Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Belly, part fourteen

[This is another passage from my short story Belly. To start from the beginning, click here.]

It feels different.

Yes, as if he’s about to slip away from us. We won’t have much more time with him.

We haven’t had much, and we haven’t learned very much either. Less than the others.

Each one’s different. We can’t know how they’ll respond, and every one’s important.

We do have a little more time. We should make the most of it.

We can. We will. Let’s show him.


Why not?

Jonas? We’ve almost reached the end. You’ve almost reached your end too. Can you see it? Can you see where you are? Can you see you aren’t where we led you? No, can’t you see? You’re where you’ve always been.


One spark doesn’t cast much light, but the stream of sparks the metal wheels spray as they spin against the curved track make the landscape come alive, a liveliness that lasts for the few seconds the sparks still have life.

They light up a tree, these sparks, for Jonas to see, and it is a tree, but it’s more than a tree. In the flash of light, Jonas can see, not just the gray, craggy bark, he’d expect. He sees not just its branches swaying as unsteadily as aged arms, and the small, thin twigs that poke from their ends, the tree’s arthritic fingers.

He can see inside of it too. There’s a warmth there, a color, or a glow at its center. It’s a glow fed by the moments the tree witnesses standing rooted to its spot. It feeds on whatever passes it by, all the daily events, human, animal, mineral. It feeds on them as it feels them. Yes, feels, and knows, and recognizes, and cherishes, both the good and the bad.

There are the small harms, the sharp pains, as little boys stab it with pen knives to carve initials, or mower blades gash its roots. There are small joys too. Yes, it feels like joy. Yes, the joy it feels as a May sun warms its newly budding leaves. Or the joy it feels as it recalls its past attachments, to the squirrels and jays, and crows and sparrows who’ve made it a home, by sitting in it for no matter how short a visit. Jonas sees all of this, as those first sparks still burn, and then the tree falls back into the early morning’s darkness.

The train takes the second curve in an ess, and more specks of light sparkle to show Jonas less of what he thought he knew, and more of what he didn’t, like this plain, dead wall of dull red bricks. But the bricks aren’t dead or dull. They too glow, and they move, or what’s inside them moves. They hold the hum of movements. It’s not their movement alone. It’s the movement of all they’ve absorbed in the tens of years they’ve stood here.

They hold within them all that’s been said or seen, touched or felt around them, and they sing about them, all of these stories, to Jonas’ eyes. Every meal cooked, every dog walked, every child tucked tightly in their warm winter bed. And they sing them, all these stories, in a language he can’t speak. Every lover’s hand taken, every little and big betrayal, every boss cursed. And though he can’t speak their language, he can understand them, all these songs they’ve sung in this the briefest of flashes. He can understand them, all their stories sung together so nothing can be lost when the second set of sparks lose their lives.

And wanting to hold onto them, Jonas closes his eyes and tries to imagine them again. But when he closes his eyes, he doesn’t recall them, he remembers something quite different. He remembers the voices. Not the voices who brought him here, but those other voices, and what they told him. And he keeps his eyes shut, longer than he otherwise might. And he looks. He looks more deeply into the deepest black, deeper than any black he’s ever looked through, and beyond that, this black, he thinks he sees it. He thinks he sees just a glimpse of it.


Jonas, are you there?
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