Friday, November 02, 2007

Exorcism II


Stone Bridge Over the Wissahickon,
George Beck, circa 1800,
gouache on paper.

My internet provider was sluggish this morning. I fumed and fussed and thereby lost any early morning inspiration.


What follows is from Exorcism, the Talahassie Bridge opening scene continuation which got derailed some days ago by a picture.


I leaned over the railing and dumped his evil dust into the moving water. Without ceremony.

Exeat. Sic transit. Finis.

I didn't even speak his name aloud as a last conge. Names have power. At this crucial moment I wanted nothing that might act as a thread, however fine, to keep him from the safety of this final banishment.

Maybe now the dark cloud of quiet dread that moved with me all these months would dissipate. Maybe now my every impulse, every experience and event would not bring with it a memory, a comparison, a fear. Maybe now I would not be tethered to the dead like a puppet.

I banged the box to loosen any remaining grit, and leaned further to watch the last gray specks fan and fall.

"Lillie! NO!"

I nearly went over the rail after them. I recognized that roar.

I did drop the box. It arched down, troubled the waters momentarily, sailed and sank. I had meant to burn it, and spread those ashes in turn. I would have to trust the waters.

Footfalls pounded on the hollow planks.

I regained my shaky balance and turned at bay, clutching the cold bars of the bridge railing with both hands.

The footsteps slowed -- as if their owner realized that caution might be indicated. Perhaps he thought he had interrupted a suicide bid and was in automatic rescue mode.

I never knew for sure what Johnnie Thresher thought.

And I sure as hell didn't understand why he was here. I expected to see the odd ghost wander past. One or two frail spectres had -- really old ones -- but they weren't the recorder kind that caused complaints from an uneasy public.

The last thing I expected to encounter was psi-crime investigator, Johnnie Thresher, in bold and living flesh.

Precognition was not one of my Talents.

His silhouette loomed ogre-size against the light from the pole lamp at the end of the bridge.

He halted, too close. An intimidating hulk in jeans and leather jacket, his face all angles and iron. The only thing that saved him from ugly was his nice mouth and the beauty of his deep blue eyes.

I sucked in air and fought off vertigo.

The last time he'd worn such a grim, bone-white look, I'd been in deep shit.

"Sergeant, " I squeaked, and slid a trembling step, still clutching the rail for support.

"Sonofabitch! Lillie!"

36 comments:

Robyn said...

Why do I love scenes where the hero is really pissed? Even when he's pissed at the heroine?

I like the thought that older ghosts are better behaved.

Bernita said...

Robyn, I suppose because it's perhaps a clue - especially with the normally self-controlled types - that he cares and is not dismissing her as a ding-bat?

Church Lady said...

'tethered to the dead'

Says so much in so few words. If this were in a book, I'd bookmark that page.

Carla said...

"I sucked in air and fought off vertigo"
Did you mean to put that phrase in twice so close together? It's effective in both places - and quite a neat contrast as I'd guess the vertigo the first time is caused by height and the second time by Johnnie's deep blue eyes - but it just made me blink reading the same phrase twice in a few lines.

December/Stacia said...

Me too, Robyn! Angry guys not so great in real life, but sooo good in books.

Johnnie Thresher, what an awesome name.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Chris. He's been haunting her in several forms, the asshole...

Carla, thank you! That is a revision error ( I've just corrected it) - where I re-positioned the line and forgot to delete.

Glad you like the name, December.

Dave F. said...

I like this very much. I like that there is suspense and jeopardy in it. I love the way you resist having Lillie bat her eyelashes at him and smile sweetly or even worse, flounce her boobies. (That's a tease, btw). I like that she uses her fear of heights and the psychic disarray to blunt his upcoming tirade. She's done something naughty and his reaction is to bluster. So neatly done. Wonderfully manipulated. Do these two fall in love? Or at least into each other's arms (but not in a cheap, red miniskirt and halter type of embrace)?
I expect after a paragraph or two of his bluster, he's going to ask her to help him solve a murder.

You use so many words where I would use one word. But I would never touch one of them because they all work. That's what I enjoy about your writing.

Let me ask a question or two:
1) The line: "One or two frail spectres has" distracts me. Maybe it's just me because of the verb forms. I don't want to create a big discussion over single/plural verbs. This just interrupted me when I read it. Just between you and I, I grew up English-deprived in Pittsburgh. We say POP, and gum band, and yuns and my car needs washed. We don't speak like everyone else in the world.

2) The three lines:
"Lillie! NO!"
I nearly went over the rail after them.
I recognized that roar.

Introduce an ambiguity. I first thought the ghost's remains yelled "stop pouring me into the river." Lillie is taking care to pour out the ashes thoroughly and completely so that "no thread" clings to her. Then I realized it was only Johnny Thresher trying to stop her or fearing she's going to jump. Do you want that ambiguity? It's fine if you do. I wasn't sure if you did this intentionally, or if you want the ambiguity. It keeps the reader in the story.

StarvingWriteNow said...

"the only thing saving him from ugly..."

I like that. It rocks.

Bernita said...

Dave, thank you so much.
You always read and think.

