Friday, January 28, 2011
A little excerpt of something I'm working on...
In perusing other blogs today, I'm seeing a lot of excerpts from my friends whose writing is only getting better and better with every novel. I'm so inspired by what I've read (Megan Bostic's dystopian, Randy Russell's new work in progress (found on Gae Polisner's blog today), Jeff Fielder's novel (check these blogs out on the side over therrrrree >>>. :))
I started a novel a couple of years ago, then put it on the back burner to concentrate a bit on the young adult novel. I want to share a bit today. ;)
It's Friday people!! Woot! Relax, read a good book, and enjoy your weekend with those you love! I'll be back Monday with some musings. Yes, Monday. Because I said I would. ;)
This excerpt is the first chapter from one of my works-in-progress. :) Enjoy.
I sit before a flaming Tiramisu. I’m well aware it’s not supposed to be a flaming dessert. I cringe, fearing the 39 candles placed so precariously on top in honor of my birthday are at any moment going to fall onto the crisp white table linen and catch Goldino’s on fire. The bright side? We wouldn’t be sued. I smile and look up into the weathered old faces of the men towering over me on either side, their white jackets starched as crisp as the table linens. These men who are like fathers to me. Their faces beam back such pride, as if I really was their own daughter. My parents are the greatest of friends with Francesco and Giovanni Goldino, the Italian brothers who own this restaurant that has been my second home since I was born. They are from Agropoli, a sunny little city in Southern Italy. They brought the recipes across the ocean over forty years ago to a cozy Virginia town called Forest that they now call home. From the first time you walk in the door, the smells of wonderful old recipes pull you inside, despite your hectic schedule, and your need to cut carbs suddenly seems very silly for an hour or so. In the evenings, candles flicker seductively in their holders against the rose-hued walls, making for quite a romantic setting for you and your amore (your love) or even an amante (that would be your secret love). I have neither. I have David.
Since my birth, my pictures have joined those of Francesco and Giovanni’s children on those romantic walls. My father came with them from Agropoli to America. For an Italian man, it’s almost unheard of for him to leave his family (his mother) and begin from scratch in another land. The mommas, they go crazy! But these three guys shared two important things: Their love, adoration really, of the special dishes on the Goldino’s menu, and the courage to get on the damn boat despite their mommas and nonnis impending angina attacks and threats of suicide. Italian mommas make she-wolves look like poodles where their sons are involved. They know well which cards to play to the most affect. They nearly always win the game, too.
Francesco, Giovanni and my father, Antonio returned to the Amalfi coast each August for years. During this time when practically the whole of Italy takes holiday and heads out to see the other parts of the world, these three guys returned home to be doted on by the women that loved them most, said mommas and nonnis, and they were cooked for and their clothes washed “properly”, and generally for four weeks they did little except go to the beach, drink the wine and eat the finest food on the planet.
They returned to their new home in Forest always at the beginning of September, and soon they began taking wives. My father worked the restaurant for years right beside them, and he hired my sweet little All-American mother, Vivian, as a waitress. A year later, they married. Nine months after that? Viola. I mean, qui. I was born Christina Amore Bellacci Thomas. Yes, my middle name means love in Italian. It’s quite ironic now, really, given the state of my personal union. To complicate things a bit more, I am called Charley. I can’t get a straight answer as to why; I think they actually forgot and just hate to tell me, now that it’s stuck and they’re all used to it. The Thomas part came later, courtesy of David.
“Charley, where is your mind now, tesoro?” My father comes behind me, gently pulling my dark hair back, away from my face, as he always does. “It’s the thirty-ninth flicker, piccola. Molto importante! Blow the candles out quickly and you will have whatever you dream.”
I look up into his smile. He truly believes these words. He’s said this since I was little, and you know, most times he’s been right. Something would always happen in the days following this birthday ritual. Though it always seems to have a twist from what I actually asked for. The birthday I turned nine, I wished for a dog. I found Tinky the kitten stuck in a tree two days later. She lived nearly ten years. For my fourteenth birthday, I wished for a trip to New York City with my friends. I thought we could catch the train, go see The Rockettes maybe, go to Macy’s and buy just anything to say it had come from THE Macy’s. I got a trip to the movies with Natalie and Lori, my nieces, and a really cool Josie and the Pussycats watch. And for my seventeenth birthday, I wished for love. I met David three weeks later at a party. David has outlasted Tinky’s time with me by about twelve years.
