Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is the first of my seventh sanctum prompts. I will continue with my essays on style, but I need to write more, and this is a way to force myself to do it. These come essentially unedited from my word processor, and criticism is always welcome.

PROMPT: The generous poet haunted by dark memories.

The words haven’t flowed from his pen in more than a year. He has not been seen outside of his home in more than three months. The townsfolk have started to wonder about him, about the man who grows ever more mysterious with each passing day.

Well, for all of those townsfolk, and all of the other people who speculate about the man living in 1741 Durhurst Lane, wonder no more, for I shall tell you everything. I am not his daughter, nor his wife, nor even a lover but I can speak of him with some degree of accuracy.

His name is Rehael, and he is handsome enough, in a brooding, take-no-nonsense kind of way. He is not marriage worthy now, and he was barely acceptable before… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We met two years ago on the Triage Monchet art circuit, which, for lack of a better term, is a take-all-comers series of shows. There are sculptors and painters and musicians and writers and researchers and poets and… if you can think of a way to make something remotely elegant, there is a place for you at Triage Monchet.

He was there with his poetry, I was there with my wire sculpture, and we met as I was walking through, with spools of wire filling my arms to a height where I could just barely see more than five feet in front of me. He was darting past on his own business, and I fell flat on my back when we collided. Spools of brightly colored filament flew up from my arms, and fell down to make gentle tinkling noises as they rolled away on the dirty gray floor.

He didn’t even stop until I shrieked after him a comment which I won’t reprint, but involved his mother in an anatomically improbable relationship with a rabbit. Not my best insult, but I was winded and lying there with my skirt bunched up around my thighs, and hundreds of dollars worth of wire rolling away in the huge convention center.

I rolled over onto my hands and knees to get up, already tracking where the wires must have gotten themselves too as they rolled through the crowd. My background in analysis reared its ugly head as I calculated, with flawed assumptions, how much of the valuable material would be stolen while I was looking for it.

That flawed assumption was that the jerk who had knocked me over wouldn’t help me. By the time I’d gotten to my feet he’d collected everything that had had a good bit of momentum, and handed it back to me, all with that slight smile that, in anyone else, would say that they were laughing at you. On him, it just seemed slightly confused, like he didn’t smile much.

“Sorry about the collision,” he said, a deep basso rumbling from deep in his chest. I still remember that exact conversation, not for its depth or even being interesting, but well… with what happened… I’m getting ahead of myself again.

“You really should watch where you’re going.” I was finally vertical again, and took back my supplies with a slight glare.

The expression on his face next, that wistful look, that showed a hint of the depth he had… that was the one time I seriously considered becoming his lover. I wish I could say that honestly. “You’re right, I should. Perhaps I can make it up to you with dinner?”

I was an artist, I wouldn’t turn down a free meal. “Fine. I’m in A8137, I should be done around eight.”

He waved at me and left, and when I got to my booth it didn’t look like I’d lost anything.

The show went very well, someone from a major museum came and looked at my work, asked if I might want to exhibit there, and the excitement from that pretty much wiped the morning’s encounter from my mind, until he showed up at 7:59 prompt.

It took me another few minutes to pack, and we chatted lightly. Turned out he was a new artiste’ trying out his luck at the Triage Monchet, and a local, so he knew a good place to eat. He didn’t mention his name then, but I didn’t either. It was pleasantly casual, and we ate well.

I’m not one of those women who will say that she had too much to drink before describing what happened that evening. For one, we didn’t wind up doing anything like that, and for another, I didn’t have that much to drink, I went with him to his apartment quite antsy, and quite sober.

Before I could… initiate things, a light flickered on in a back room, and I heard the click-click of high heels coming from a back room. I let go of his arm and backed off a few steps. Of all the luck, going with a married guy, and a married guy who’s woman was home?

She came out into the hallway, holding a gun. I backed off into the other room, watching in horror as she said, “Rehael, I can’t take this anymore! You don’t deserve me or her or any of this, and I won’t let this continue!”

She wasn’t hysterical, she was speaking in a cool, clipped tone that sounded rehearsed, and almost emotionless. He matched her tone almost exactly as he approached her and gently took hold of her wrist, “Baby, stop it, you know this is okay and safe and gentle and good and kind and proper and opportunity and-“

His soothing voice was cut off by a gunshot that went into the door frame behind which I stood. I backed up a few paces, and they started struggling. The gun went off once more, twice more, and then there was a heavy thud as her body hit the ground.

He was staring at her, remorseless, his brow furrowed slightly. He reached down and closed her eyes as I tried to back away, call the cops, something. “Stop.” He said, and I found myself obeying.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.” A second apology, though this one sounded even less sincere than the first one.

“I don’t want you to have to get involved. I can give you everything you’ve ever wanted, just promise me you’ll stay quiet.”

I stared at him. Here he was asking me to participate in a cover up for a man I barely knew, on the promise of something he couldn’t possibly deliver.

I don’t remember what exactly we said, what exactly he did, but I woke up in my own hotel room, and read about it in the next day’s papers. He was on the run, he had gotten out of the country, he’d bought a new identity.

Out of the blue I got a call from someone in my home town a year ago. It was him, and he had a signed contract between me and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to exhibit my work. There was also a bank account with several million dollars in it, and he gave me the PIN for it.

I didn’t question it. I probably should have. I probably shouldn’t release this either, I did make a promise after all. But two months ago I went to his place, and found a stack of poetry about a quiet maiden who protected the foolish. It was right next to a stinking corpse that was handsome in an ugly way, and had probably been dead for ages. I closed his eyes and called the police, and now you all know what happened to him. I hope that the kids who were messing with his property all catch something from the plants.

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