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.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Chapter 18: Acedia

The two men slept on through the night, unaware of the moon’s slow progress towards the height of its arc, or the stars’ measured and hasteless dance across the horizon. Suddenly, they were awakened by a loud rushing sound, accompanied by a completely unfamiliar sound. They were suddenly surrounded by a crowd of bats, winging their way out of a hidden cave into the night. Their piercing shrieks echoed through the darkness as they chased and snapped at insects.
The flurry of their leathery wings was oddly stirring, and both men were soon completely awake, and felt ready for action. However, they knew that if they continued their journey now, they would be tired again as soon as the sun rose, so they did not move from their beds, but stared up at the bats and stars instead.
The bats soon moved off in their evening hunt, but Cobb and Dranger remained awake.
Dranger grunted. "Yeah?"
"You think it’s true what they say? You know, to follow your heart and all that crap?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, they always say that you should follow your heart, and anything that you do for love is ok, right? So, is it true?"
Dranger looked at him warily. "And why do you choose this moment to ask?"
Cobb shrugged. "I dunno. But, I mean..." He propped himself up on his elbow. "I don’t know about you, but I’ve been remembering a lot of things lately. Not good things, mostly. But I always did what I felt I had to do, and did a lot of things for love...Well, I thought it was love, anyway. But...well, some of them were good things, and some of them weren’t. So, should I follow my heart or not?"
Dranger studied him carefully in the moonlight. He’d never seen the younger man this open, this vulnerable. He was old enough to be his father, albeit a young father. He sighed, and decided to play the man and give him a few lessons about life and love.
"First of all, love makes you do dumb things. You ever see a bird trying to impress a lady bird during spring? They act like complete idiots: it’s a wonder they don’t all get eaten during springtime." He paused, searching for words. "But, if they didn’t act crazy, they’d never get lucky, and then there would be no new birds in the spring." He stopped, realizing that he’d somehow gotten a bit off course. "In all honesty, I have done many stupid things for love. Always too careful, I guess. So I’m not sure I can give you a good answer. But it looks like sometimes you have to do stupid things for love, and other stupid things you shouldn’t do. Make any sense?"
"Not much, but I think I know what you mean.""Ok then. Go to sleep."
Dranger rolled over, and took his own advice. Cobb stayed awake, watching the stars for a long time, but slowly his eyes closed, and he too, was asleep.
Arthur lay in the long grass looking up at the stars. He was tired, very tired, in both body and soul. He was no longer young by anyone’s standards: he had been twenty-eight when he first landed on the island, and that had been eighteen years ago. His hair had begun to turn gray long ago, though it was less noticeable in his sun-bleached hair than it would have been before. His body had grown lean and muscular, both from the restricted diet of the island, and his incessant work. He had managed to keep his hair reasonably trimmed, using chips of flint as knives to cut it, but his beard and mustache were still rather impressive. He had seen himself, once, in a still pool of water, and had hardly recognized himself. He was no longer the young, handsome graduate student that he had been. But then, he was not the pompous, hot-tempered young man he had been either. He looked up at the stars, having grown intimately familiar with their movements over the past decade. If he looked just right, he could make out the Southern Cross, rising above the trees.
He sighed, and got to his feet, unable to sleep. He paced the small clearing restlessly, looking back on his life.
"Can I really say that it has been well spent?" he wondered. "I did nothing but school for so long, then landed here, where my work can profit no-one..." He paused, disheartened. "Why do I work, then? Or why not try to build something, and escape? I am free to do whatever I want here: there is no society to harm, nor any other person to endanger." He slammed his fist into his open palm and shook his head. "So why? Why do I keep working? Why do I keep building, when there is no likelihood that anyone will see?" He sighed, his mind drifting, and coming to the only answer that he could ever find.
"As fire mounts, urged upward by the pure
Impulsion of its form, which must aspire
Toward its own matter, where twill best endure,
So the enamored soul falls to desire--
A motion spiritual--nor rest can find,
Till its loved object it enjoy entire."
He groaned, a sound of pure weariness and brokeness, and sank to his knees. "Domine," he whispered into the grass, "istud quod facio non facio nisi, ut inveniam te." He looked up at the stars, wheeling across the sky. "Inveniam te postquam id perfecero." He curled up again, face down in the grass. "Rachel...Help me. I cannot see what I have worked so hard to find."
He fell asleep, still stretched out on the grass, the dew mixing with his tears.

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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