“Sei la mia adorata, il mio tesoro. Close those jade eyes and make your special wish, piccolo,” my father whispers. I obey my father. My God, what do I wish? The candles are no doubt ready to fall, and I can’t decide. An easy, amicable divorce? Simply peace in my heart and no divorce? Good will for all mankind in general? I could just ask for something amazing to happen. Anything would be an improvement to how things have been. But somehow, this is serious to me. If I waste this wish, there won’t be another for a year. I might not even live another year. Buses hit people, it’s a fact. Though, in Forest there aren’t too many buses plugging along the streets of my neighborhood. But, diseases come unexpectedly, even into the suburbs. Hearts break and sometimes that kills you. It killed Johnny Cash for one. June would have left just as fast if he’d gone first. And just watch, Billy Graham’s not long for this world. His beloved Ruth is waiting by those pearly gates for him. You know, if I have to go, I think dying of a broken heart for the person I loved beyond reason – my amore – would be the best way.
I look up into my father’s beautiful face once more before I close my eyes. Okay, here goes. I take a deep breath and hold it a few seconds. I trust God that it’s going to come to me the second the breath leaves my lungs and passes my lips. I’m going to wish something that’s going to change my life forever. I need change so desperately. And then, the worst word that exists on this earth, at least to me, pops into my mind to sum up things perfectly. A simple, calm, dangerously deceptive word. Mediocrity.
I gather the wish in my mind, ready to let my breath go. I wish that God himself would rescue me from this life of mediocrity I entangled myself in nearly twenty years ago when I married David. Almost TWENTY years. Oh my god, I feel sick. I feel eighty years old. Where did my life go? How did I lose so much of my life in complete mediocrity? Even my thoughts are all tinged with mediocrity.
I feel the familiar prick of the tears start. Way before shower time, which is highly unlike me to allow myself to feel like crying in front of everyone and away from my shower. The only place I can steal away from the little faces of my children prying into my soul and the bigger face of my husband angrily wondering what the hell is wrong with me. A rite of passage each day into nothing, except more despair for a life wasted. Pearls tossed to the swine, which then trampled them and turned to render me into pieces.
“Tanti auguri a te, tanti auguri a te, tanti auguri a Charley, tanti a…” the birthday song begins. I get ready to blow the candles out, but instead, the rush of fresh air from the opened door takes care of them for me. I open my eyes and see him in the doorway. David, with his ever-present look of frustration plastered across his face, stares back.
“What?” he asks as everyone grunts and sits down, the last words of the Italian happy birthday song fading from their lips. My father throws his hands in the air and I know the unspoken things he wants to say. He sums them up in one nasty Italian cuss word.
“Cazzo!” my father shouts, and my mother, who has been sitting quietly by my side all this time, smacks his arm hard. He takes her hand and kisses it in apology for spewing the f-bomb, albeit in his own tongue and gratefully most patrons tonight are in fact not Italian and don’t understand him. He sits down hard in his chair beside her. David rolls his eyes, used to this, and closes the door.
This is how my life has been with David. A long series of disappointments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for so many things. We have three beautiful healthy children. We have a nice home and he’s always worked very hard to pay for it. I’ve been to be able to stay home with them. I’ve never missed a first. I’m truly one of the lucky ones. My mother reminds me of this every day. When I call her, which is less and less now, because it’s very little fun being reminded of how lucky you are when you feel yourself caged like a bird, feeling the feathers falling off you day after day and you don’t know why.
I know that some women have it much harder, and compared to them, I live a dream. I have no right to complain. So why, I asked myself daily, were the clouds that seemed always over my head becoming darker with every month that passed. Sometimes I wondered if I was becoming bi-polar. Could you become bi-polar? I don’t think so. I think you were or you weren’t. But honestly, on the days I spent taking four showers, crying, praying, crying some more, taking another shower just to feel the darkness lit by candles and the warm comforting water hold me, I had to wonder.
