Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Excerpt II from Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen

Nothing like giving away the ole' store for free, eh? This excerpt is from Chapter 4, A Deep Sleep, and is one of the pivotal scenes of the story. Leysa Henko ponders death and its permanence at her mother's funeral and suffers a terrible injustice at the hand of the evil "Sauced Sisters of Tallenook. "

From Chapter 4: A Deep Sleep

Leysa didn’t move throughout the viewing service. She sat straight upright in he chair – like a lady, as her mom had taught her – and remained absolutely silent as she kept her eyes trained on the casket and Ionna’s face. She brought her copy of “Flowers of the Field” with her and held in tightly against her chest. She felt as if she even opened her mouth, she might throw up her entire breakfast; she was afraid to move. The room had a sickening sweet smell of too many flowers and too much perfume, and it made Leysa nauseous.

Mrs. Strengen sat next to her on her left with Devak, Jr., and Maryska – also feeling nauseous but for a different reason – sat on her right in the first pew, next to Devak. Will Lankev and Havik Kestine sat behind Devak.

Alecia Rusmen and Abigail Tangotch sat directly behind Leysa. Alecia leaned up to Leysa, which made Leysa jump and momentarily snapped her out of her trance-like state, and caused her to gasp. Alecia, trying to console her, near-whispered in her ear: “Leysa, dear, your mother is not dead. She is only sleeping.” Abigail heard Alecia’s comments and chimed in: “That’s right, dear. She’s having the most peaceful sleep she’s ever had.”

At this, the gullible Leysa – when it came to love for her mother anyway – suddenly saw hope. Her eyes got like saucers and she spun around to address the two apartment building busybodies, who were half-lit themselves and had no business trying to console anyone, least of all a child who has just lost her mother.

“If she’s only sleeping, when is she going to wake up?” Leysa replied, looking back and forth at their faces, searching for an answer and actually almost smiling a bit. She was just about ready to elbow Maryska and tell her the good news – their mother wasn’t dead after all, she was just sleeping! – when she saw Alecia and Abigail withdraw in shock. The Sauced Sisters of the Wrong Side of Tallenook hadn’t expected that kind of response.

Alecia and Abigail sat silently, desperately searching for a response, when Father Patrick Carnes of St. Jerome’s appeared at the front of the altar and started the service. Alecia told Leysa: “Hush now, child. Father is about to begin the service. Turn around now.”

“Oh,” Leysa replied in a hushed voice, confused and more hurt than ever, and turned back around to face Father Carnes. She started to cry; Maryska reached her arm around her and Leysa leaned against her big sister’s shoulder, her head partially turned toward the back of the church. She stole a few short, inquisitive looks back at Alecia and Abigail throughout the service, but the Sauced Sisters made sure not to make eye contact with her. They ignored Leysa for the next 45 minutes. Leysa gave up trying to talk to them and instead concentrated again on Ionna.
“Her chest isn’t moving,” she thought silently to herself. “How can she be asleep if her chest isn’t moving? She isn’t even breathing. Maybe she’s holding her breath. Can people hold their breath as long as they want when they’re sleeping?” And with that, Leysa tried to hold her own breath for as long as she could. When Maryska saw what she was doing, she poked Leysa in her side, and Leysa let go of her breath in a loud whoosh that made Devak turn and give her a disapproving look.

After the service, Leysa and Maryska went to view Ionna with Devak, with their friends and well-wishers in tow. Maryska went first, and Leysa stayed extra close to her, seemingly just inching her way up.

As Leysa approached the casket, tears started to well up in her eyes, and she knew right then and there that Ionna was not sleeping. She was not waking up. She was dead, her mommy was dead. Dead and gone. Gone to God and belonging to the angels in Heaven. She let go of Maryska’s hand, which she was holding with her left hand, and was vaguely aware of a tingling feeling in her right hand – like electric fingers trying to wrap themselves around her own fingers – and felt the hair on the right side of the back of her neck stand on end. But she was so caught up in the moment that she shut out the outside world; she barely noticed the tingling, or the chilled feeling on the right side of her body.

She took a small, folded-and-crumpled painting she had done in the studio from the small purse she carried with her. “I painted this for you, momma” she whispered, and lay it in the casket. The painting was of two white, winged, dark-haired angels, hand-in-hand, one seemingly directing the other one upward, through a rainbow toward a bright yellow sun. Off in the bottom left-hand corner in the green grass of their front yard was a stick figure of a little girl with blue drops coming from her eyes and forming a puddle on the ground.

“Bye-bye momma,” she whispered. “Be good for God. I’ll be good for Daddy and Mrs. Strengen. I’m not mad at you for lying about the Monstermen in America. I’m not mad at you at all.” With that, she felt faint and took Maryska’s hand before Maryska got too far away from the casket. She walked away holding Maryska’s hand with her left, and rubbing her right hand against her dress, trying to warm it back up and not giving a second thought as to how to do it – and the rest of the right side of her body – had gotten so chilled.

Alecia and Abigail were among the first to leave after the processional. Leysa gave them the same loathing look she had given the mean German man at Ellis Island. She hated them – the hate suddenly gave her clarity of thought – and she felt a vague desire for revenge, although she was not sure what revenge was. She only hoped that something bad would happen to them, that God would punish them for telling such an awful, awful lie. And that there was nothing wrong with wanting something bad to happen to them because they were bad people, and God smote bad people who deserved it. “Yes,” she thought. “God will get them. God will get them good.”

The Sauced Sisters shuffled and stumbled quickly out of the funeral home without looking back, clutching their purses and speaking to no-one.

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