Excerpt #4

Henry hesitated for a moment, but he supposed it couldn’t hurt to talk through it again. Perhaps it might even start to make sense if he told the tale out loud. He cleared his throat. “I don’t remember much,” he began, “not really. I thought at first it must have been a memory from the battle, but this was different. There was a man. He looked like an ordinary man, although somehow he could fly. His hands were…on fire, somehow. There were screams. Thunder.” Henry shivered a bit at the retelling. He hadn’t realized until that very moment just how much the dreams bothered him.

Elizabeth was looking at him very intently now. “This man,” she queried. “Did he have wings?”

“No.”

“Then how did you know he could fly?” Elizabeth’s expression was impossible to decipher. Her eyes were piercing. The color seemed to be draining from her face.

Henry pondered the question a moment. “I saw him in the air,” he admitted. “It looked like he was falling, but there was such a distance, and he was falling for so long. Surely he must have been flying. Although neither explanation makes much sense, does it?” He tried to manage a laugh and failed. His throat was suddenly painfully dry.

“And the fire,” Elizabeth continued. Her voice was very quiet now. “Can you tell me more about that?”

It struck Henry as very important that he answer her questions accurately, as focused as she was on his answers. “It was…short. Quick. Like a blast of some sort. Followed by this rumbling sound, and….” Henry’s voice trailed off.

Elizabeth sat back and turned away. Her face suddenly registered such an intense display of sadness, like none Henry had ever seen before. He laid back against the pillow, watching her, and as his eyes finally regained their full focus they told one final piece of the mysterious tale.

Henry’s jaw dropped at the realization. “You,” he stammered. “You were there.”

Elizabeth turned back to him, her shocked expression mirroring what Henry felt on his own face. “What did you say?” she whispered.

“I saw you…in my dream,” Henry managed, his voice tinged with disbelief. “I didn’t realize it until a moment ago, but…you were there.”

The two of them stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, Elizabeth blinked rapidly, as if coming out of some kind of a trance. She was no longer able to meet Henry’s wide-eyed stare. Her voice was barely audible as she murmured, “Excuse me.”

And without another word, she was gone.

Excerpt #3

[Sometimes the only good thing to come out of finding myself in a strange emotional state is the ability to write myself out of it. – L]

It was true that Mary had been preoccupied for the better part of the day. She didn’t always feel like this, and there had been no particular event to trigger it, this nagging feeling of something amiss. But today, her emotions kept floating away, toward him–the color of his eyes, the smell of his hair, how good it felt to hold him. Except today….today she feared she was losing a piece of her mind. This was the day she realized that she could no longer precisely remember what he looked like.

Her grief at this realization plunged her deeper into despair. She struggled with herself, desperate to recall even the most vague detail, only to find her memories clouded and hazy with time and distance. She remembered at last the presence of a small photograph which once had been one of her most cherished possessions, but was now tucked away into some keepsake box or other, as if by hiding it Mary might also have put her own grief away and begun to move forward. It suddenly became terribly important to lay her eyes onto that small cherished image once more, now that her memory seemed to be failing her.

She even believed she knew exactly where to look, and hurried away to her bedroom where a stack of small boxes rested on the floor in the dim corner furthest from the lamp. Each box was opened and quickly searched, but no photograph was revealed. What began as a small ray of hope to pierce the ever-expanding gloom in her heart soon became an unyielding need, as search after search failed to produce the one thing Mary now needed above all else. Something like terror clutched at her heart, making it race in her chest and forcing the air out of her lungs. It was bad enough that she had forgotten his face; to forget where the dreaded photo had been stored away was far worse. It was as if she needed that small piece of paper to prove he had even existed at all.

Tears sprang in her eyes as Mary tore the house apart, searching every space she could reach, biting the insides of her cheeks to keep from screaming out his name, as if she could call him back from the grave. She finally found the object of her search in the library, loosened from between the pages of a book of poetry she had knocked to the floor in her frustration. Why she had chosen this particular place to hold such an obviously important item escaped her comprehension for the moment, her whole being now focused on the delicate slip of paper that held the image Mary had fought so hard to recall in her mind. Her muscles relaxed as she reminded herself of the brightness in his eyes, the beautiful curls in his hair, the soft, round, innocent face that looked back on hers from another time and place.

“My beautiful, my darling boy,” she whispered softly, cradling the photograph in her hands as silent tears streamed down her cheeks. “My sweetest son. I shall not forget your face again.”

Second Excerpt

[from my forthcoming novel — hope you enjoy – L]


The sounds of gunfire still rang in his ears. He heard the shouts of the men on the battlefield, smelled the rolling smoke and the stench of burned flesh. Someone nearby was crying out in pain, but it was unclear who. He shook his head, trying to clear it, while his own faraway voice contributed to the noises all around. Then a hand touched his shoulder and his eyes finally flew open–

“Hush, you’re safe now,” the woman said as she gently wiped the sweat from his brow. “Looks like you were having some awful kind of a dream there. It’s good you’re finally awake.”

