The Gift: A novel

My project for A man finds himself alone on a paradisical island where has has no need to work to support himself. His life is spent transforming the island.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Chapter 14: Duo(I'm going to get through this if it kills me!)

Cobb and Dranger walked out of the cave, blinking in the bright noonday sun. Neither felt much need to speak, but looked at each other in silence. Neither had noticed how torn and muddied their clothes had become. The sudden emergence into the light had, however, brought it to their attention.

"Wait up a bit," said Cobb, and slipped out of his pack. He stripped off the long sleeved shirt her had been wearing--with the sleeves rolled up, of course--and, rolling it up, stowed it away in his pack. "A bit less tasteful, but a hell of a lot more comfortable." He grinned, his no-longer-quite-so-white undershirt standing out against the foliage. He slipped the pack back onto his shoulders, and began walking down the path, singing to himself under his breath. Pausing, he turned back to see Dranger, still standing behind him on the path, looking back into the cave.

"I think we've wasted enough time here, don't you?"

Cobb stared. "I thought you wanted to see what this guy did with the island."

Dranger spat, and looked at Cobb. "Yeah, but this is taking too long. Time we were on our way." He eyed Cobb a bit edgily, and continued. "Besides, I think you're getting a bit too involved here. Sure, this is kinda interesting to look at, but you're taking it all a little too seriously."

"Too seriously? Too seriously?!" Cobb dropped his pack on the path and marched back to Dranger. "Ok, number one, you're the one who wanted to stay here in the first place. Number two..." He paused, somewhat incredulouslym and flung his bare arms out wide. "This place...How are you not affected by this place? I mean, my God, man, this whole place don't know! I feel like I'm being scrubbed down. It's like...I remember, when I was a kid, and I had chicken pox real bad. Well, when the worst of it was over, I went back to school. The school nurse had always kinda liked me, always had a joke for me...Anyhow, she saw the scabs that I had, and called me into her office. She gave me this little box of powder and a little rough rock. She told me to take a hot bath, dump the powder in, and scrub myself with the stone. So, I did. Man, those scabs started peeling off, and it hurt like hell. But whenever I put a scabbed part of me into the water, which was all cloudy with the powder, it stopped hurting. When I got out of that bath, I felt better than I think I ever did, before or since." He paused, searching for words.

"Until now. This whole place feels like those scabs peeling off. And I'm damned if I leave now."

Dranger stood, a muscle in his cheek twitching slightly. Here he stood, young idiot, emotional again as usual, no self-control at all. But again, someone else got it all. Cobb had had as many women as he had wanted, a whole string of them. He had never worked, not really, but managed to survive and have money left over to play poker with. Dranger could feel his teeth gritting, jaws grinding against each other.

"You young ass, shut your mouth!"

Cobb stood, frozen, never having seen Dranger this angry. His face was flushed and a vein stood out in his neck.

"Why are you so obsessed with this place? I don't feel anything here! You're making it all up, tricking yourself into feeling things just so you can get a rise out of! Hell, for all I know, you're just sitting there laughing at me!"

Cobb stood, stunned, wondering what on earth he meant. "What do you mean, you don't feel anything? That whole thing with the statues...and the rocks..." he stammered, clarity somewhat lacking.

"Why should a mass of clay and a pile of rocks make me think or feel anything? Why should they make you feel anything?"

"Well...they do, that's all I know. Come on, let's keep going, maybe you'll find something to respond to later."
"You bastard, you think I want to feel anything about a heap of rocks?"

Cobb threw a wild punch that missed the older man, but drew him off balance. Dranger lunged at him, and the two men rolled, kicking and punching, down the path. Cobb finally struggled free and wiped blood away from his nose. "Hey man, lighten up, ok? I've never seen you like this." Something caught his eye, and he looked to the side. There, somewhat predictably, was another statue. As he turned toward it, Dranger saw it, and scooped up a large rock. Running ahead of Cobb to the statue, he gripped the rock and smashed it into the clay face in front of him. It cracked with a sound like thick glass breaking. Cobb watched in horror as the face split into fragments and crashed into the grass at the statue's feet. The bare tree trunk underneath, which now showed through where a face should have been, looked like the face of an ancient monster, withered and twisted in its wickedness.
"Why?" He shouted, almost screaming. "If you don't want to see it, don't see it, but why break it?" He knelt, plucking up the fragments of clay and trying desperately to piece them back together. He looked up, and ran a hand over the base of the statue, which held another map inidicating the location of the next marker, and another fragment of verse. But Cobb's eyes were too blurry with tears and frustration to make out the words.
He set down the pieces of the face reverently, arranging them on the grass, and got to his feet. "You can do what you like, just don't break any more of them. I'll leave, so you don't have to go on. Go on back to the boat and wait for me, or do your surveying or whatever it is that you do." He hoisted his pack again and moved away down the trail.

Dranger watched him go, the turned back to the statue. The tree trunk stared back at him, mute and blind, without so much as a face to plead for its continued existence. He clenched the rock more tightly in his fist, and raised it to continue the destruction. But as he did, he saw a small scratch on the wood. Nothing more than would be expected from the rock hitting it, but somehow that little scratch was so pitiful, like a tear on the face of someone who cannot wipe it away. He lowered the rock, and paused. One of th edisplaced eyes stared up at him out of the grass.
"I can't tell you how excited I am about this, Stan." His brother's eyes gleamed as he adjusted his seat belt. "I mean, no-one from our family has ever been able to go to college, much less afford it. But when that scholarship came through, you know..." He trailed off, apparently to overwhelmed to speak. Dranger groaned inwardly and rolled his eyes. Starting the car, he pulled out of the driveway and out onto the street. "I still can't believe this is happening. I know it's just a small state school and all, but still! College!" This sort of babble continued in a more or less steady stream for the next fifteen minutes. Finally, gritting his teeth, Cobb stopped the truck and put it into park. He turned to face his brother. "Look, Johnny, this isn't that big a deal, ok? It's just the little community college in Springston, all of twenty minutes from home, if that. Ok?" He started the truck up again and pulled back onto the highway. "Being smart's not that great, if you can't live with it. Look at PawPaw; he's had no schooling as far as I know, but he's kept that farm running for years, so his brother could go to school. His brother went off to the big city to go to school, some big name place, and never spoke to anyone in the family again. He got his name in the papers for some big scholastic award, and ended up blowing his brains out when someone else got a job he wanted. So, just shut up about college for a little while! Good luck to you, and all that, but it's not the best thing in the world, ok?"
The eye that looked up at him from the grass at the feet of the statue looked something like his brother's eye when he had finished that diatribe. He remembered, couldn't help but remember, the hurt that had showed in his eyes.
Fortunately, John had been a good kid, and understood; he had never been one to hold grudges. He had always come to visit Dranger, and had given up his schooling when the war came. He had been so glad to serve his country, almost as glad as he was to go to college. Dranger dropped his eyes, blinking away unexpected tears, wishing for once that his brother could have finished school.
As the sun began to drop back down through the afternoon sky, a lone figure trudged down a path. Behind him stood a statue with a cracked face, the lines filled in with quickly drying clay.

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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