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 23: Labia mea Domine, aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuum

The two men began to circle the tree; Dranger removed his hat, and let the droplets of water fall on his face and head. soon, they were laughing and soaking wet, but neither cared. The cool water felt good, and was quite refreshing on such a hot day.
Suddenly, one of them saw a gleam in the tree that did not come just from the dampness. They looked up, squinting into the treetop. There was a small vine which grew at the very top of the tree; growing from it were several bright red fruits with very shiny skins. They shone in the sun like rubies, and one could hardly look at them without having a desire to taste them.
They forgot about the breakfast they had eaten a short time before, and thought of nothing but the fruit. Cobb moved toward the tree, and began to climb. He discovered, however, that the tree trunk was too slippery to allow any climbing. The flow of water over the tree had worn its wood almost completely smooth, and a bit of algae had grown over it, making it slimy and almost frictionless.
Cobb slid down into the puddle below the tree, and looked up at the fruit. "Think we could get it down with a rock?"
Dranger shook his head. "I don’t think so. Itm might bruise it or even splatter it. " But neither man could take his eyes off the fruit for a long time. Finally, Dranger pulled away began to walk down the path again. "Come on, Ray. I don’t think we’re supposed to eat that fruit."
"Come on, man, leave it alone. Those aren’t ours, and we just ate lunch. Besides, since when do you like fruit bad enough to steal it?"
Ray looked over the fence at the pear tree, eyeing the ripe fruit. "Yeah, but I kinda want it anyway." He looked left and right, then hopped up against the fence. He snaked a hand out and grabbed a pear, then landed heavily on the ground. He bit into the pear, grinning, the juice dribbling down his chin. After a few bites, however, he grew tired of the fruit and tossed it down the alley, half-eaten.
As they moved down the path again, Cobb turned back to look back at the fruit. Dranger stopped, then smiled and clapped a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. Cobb looked at him, then grinned and turned back toward the path.
As the sun rose, two figures walked up the trail, small clouds of dust springing up behind them.
Arthur tugged the chute into place. It had taken a long time to burn out the insides and hollow the trunks, but he had finally done it. He now wrestled the last of the chutes into place. He eyed the distance, and thought it would work. He lashed the chute into place, and propped it with rocks. He threw all of his weight against it, but it didn’t budge. "Good," he declared.
He looked behind him at the stream, flowing down the mountain a little to his right. All was ready, he thought. A double row of rocks, sealed off with clay, lead to the chutes. A large rock, with a strong branch as a lever underneath it, kept the river in its course. All it would take to change the course of the stream would be to flip the rock onto its side, which would place it broadside to the main stream, and allow the water to flow through the gap it left.
He braced himself against the lever, hoping desperately that the plan would work. It had taken a few weeks to plan, and many months to prepare, but he thought it might finally be ready.
With a heave, he threw his entire weight into the lever. The rock lifted slightly, the lever groaning ominously, then suddenly turned over, perfectly blocking off the main course of the river. Arthur jumped out of the way of the surging water, and watched in delight as it boiled over the edge and into his four chutes, hitting the crown of the tree with perfect accuracy.
He smiled broadly, and went about checking the rock and clay that held the flood in its bounds. It all seemed secure, so he let it be, and climbed slowly down to check on the tree. The four chutes seperated the water enough that it did not hit the tree with any great force, but simply came down mostly as droplets and streams, instead of a solid wall of water.
He looked up at the vine which he had placed in the top of the tree. It seemed to be growing well, and none of the water was hitting it directly, though it got a constant dripping through the leaves above.
Yes, he thought, it will do. He stood under the tree, letting the water wash over him, washing away the sweat and dirt of the morning. He ran his hands through his hair, rinsing out the grime and dirt, then rebraiding the greying strands.
Sighing with contentment, he stepped out from under the sparkling shower, and ran his hands over his arms and legs to remove the excess water. He considered eating breakfast, but decided that he was not, in fact, hungry at the present moment. He had found himself eating less these past few years. Though there was no danger of depleting the food resources of the island, he tried to restrain himself, and had begun a more discplined eating regimen. He had found that he needed far less food than he was actually eating. Though he had not been fat before, he now had no extra weight on his body; all was muscle, skin, and bone.
He stood in the sun, letting it dry him slowly. He was now dark enough that the sun’s rays could no longer harm him in any way, only warm him. He looked up towards the sun, but had to look away. No amount of exposure to the sun would strengthen his eyes enough to look into the sun, but he still tried, every day.
He sat down on the grass to rest, and watched the water fall into the tree.
The water fell, steaming, from the spout of the teapot into the mug. He stirred the cup absently, allowing the teabag to steep for a few minutes as he spooned sugar in. Besidethe teapot sat a plate of toast, buttered and still warm from the toaster.
He settled back into his chair with his laptop, and began typing. Every few minutes, he would stop to look over a section of text, and one hand would snake out to the plate and snag a piece of toast or a sip of tea. He was always surprised at the sheer amount of hot buttered toast one could get through in a full day of writing.
Late in the day, he heard the expected knock on his door. He set aside the laptop with a sigh of relief, and sprinted to the door.
"Hey! Did you get a lot of writing done?" Rachel walked in as he held the door open for her. She carried a basket covered in a cloth, from which was rising the most delicious smell.
"Yeah, about 7,000 words I think. Fairly productive. Most of it’s drivel, I’m afraid, but that’s par for the course."
Rachel surveyed the kitchen, eyes noting the vast array of crumbs surrounding the toaster and the pile of teabags on the table. "Did you actually eat any meals today? Or did you just survive on toast?"
"Toast. A little bit of tea."
Her eyes drifted towards the pile of teabags on a saucer.
"Ok, a lot of tea, maybe." He grinned. "And I’m guessing from the smell of that basket that you’re here to rememby that situation." She smiled, and pulled back the cover of the basket. There sat a dish with half of a cooked chicken, a small container of honey mustard, and a loaf of bread.
The blanket that they had spread on the floor of the apartment was by now littered with crumbs and dishes. Arthur lay on his back on the blanket, sprawled across the floor of the room. Rachel was sitting on the couch, eyes roving over the screen of the laptop.
Arthur propped himself up on his elbows, watching her. "Any good?"
She nodded, concentrating on the screen. Finally, she closed the computer, and smiled. "Yes. It’s quite good." She got to her feet, and began walking around the small living room, examining the books on the shelves. "Arthur, I’m worried about you. You’re not eating properly. It’s not affecting your work yet, as far as I can tell, but it will." She turned to look at him, brushing a handful of curls back from her face.
He sighed, and rolled onto his stomach, resting his chin on his crossed arms. "I know. I noticed it a day or two ago. I decided to go to the grocery store, as soon as my next paycheck comes in, and I’m going to get a bunch of stuff that is neither tea, nor coffee, nor bread." He smiled. "But thank you for noticing."
She smiled, and returned to her examination of the bookshelf. Arthur got to his feet, and walked over to his stereo in the corner of the room, and punched a few buttons. The soft strains of Pachelbel’s Canon in D began to drift through the air, filling the room. He walked up behind Rachel, and whispered softly in her ear.
She turned toward him, her hand slipping into his. Slowly, they began to dance, Arthur surreptitiously kicking the blanket out of the way. As the music ended, Arthur extended his arm, twirling Rachel out to the side. As she moved away from him, he saw the dim light of his single lamp shining on her face. No candle ever shone more beautifully.
He looked back at the tree, shining with its new cloak of water. As the sun rose higher, a glowing band of colors pierced the air above the tree, a rainbow arcing across the newly formed waterfall, and in the rainbow shone the reflected light of the sun.

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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