, priest, lover, friend, father and stigmatist was finished.

– Ramona Reyes

March 22, 2017

Novel Inspo – Roethke’s Angel

I am a lover of poetry. I am a lover of words. Words that inspire. Words that hit the nerve within the heart.  Theodore Roethke’s Poem, “The Dark Angel” from “Straw for the Fire” hit that nerve for me ten years ago, moved me into action, unleashed a flood of ideas and of a willingness to tap tap tap letters, words, and whole sentences out. 

“The Dark Angel” poem is the cornerstone of inspiration for my four-part book series, of mystery/low-fantasy books about the city of Conrad, a town across the bay from San Francisco and a Roman Catholic priest who gets drawn into, rather reluctantly, into the otherworldly happenings in and around Conrad.

Here is Roethke’s poem with key lines in blue.

The Dark Angel by Theodore Roethke

In the dead middle of the sweating night,

I lost my name; and that was my delight;

I cried a name, I cried a name out loud;

I was the shape I was when I was born…

What place could know him in that frantic hour

When he put off his being like a shirt?

The mirrors melted down and flowed away,

 And God had use of me on that dark day.

In the womb, I refused death.

No, not nothing, not unbeing’s bleak stare,

The white walls of nowhere, the glassy ache

Of the raw desert, the alkaline Great Beyond.

Nothing defined or final in itself,

All nights combined to make a blacker day,

The soul appalled by time’s hyperbole.

Self,self, the stinking self offends my eyes;

My ears, my nose drop with my ancient knees.

I am undone by false propinquities;

Lipping a stone, and calling it a rose,

For hell is where I am …

So desolate in this felicity,

So driven by extremes – Which way is Near?

I am a man becoming what I see …

And these loose flames become a single fire.

Few of the blind are mad.

John Clare, I the way your spirit went:

Day after day, the lonely languishment,

Hours turn to minutes when true spirits laugh:

He loved the world, and cut his life in half.

Christopher, help me love this loose thing.

I think of you now, kneeling in London muck,

Praying for grace to descend.

Disorder, heraldic, magnificent:

Hate raging under the moon,

Ghosts bursting the rooms of a hurt heart,

While the winds lag

And all the minds groan to recover

And kill the root of desolation.

You lock of skin, pray keep this motion nice.

Why have I flung my reason that it sings

Without me, a country babbler by a sty?

My sympathy is sickness, so they say.

The trees are breathing less. You, winky, sleep.

I’ve come to tear the sun out. Save me, mouse.

I’m done with every pretty thing.

Those miseries took shape

And broke upon my path

As if the leaves took form

And scuttled into shade,

A shape of headless fur,

Brother to rat or worm.

He’d lost the will to be. His various selves

Retreated, all, into the deeper grass,

Or pulsed behind a stone in the long field.

The green of things remembered the late rose

Shrivelled against the sill …

Death’s all: death’s substance is this gray;

And the ground cannot save us. I’m a stone

Cast into ashes. See the air’s still! A fine fume

Drifts from one seed.

The blood’s appalling repetitions end.

One part of him was dying long before.

To my dead self with its perpetual fear of death

I said Goodbye.

Bow out, dark angel.

Your summer stallions, paw.

Grass widows, wives, weep well

For here’s a noble lord of skin laid down;

This gap shall hold me.

The four books of my novel series are titled after the Christian concets/beliefs of  “Sin”, “Confession”, “Penance” and “Redemption”.

In the first book, “Sin”, meet protagonist and hero, Father Reggie; murder victim and secret stigmatic Father Martin,; eccentric townies;  Abbott Howard and his brothers in Christ; and Clemmie, a young woman who gets caught up in Father Reggie’s dilemma against Church, his parishioners, corrupt religious orders and perhaps even God, himself, as she agrees to help him find the truth behind Father Martin’s murder.

The murder of Father Martin throws together Reggie and Clemmie to form an unlikely sleuthing duo in an AARP card carrying Catholic priest and a third generation Mexican-American undergraduate student, attending Stanford University,  to figure out who or what murdered their stigmatist priest friend who was being secretly housed at St. George Parish and cared for by Reggie for the past 20 years.
.
What this story has or so goes my plans, say  it has, so far …..
1. Angels ( guardian and otherwise)
2. A stigmatist group that operates in secret and holds support groups (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous Mtgs.)
3. Aztec Gold Dieties and pre-conquest myths and ties to Early Mexican American California History.
4. A Religious Community of Monks and Diocesan Priests and Bishops. Some good and some very very very bad. Actually, most are questionable and far from the great men they would like to believe they are. After all, men are just men in the end, as are women. Just people not saints. Flawed people and thank goodness because as they say, “God Loves the Sinner.”
5. An exploration of the complex community dynamics and politics of Conrad and surrounding small towns.
7. An exploration of imminent domain land laws and how they shaped the history of California.
8. A second-tier  of townies that include an embezzling bookkeeper/accountant, a promiscuous school principal, a marijuana farm grower, a fisherman, and a group of skater teens and, of course 

9. God and the Mother of Christ. Seperate, perhaps but what if they were one and the same and engendered as woman.

As you can see….there is alot there I am working with and perhaps this is why I am having such a hard time to tell the story but I really beleive it will be a tale that shows its worth in the final telling. I can hope. We will see.

– Mona