I’ve always been fascinated by this scribe tribe image…this clan of ours that stretches back to the first cuneiform scribes, bent over their tablets of mud. I guess before that we were the characters in the tribes that told the stories. But something must have happened when it came time to scratch out symbols and convey some sense of a story. Most of that early writing was census tallies and merchant deals. Not unlike most of the scribbling today, as an aspect of the business and market processes globally. Enough to put you to sleep but as many of us have experienced…technical and business writing can pay bills. Fiction…well? That’s another story, isn’t it? So, anyway, this is just a short blast of words to make some noise, maybe even music now and then, about what it means to be in this scribe tribe, this manic scribbling that captures our quotidian and universal experiences. We may not be the most powerful clan in the history of the world, but there have been times when our civilizational product has made a critical difference in the preservation of “frozen speech”, of cultural knowledge, of memory and experience from the pre-literate times, true today, in Gilgamesh’s search for the flower of immortality. Bear with this scribe…I’ll be back with more. Please feel free to write me and express your opinions about this maddeningly aggravating and joyous art. Here’s something Flaubert supposedly said…and I think it well applies to our time as scribes…”Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” More on that…and more on more…next time.
Monthly Archives: June 2009
The Latest Bloodshed, a mystery, chapter 1
The Latest Bloodshed is a mystery novel about a young South Georgia police detective who comes to an unavoidable personal and professional crossroad in his life.
This novel available for sale; see http://www.jimstallings.com/
The novel was inspired by a long postponed visit to my Georgia birthplace where my parents grew up and returned to retire. While visiting there last fall, the Mexican cartel executed a local family of Mexicans, a father and mother, a housekeeper, a visiting female relative and a small boy under school age. The school age children came home on the bus in the afternoon and found their family murdered. Apparently the father and mother had been involved in the local drug trade and had talked to police about the cartel’s involvement in the area. The surviving children who rode the bus that day passed my sister and I as we walked along a county road just a few miles from the crime scene. It was a beautiful, sunny November day. Later, returning to the Boston area, the horror of this contrast, the presence of violence and bloodshed on so many levels in our society, sparked a creative reaction that suggested this novel…The Latest Bloodshed. The novel is available through iUniverse.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and booksamillion.com: Here’s how the novel opens:
Was it raining? It didn’t matter. At some point in all his dreams, Jelly Lovejoy knew it had to rain. Trouble had to come home to roost. That was the nature of where he was. Strickland County, Georgia, county seat, Warden. Forty thousand souls in the Land of Nod. This was Jesus country. Old and New Testament. A hard land laced with blood and suffering. And in his recurrent nightmare, there was something dark and cloudy, plasma of sorts, nothing definite, except in flashes it took on definiteness, yes it did…and it chased him through his dreams. Like down a slick silver highway through the dark Georgia night. And there was that rain, making things slick. Like blood…slick and sticky all at the same time. And if you made the wrong move, you’d be off that road and off into the pine forest night. And then God help you, nobody knew for sure the limits of your suffering. It took Jelly a long time to figure out what it was chasing him through the dark nights. But it was akin to ignorance. Bilious, unformed, never certain, never obvious, just a vague display of horrid ignorance. One hand not knowing the other…
And it came after you like a mob of monsters that could not get enough of hate and pain. They wanted to punish Jerry “Jelly” Lovejoy for all his wandering thoughts. What had he been thinking when he first began to question things? Was he insane?
But there it was, that questioning mind, asking, does it have to be this way? And the answer from the rearview mirror was, yeah, boy, it does have to be hard and mean and stupid. This is the land of suffering…and the dark hostile force redoubled and chased his failing car through the Georgia nights and he stuck his head out into the wet and cried out for a savior and he or she just didn’t come…That cruelty behind him, Death, or whatever it was, just came on apace and swallowed him…
And he awoke in a sweat in his great aunt’s old farm house where he now lived alone and he howled. He howled his pain and shook the heartwood old frame that sustained him above the alluvial clay soil of Strickland County, miles only from the Florida line. These semi-tropical fantasies with all its rich farm lands alight with the ghosts of the past. Jelly screamed his pain, his absolute fear, and shook in a malarial sweat ’til he pitched back into his wet sheets and stared once again at the speckled ceiling of his family’s old homestead. You boy, somebody whispered, you got the curse of remembering. The ghosts of the ancestors walked the soil all around him and he knew in his gut he couldn’t escape their curses.
“I’m not carrying this guilt anymore,” he said to no one in particular and rose to drench his head in a sink of cold well water. In the kitchen window’s reflection he saw a tall young muscled man with wild blonde hair, slumped forward, his face freckled by years in the sun…his wide set gray eyes sunken in dark shadows of fatigue.
Overhead a lonely pilot ferried a tiny plane through the dark moonless night. The drone of the engine gave him some sense of his own time but the past in all its thickness came round him like a suffocation, an asthma of gasping breath that caused him to see stars in the black hallway of the old frame farmhouse. Sleep, sleep, he whispered, and made his way back to his bed and slumped back into the damp cotton.
God help me, he prayed, and felt himself sinking into the great miasma of dreams and fears again. Soon, too soon, his own present life would be awakening with the morning sun. He had to outrun that reality, he had to make his way through the darkness to that light where he had a chance to vanquish the weight of the past.
Coyotes yipped in the woods to the east. A hoot owl called out of the ramshackle old tobacco curing barn, put together with pegs and dowels, now leaning over at a crazy angle, all the past shading its weariness into his present life. Was this fair? It didn’t matter. It was the truth. He gasped for breath and in his exhaustion, in his battle with ignorance and death, and every other unknown, fell backwards into blessed dreamless sleep.