It’s always been hard with David. Hard on my spirit, I mean. I think I knew I’d made a bad decision at my wedding, when everything that could go wrong nearly did. David and his ‘best’ man (named Weed? Need I say more?) tied the empty beers cans they’d gotten drunk with just that morning to the back of my old brown Honda Accord right in the church parking lot. My mother told me to simply leave quickly and maybe no one would notice. I’m surprised David didn’t stop the car on the way to the hotel and make sure a few drops weren’t left in one of the cans. My new mother-in-law was in total charge of all the reception food. She made it there about fifteen seconds before the actual ceremony.
I think I've waited since that day for God to whisper something. I kept waiting for it, then I’d have a baby. I’d wait, then I had another baby. Then another baby came, before I had a chance to listen for the whisper again. I began to search for solace in the little things. I understood why women loved soaps on tv. It focused us on someone else’s messed up life for awhile, and ours didn’t seem so bad. When you have three kids, who has time to think anyway, much less think about happiness. You are simply happy to get a shower in peace.
I think I expected that, if it was ever really coming, that precious whisper would come to me on a birthday. Each year that it didn’t, I got madder. I grew numb, too, and I told myself that I needed to get used to the chain-dog collar around my neck, and my little fenced in, mostly peaceful life. There were things worse than this, a whole hell of a lot worse. He never hit me. He yelled a lot, but what guy didn’t? I yelled too now. I cussed like a sailor, in fact. Right in front of the kids sometimes. I slammed drawers and doors. I regretted it afterwards, of course. I felt stupid and immature and like the worst mom ever. But controlling it was getting harder. And that damn whisper wasn’t going to come. I was waiting in vain. Playing house.
But tonight, on the evening of my 39th birthday, the thirty-ninth time candles flickered on a special cake meant for celebration of my life, my life began again.
Even though he managed to ruin the best part of the party (mostly in my dad’s eyes; the blowing out of the flickers is the magic part) it is the last one he ever ruins. Of course I don’t know it tonight, and I won’t for awhile, but I’ll look back and thank David.
Unseen, like the air that surrounds us that we breathe in and out a million times in a day, sometimes things we had no idea that even existed come together. Bond solid. Miraculous things.
While my dad continued to fuss under his breath in Italian, as my mother sat with her arms crossed and glared at David, while Giovanni cut squares of the cake and served us, trying as he always did to make everyone smile and forget any trouble, a man, seemingly oblivious to the bedlam going on at the big table beside him, went to the old jukebox Francesco had insisted on buying upon opening their Goldino’s. The man put his money in, pressed the old fading letters, then the numbers, and went back to his seat.
I’d heard Fats Domino sing before, but never this particular song. I listened despite the tinkling of forks to plates and the ice clinking in the glasses, despite children laughing and waiters passing and my own family glaring and fussing. Fats sang of going out and dancing every night, and seeing all the city lights. Of taking a trip around the world and doing everything with silver and gold…but he had to hurry up before he grew too old. (I closed my eyes and felt the tears sting. The words touched a part of me so deep and so fast that I honestly felt dizzy). He was going to do a lot of things he knew was wrong, and he hoped he’d be forgiven before he was gone, that it would take a lot of prayers to save his soul, but he had to hurry up before he grew too old.
The whisper I’d waited on for nearly twenty years came just like that, in the form of Fats Domino. I opened my eyes. My father was turning a shade of crimson that really, men ought not to turn. I think if we were in Agropoli he might have killed David tonight and gotten away with it due to some old Italian law allowing the disposing of your son-in-law after he did just one stupid thing too many. I looked around at the people I love the most in this world, mi famiglia, who were now forgetting all semblance of propriety with evil stares, hateful words, ignoring the rebuttals and eye rolls. David fuming, not even attempting to defend himself anymore.
And I smiled. It was my own personal New Year’s Eve, this thirty-ninth flickering. The trade winds picked up that night to blow the life raft
I was holding onto for dear life from a safe yet murky little pond into the huge, black, scary ocean. I was going to find out just how fast a wish can reach Heaven, and how quickly a life can change simply by grabbing onto HOPE with both hands. I could never have imagined how my wish would be answered when the wind blew those candles out for me. Oh, and I know I’m wrong on that one now. It wasn’t even the wind.
It was surely il respiro di Dio.
The very breath of God.