My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

A prayer for the Right

Aguilar, this one at least, wasn’t a real boxer, so boxing history buffs needn’t get their gloves in a twist.  I pulled a name out of a hat, liked it, and went with it.  It’s another pre-dawn creation that gets left to pickle all day until I can get back home and tinker with it.  I found my mind resting on a Cuban table just after the revolution

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We sat and listened to the Aguilar fight on the old, battered radio which normally lived on the shelf but was now placed before us on the table, with a couple of rum glasses and an ashtray filling with cigar ash for company, imagining the scene at Madison Square Gardens.  The crowd of Fedora-wearing men, looking like Sinatra and staring at the ring through the smoke of a thousand glowing cigarettes.  The ring girls parading around the ring while holding the number of the next round, and showing off their bathing suits.

We didn’t bet.  It was enough to go halves with old Fernandez for the bottle of rum and a few cigars.  The smell of the grilled chicken and rice we’d eaten earlier still filled the air, even above the cigar smoke.

“He’s going down in this one,” said Fernandez, his chin resting on his hands, squinting and coughing, “he won’t last until the eighth.”  I stayed silent.

The bell sounded for the seventh round, we heard that bell all the way from Madison.  A cheer went up, probably a sympathy vote for Aguilar.  We love to see bloody people, it must be a trait left in us from the days of the gladiators, they suffer and we love them for it.

“He’ll go down in this,” repeated Old Fernandez, “his legs have gone and he can’t see.”

Fernandez could sense how the fight was going even without the commentator.  His battered face a reminder of his bare-knuckle fights 50 years before.

I was willing Aguilar to stay on his feet and for the Lord to put strength into that mighty right of his.  I felt my prayers failing as he fell to the canvas once again.  The wind outside the open window moved the palms to a low lament, as the commentator lamented his bloody face.  I carried on willing my strength and prayers to cross the slip of ocean between my land and his.

Aguilar ha terminado, no puede continuar asi!” the radio screamed at us.

“Courage Aguilar!  Courage!” I shouted back.

The rum sat shimmering in the glass as my hands twisted and wrung themselves into knots in my lap, unable to help.  My cigar had fallen onto the table.

I would feel every hurt Aguilar took to the very end.  I stretched out a hand for my cigar but it never reached it.

Un milagro!  Un milagro!” yelled the commentator.  I looked at Fernandez’ stony, face and saw his wrinkled eyes shine.  A miracle?  What miracle?

He’d done it.  Aguilar had done it.  That mighty right hand had found the strength from somewhere and the referee was still counting out his opponent above the roar of the crowd.

My cheeks were suddenly wet and I look at the old man in front of me, his handkerchief in his hand.  Aguilar.  My little brother.  Quito, the fifth son.  The only one of us who had made it to the promised land but who could now never come back. 

The Old Iron Gate

In a recent edition of Writer’s Forum, I was interested in an article called ‘Morning Pages’, where you set yourself a morning hand-written (in my case) writing exercise of 3 notebook pages.  At first it read more like a diary and I was for giving it up.  Then I started pulling sentences out of the air and adding to them.  I didn’t really intend to air them but this morning’s one pulled me a little.  It’s not a story as such, more a descriptive exercise, however the last line leaves itself open for future ‘maybes’.

 

The path led out from the garden gate.  The forest appeared as a line of trees above the tall, well-kept Laurel hedge which ringed the garden.

            The grey gravel paths criss-crossed the smooth green lawns, unblemished by weeds or unwanted flowers and stopped in front of the tall, white marble water fountain, its centrepiece depicting St. George slaying the dragon and instead of spouting fire from its mouth, the dragon spurted water.

            From the fountain another gravel path rolled its way across the immaculate lawn, maintained like a tennis court, and to the huge iron gate.  The gate was 9 feet high, with a gargoyle detail atop its heavy wrought-iron metalwork, which twisted this way and that, and the gate made an impression, from one side safety and from the other a daunting, forbidden door.  A heavy iron bar bolted the gate and both moved without the slightest sound, as if the huge hinges were oiled daily.

            Turning my back on the gate I took in the whole garden.  The centrepiece fountain and the zig-zag paths which made their way to the old house in one direction, to the wide red-gravel driveway in another and to the landscaped gardens in another, the riotous, seasonal flowers vying for attention against the well-watered green backdrop.  I breathed deeply, as if inhaling the beauty and perfection.  Turning, I breathed deeply once more, because as soon as I turned and saw the gate, a dread surfaced in my stomach.  The world outside the gate fell into shadow by comparison.

            Wind-blown leaves, dead and dry as animal bones in the desert, stuck against the bottom of the hedge, unable to find a way through.  Outside the gate a path led in 3 directions; left to the village, right to the little churchyard and straight, if one had the nerve and courage, straight to the forest.  The last remnant of a much grander forest which was here at the time of the civil war, when even the cavaliers and roundheads shied away from it, unless need drove them inside.  Woodmen stayed at the fringes, their axes reluctant.  Firewood was taken from the ground, no-one ever thought or dared to cut fresh wood to make a fire, should they have to spend the night in the vicinity, whilst passing through, or rather round the forest.

            Now looking through the iron gate a dread chilled my blood.  My happiness at being surrounded by such beauty in the garden was extinguished, as the sun behind a raincloud, when I turned to look at the forest, the grinding of ancient branches in the breeze, the death-rattle of the leaves leftover from autumns past adding its voice to the melancholy chorus.  My hand touched the cold iron and without looking back, I took the middle path.

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