The "has" business is another morning typo- twitch over the unexpected lapse in my internet provider. I will correct it. I'm usually fairly competent with tenses. Glad you spotted it.

And I fussed over your ambiguity as well. Perhaps if I remove "after them" I can trust the reader to know it's a human voice.
To answer your other questions, yes, they are in love - though it's a difficult relationship; and, no, she doesn't fall into his arms - on the pages of this story - though it is implied at the end that is about to occur.

Bernita said...

~beams at Starving~

Vesper said...

I much enjoyed reading this fragment. I find it suspenseful and it makes me want to read more. I think you did a great characterisation of Johnnie Thresher!

I didn't get to thank you for mentioning my story on your blog. A thousand thanks, Bernita! :-)

James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

Very cool, Bernita. Nicely Done...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Vesper!
I wanted to imply by her description,her conflicted feelings.
And I thoroughly enjoyed you story and though it very well done!

Thank you, James.
Tame stuff compared to yours.

raine said...

This is quite good!
Tension and suspense, and I feel like I'm also hanging over the bridge, wondering what might be coming at me next, rather than assured the ceremony has made an end.

I lurve Lillie, and a chisel-faced, iron-jawed hero gets me every time (already planned a blog about it, lol). And the relationship between them is yummy, as I remember from Stone Child. (He seems more concerned than angry to me...).

Do keep writing!

Bernita said...

Hee, Raine.
Stone Child was before the big blow-up.
If he's angry, it's because his mind leaped to a wrong conclusion - that she was about to jump.

Gabriele C. said...

Automatic rescue mode - nicely put, and he's the sort of guy who would climb after the suicidees on the Autobahn bridge across the Werra river here.

Dave F. said...

jeepers, That ambiguity of Lillie jumping or Lillie being carried down with the cremated remains or Lillie fainting from the psychic effort or just pretending to swoon to blunt Johnny Thresher's anger (it's possible that disposing of remains from a bridge is prohibited) - is OK as long as you, the author, know what the truth is and make that apparent later in the text.

Multiple meanings add depth to a story. Perhaps instead of ambiguity I should have said "duality"... that word doesn't have the negative connotations of ambuguity.

Think back to "The Usual Suspects" and how everything we see in it has two interpretations. It ends with us knowing what isn't the truth. That's why it's so clever.

Scott from Oregon said...

I enjoyed the duality of which Dave speaks... It made me read with more care, making me more interested.

Your "thought" is missing a T... and ironically, you did it again in your comments section.

bernita needs a better internet connection and more T this morning...

women writer's who describe men usually do what men writers describing women do- get into some pretty well worn territory- but I liked the way you handled the guy's face. Well done.

Sam said...

You are Such a tease!!!!!

LOL - this is fun!

Bernita said...

Yes, Gabriele, he's exactly that type. I believe Lillie comments once that he might as well have "to serve and protect" tattooed on his forehead.

Thank you, Dave, for clarifying. I do think there may be an ambiguity in the line - the kind that annoys a reader. I'll think on it.
JFYI, Lillie would never pull a false faint trick - unless it was on a villian.

Bernita said...

~sighs~
(!!!)
Dear me, I am really fumble fingered today, Scott.
Thank you.
I do try to avoid the usual cliches, you know.

Glad you enhoyed it, Sam!

Charles Gramlich said...

Good stuff. I wonder if you want to keep the comment suggesting that the narrator will never find out why the guy was there. As a reader I'd like to know or at least think I'd discover the reason.

Beautifully written as always.

Bernita said...

Good grief!
I'm "enhoying" and "thoughing" a lot today.
My apologies. A new keyboard might help, or new sticky letters on this one.

Thank you, Charles.
Of course, it will be explained specifically why he's there - later.
They do have a thing going.

Travis Erwin said...

I love your writing. It is so full of decription and place that I am right there with you and your characters..

Ello said...

I absolutely love it! Lillie and JT have such chemistry even in these small snippets you share with us. You are such a tease! Honestly, I cannot wait to read your book Bernita. I absolutely cannot wait!

Bernita said...

Travis, thank you. I did tell you that you were an official Dear Guy, didn't I?

Ello, you have no idea how much your enthusiam for these characters means to me. Thank you.

david santos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff said...

Very nice, Bernita. Your work is always so much fun to read.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jeff. I like reading yours too.

Chumplet said...

Oh, I remember the beginning of this scene! Thanks for posting this. It's so real.

writtenwyrdd said...

Nice stuff. Cliff hangar ending though, you brat!

Bernita said...

'It's so real"
~beams at Sandra~

and

"you brat!"
~grins at Written~

Jon M said...

I need more, she should have burned the box, I just know it!

Bernita said...

I've teased that idea, Jon, but decided I'd resurrected her husband enough times as it was!

Billy said...

"Names have power." So very true. There is a very small distance between a thought, a name, and manifested reality. (And I, too, hate it when my ISP ruins an inspiration :) Wonderful post, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Billy.
~puts me in an anxious twitter, being the post-Luddite that I am~

People, Billy is a published writer who has just begun a blog. I hope he sticks with it.Nice stuff already.