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 28: Delectasti

They entered what they knew to be the final circle of the mountain. The pass lead upward, opening onto the small circular plateau that was the top of the mountain. Its volcanic origins were still in evidence; the top was not entirely flat, but rather a large flat space inside a shallow crater. The floor of the crater was covered in soft thick grass like a carpet, and trees grew so thickly that they hid the other side of the crater from view. Flowers were scattered around the forest floor, and hanging vines were strung between the trees.
A stream flowed through the grass, burbling and trickling to the rim, where it poured itself down the mountainside in a cascade. On the other side, standing on the far bank of the river was a statue of a woman. It was painted in the natural hues and dyes that could be gleaned from the island’s plants; the colors were lifelike enough to allow the statue to be mistaken for a real woman at the first glance. She stood, bending slightly, as if to pluck the flowers at her feet. A large stone marker lay beside her, with letters carved large enough to be read from the far side of the stream. Matilda, read the top of the marker, then: Quia delectasti me, Domine, in factura tua.
Though the stream was shallow, it did not seem appropriate to simply wade through it. A quick glance upstream showed what looked like a crossing place across the glen. Slowly, savoring the sweet, clean smell of the air and the soft carpet of grass underneath their feet, they moved upstream. Pausing, Cobb dropped to one knee in the grass, and slowly removed first his dust-covered boots, then his socks. He laid the boots and socks neatly beside the stream, and continued his journey barefoot. A few moments later, Dranger did the same. They moved upstream, their feet sinking into the grass. As they approached the crossing place, they saw that it was in a small clearing. The sun shone through the space in the trees, the morning light creating a soft glow that hung above the grass. They could see, just past the crossing point, the fountainhead of the stream; it flowed from its headwaters in two directions. Dranger realized that the smaller stream on the far side of the glen must be the one that fell from the height into the lava pit many feet below, and was lost underground. The other, the one they walked beside now, must be the one that they had encountered many times while climbing the mountain.
They moved into the light of the clearing, and paused, taking in the strange sight that awaited them there.
Arthur moved his brush slowly, gently, applying the color in thin coats that would not crack or chip. He had alternated each layer with a layer of sap, which smoothed the paint and made the color translucent so that the woman seemed to glow from within.
He stepped back, examining the interplay of light and color over the surface of the figure. It seemed to be working well, so he set aside his pot of dye, and sat down in the shade of the trees.
He could feel his body stiffening, and flexed his fingers gingerly. Fifty-six, he thought. Fifty-six years of life, a full half of which had been spent living in the open elements, under the blinding eye of the sun, pushing his body as hard as he could. It could not go on much longer, he knew. He had five years, he thought, perhaps as many as ten. But his solitude on the islan d would soon be over, and he would be free from this great and terrible gift.
He stretched out in the grass, trying to keep his muscles flexible, but knowing that it was largely a useless gesture. "Quia delectasti me, Domine," he whispered. "For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands." He pulled himself into a kneeling position, propping his hands against his knees, hunched over the grass. "My works have been for You, and my hands Your hands, these past years. Grant me the strength to serve as long as may be required." He stood painfully, slowly; stretching his arms to the rising sun, he whispered, barely audible even to himself: "Domine..." He swallowed hard and continued, "Istud quod facio non facio nisi, ut inveniam te. Inveniam te postquam id perfecero."

copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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