The soldier’s expression went from terrified to merely confused in half a minute. He slowly pulled his widened eyes away from her face and began to look around, first down at his own body and then at his surroundings. He was lying on a cot inside a large tent. On either side, others lay sleeping in similar cots, some moaning in pain. His gaze slowly returned to meet his caretaker’s as she patiently waited for him to find his bearings. His throat began to work and his lips parted as he struggled in vain to find his voice.

She smiled benignly and held a finger to her own lips. She shook her head. “No, don’t try to speak. Not yet. You’ve been through a lot, and you need your rest.” She glanced over at the chart next to the soldier’s bedside. “Henry?” Gratitude washed over the soldier’s face. He nodded twice, still in military style even though he was injured and bedridden. Still smiling, the woman took his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Henry. I’m Elizabeth.”

– – – – –

Others came and went in a flurry of activity. Henry came to realize that they were not far from the battlefield of Carthage; the sounds of gunfire echoed vaguely in the distance. Other injured soldiers–bedridden as he was–struggled to comprehend what had happened to them. Some were new to the war, others more seasoned. After a while, their cries all sounded the same.

Days passed as in a fog. Henry slept much of the time, awakening only slightly when a nurse would come by to change the dressing on his wounds and check for infection. It was in this half-conscious state that he came to learn of his worst fear realized, that his commanding officer had perished in the battle. Despite all of his best efforts to secure the fort and move the company forward, he had failed.

The cacophony around him settled into a sort of dull ambient roar–perhaps he had a fever after all. How else could he explain the strange sights and sounds his mind would conjure in his fitful slumber? A man who could fly like an angel, leaving a trail of fire in his wake…the sounds of screaming and the rumble of distant thunder…these were the things that haunted his sleep, the things that pushed him into the mornings gasping for breath and drenched in sweat.

Work In Progress

Today I decided that it’s time to start posting teasers of my novel-in-progress. It’s been a terribly long time coming, and I can’t honestly say that I know when it will be finished. I don’t even have a proper title for it yet, although I’m hoping it will reveal itself to me once I’m closer to finishing. Future posts will be tagged “excerpt”, although this first one is really more of a teaser than anything else. Anyway, I hope you like it.


He has been standing there, motionless in the dark, for who knows how long. The activity around him has rendered him invisible, which is precisely what he wants. He bides his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity. The moment comes, and he launches himself from the shadows. Fire flies from his hands…there is screaming, and a sound like thunder. The entire world seems to shake. Then the man simply flies away, as though he had wings.

My beloved lies next to me. I am quite certain he is dead. The screaming I hear is my own.

What is Privilege?

I have been asking myself for a while now what it is about the term “white privilege” that causes such a visceral, negative reaction in me. This term—and others that are similar—get thrown at people like a slap in the face, in the hopes of getting them to wake up and shake themselves out of their own perspective, for the betterment of the common good. But that’s not the effect it has on me. I hear “white privilege” and something in me just shuts down, pushing me out of the conversation entirely. In short, it has exactly the opposite effect.

Why?

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person. I’m not unfamiliar with the concept behind the term “white privilege”, and I have to believe that anybody whose head hasn’t been buried in the sand for the past few decades also understands the message that term is trying to convey. And yet, for me, there’s something in that term that affects me in a way few words do—like an insult on steroids, as if I’m too stupid to realize that not everybody has the same life experiences that I do, often for reasons beyond their control. I apparently need to be told time and time again how good I really have it, even on days when I struggle with my own issues. As if being “privileged” means I never have any problems, or if I do, they’re certainly not as important and insurmountable as other people’s problems are. The term “white privilege” is inherently dismissive. Maybe that’s what bugs me so much.

Or maybe it has more to do with the context around the word “privilege”. It’s such a simple word, really, meaning at its core: “something given to some people and not others”. While yes, there is inherent a degree of inequality (“Where’s miiiiine? Why can’t I have that tooooo?”), it has been my personal experience that certain privileges are truly gifts, given freely, accepted by few.

I had the privilege of knowing your grandfather.

It is an honor and a privilege to be celebrating with you tonight.

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

I guess it comes down to the fact that I choose to focus on the gift given, rather than the advantage taken, when it comes to the concept of privilege. So when someone—usually with a high degree of snark—demands to me that I “Check my privilege”, I have and will always steadfastly refuse. I insist that there is a way to be mindful of others and of the possibility of iniquity, without dismissing the gifts we have received. It is, in fact, a privilege to even be able to write about this and share it with you, both because it is technically possible for me to do so and also because I don’t fear for my life while making my thoughts and feelings known. I understand this, and I appreciate it—perhaps not as often as I should, but I do. Without acknowledging our gifts, is there anything we can even do to help make things better for others? I would answer, “No.”

I could write for days about modern language and about how distanced we often become when it comes to meanings and nuances of the words that we casually toss around every day. But few interpretations affect me the way this one does. I wish I had a decent suggestion for a suitable replacement. But in the meantime, I will continue to use the word “privilege” exclusively in the way that makes sense to me, with gratitude for gifts given to me, most of which I could not possibly have earned.