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 25: Summae Deus clementiae

As Cobb and Dranger climbed over the top of the stone step, a wave of heat hit them full in the face. They turned their faces away, shading them with their hands. After becoming slightly accustomed to the heat, they began moving forward again. There ahead was another hot spot on the mountain, though there was very little steam or vapor this time.
All along the mountain wall rang a line of red-hot lava, glowing in the shadows of the mountain pass.
They edged along the far side of the pass for about fifteen minutes, then Cobb pointed ahead. There the path took a turn inward, crossing over the lava, onto another broad plateau. They ran quickly across the natural bridge and onto the safety of the plateau. The lava still burned around the outside of the circular clearing, but there was less danger of falling into it. In the middle of the clearing stood a figure of what at first appeared to be a hulking misshapen figure. However, when a gust of wind blew through thge clearing and cleared away the thin haze that hung in the air, they could see that it was in reality two figures, embracing closely. They seemed to be covered in a shining layer, much like the previous angel, but the shifting mists made it too difficult to examine the figures at a distance.
A second statue met them at the entrance to the arena, holding a small clay pot. As Dranger looked into the container, he saw a gleam that surprised him. "Gold!" He looked in wonder at the figure of the statue, searching for the text that might help explain the presence of the precious metal. On the front of its robe was written a verse, also in gold.
"Symbol and thing intended, both are here;
Gold, the sign of fire, and fire are to be found.
Here is the last purgation, so do not fear,
But be prepared to heal the final wound.
The fire that burns within is fire still,
Whether we are slave to it or unbound.
Learn to love with a whole and healthy will,And lust will forever flee,
And continue to move upward still,
And be forever free."
"Hey man, what’s eating you?"
Ray shrugged slightly, looking distracted. The other boy followed his gaze, which was firmly fixed a girl sitting among her friends on the other side of the parking lot.
"Aw, dang, don’t tell me. You got the hots for Shawna."
Ray protested loudly, but the other boy stopped him. "Yep, that settles it. You’re a goner, man. You can’t stop looking at her, you haven’t touched your lunch, and you start yelling when I mention her name. Yep, you’re in love."
He waited until she was alone, without her usual protective crowd of friends. "Hey, Shawna."
She turned, slightly surprised. "Oh! Hello, Ray. You headed home?"
He nodded mutely, desperately searching his mind for something to say. Something impressive, something witty, something romantic...
"So, you, uh, you want some gum?" He dug a pack of rather squashed gum out of his pocket and offered her a piece. "Um, no thanks. I’ve got braces."
He spent the next five minutes mentally kicking himself. Gum? What had he been thinking?
He walked her home every day for the next week. On Wednesday, she finally let him carry her backpack, and by Friday they had begun holding hands on the way home. Finally, on the following Tuesday, he had stopped just before they turned the corner to go up to her house. The house on the corner had a row of low trees that faced the sidewalk, and they could not be seen. He bent down quickly and kissed her. She had obviously not been expecting such an action, but didn’t appear to mind either. When she finally pulled back, she smiled shyly, then turned and ran towards her house. As the screen door slammed in the distance, he realized that he was still holding her backpack. He walked nervously up to the house and laid it on the doorstep. Ringing the doorbell, he lit out for his own house, not waiting to see who opened the door.
He slouched against a parked car, smoking a cigarette that somehow remained lit in the slow drizzle that fell. His eyes drifted, always enjoying the "scenery" on this particular corner. One particularly stunning example walked by, short skirt damply clinging to her legs. She made a few movements to pull the hem down, but it continued to ride up, so she left it alone. He whistled loudly, and began to walk beside her. "Hey baby, what’re you doing out on a day like this? You should be inside somewhere warm." He grinned. She threw him a look of disgust, and continued walking.
"Hey, what’s the rush? I could help you get warm, you know. " He kept pace, silently appreciating her fashionable decision to wear a thin, low-cut blouse on such a wet day. She tried to dodge, but couldn’t move fast enough. He blocked her, leaning against the wall with one arm, the other arm around her waist. He leaned in closely to snatch a kiss, but she ducked under his arm and ran down the alleyway, disappearing into the fog and rain. He swore, and looked around, hoping no-one else had seen. Why had he been so stupid? Trying to kiss a girl he didn’t even know out in public? He shook his head slightly to clear it, making a mental note to keep himself more under control next time.
There she stood, across the park. He had followed her here, in hopes of being allowed simply to watch her. He watched her now, entranced by every move. When she tossed her golden cloud of hair, his heart skipped a beat; when she laughed, a pain shot through him so great that he thought his heart had split in two.
He knew that she thought him too young for her. Sure, there was a five year difference between their ages, but he wasn’t just any sixteen year old nerd. He was as much a man as the men who had chased her, the men who took her out on dates and kissed her when they thought no-one was looking.
Today she was with a dark-haired man. They had been spending a good deal of time together lately, he thought. She must really be fooled by his show of devotion. Disgusted, he started to leave, but turned as a sparkle caught his eye. The dark-haired man knelt in front of the Golden Girl--his Golden Girl!--holding out a small black box. She was crying, crying and smiling, nodding ecstatically before throwing her arms around the dark-haired monkey and kissing him.
Stanley moved away through the shady darkness of the trees, unable to think clearly. All he knew was that he had lost her, lost her without ever having really had her in the first place.
It had taken some doing, but he had finally figured out a system. He had formed a clay pot with four small handles, and tied a leather strip to each one. He tied the four leather strips onto a large branch, and propped it so that the pot sat in the hot lava. He then tossed in several nuggets of metal, and poured water over the leather strips to keep them from baking. Slowly, the metal melted, and a scum began to build up on the liquid surface. Reaching in carefully with a broad flat piece of wood, he skimmed off the layer of scum, revealing the molten gold below. The process was repeated several times--with short intervals in which he wet the leather strips again--before he was satisfied, then the branch was moved away from the ring of fire. He carefully untied two of the leather strips, and lowered them just enough to let the pot dribble out a thin stream of liquid metal. It fell into a smaller pot, and he let it set there.
He then stopped work for a while, unable to stand so near the firey pit for so long. He retreated across the clearing to the path on the far side from the mountain, and rested there. The air was hardly cold, but it was cool in comparison to the fire. He was grateful for his years in the sun, for it made his skin more tolerant of the fire than it might otherwise have been. But though he could stand the fire, and had learned to use it, he knew he could never be completely immune to it.
He knelt in the shade, sweating, and began to pray. "I am beginning to be an old man, Lord, and will soon lose the capacity of lust in the decay of my body. But I am still young enough to feel its fire, and it burns in me, alongside that which it mimics: love. Burn out of me all that is impure, refine me as I have refined my gold, until I too shine like the sun."

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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