So I’ve had a few people mention interest in reading my thesis. It’s still very rough…so I think I will, instead, fiendishly place little bites and excerpts of it, in the journal, for those who are interested. There is a certain magic to things our of context.
OK – so if you’re just tuning in, I wrote an epic poem. It’s about a voodoo priestess, Mama Nancy. She summons up a strange, ancient spirit called Crow (who is more than she bargained for). After a bit of bribery, trickery, and a sacrifice, she gets Crow to help her tell the story, to give her the name of a fallen angel (one of the angels that didn’t choose sides in the war in Heaven) so that she can contact and convince him to go down into a bleak underworld (Sheol) and rescue the soul of a little girl. These chapters are done in narrative poetry.
In between said chapters, are little chapters, called “Interludes.” They’re in prose. They indirectly tell the story, or at least advance certain themes. Thus the story is told in a spiral, not in a line. The shape of the universe is the spiral.
So here is a little Interlude to wet the taste buds. It comes in the early third of the book.
Interlude: Be Not Afraid
“When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness. My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me. I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation. I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat. My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.”
-Job 30: 26-31
They’re arguing too loud.
I’m about to trade a stack of comics to Joey, for his dad’s Playboy, and they’re arguing too loud. The boiler room walls are thick, but the janitor or a teacher might hear. Heroes and villains stare at me from the shiny comic book covers like I’m betraying them. But this is how it has to be.
This is growing up.
The argument started when we snuck off to the boiler room. They’re too loud and my Catholic school uniform collar squeezes my neck like a weak gremlin. The teachers say the uniforms are so we don’t feel pressure about what we wear.
That’s not what the public school kids on the bus say.
The argument started when we passed the second grade room. In the hall, they had crayon drawings of angels on the walls. For kicks, John taped up his own drawing, a scary looking angel. That’s when he and Roger started arguing whether angels are scary or not.
John says yes – angels were supernatural soldiers and did the deed when God needed a hit, like the angel of death who wasted all the first born Egyptians for Moses.
Roger says no – angels are messengers and protectors and look at all those old paintings – their little fat babies with wings or tall, pretty people in robes and halos.
I don’t know whether the teachers would be mad or proud – boiler room conversations don’t usually get this religious.
But they’re too loud and—
“Your drawing’s all wrong, Johnny.” Malcolm speaks for the fist time. When Mal speaks, we all go silent. He’s the oldest. He scored really high on some test, so the principal and his parents try and get him into these accelerated programs. Mal doesn’t like that. He ditches classes and causes trouble, even got a sub to cry once, and the guys respect him because he’s smart . . . but not a nerd. Sometimes he introduces himself as “Mal Content” and laughs.
“Johnny, your drawing isn’t scary enough.”
Roger protests and mentions pretty cherubs and peaceful angels playing harps.
Mal takes a drag on his cigarette and blows a dragon stream of smoke and that stops Roger short.
“Rogge, Nero played the harp – played it when Rome burnt down, fed people to lions, lit folks on fire and used them as lanterns in his garden.” Mal takes another big drag. The other guys don’t know, but I know Mal doesn’t really smoke, just in the boiler room. It gives him status. He blows smoke the way an island chieftain blows a conch shell before telling a story.
“What do angels always say when they appear?”
None of us answer. Mal has the answers.
“Be not afraid, that’s what they say. The first thing they say. Do you think they had to start every conversation with be not afraid because they are all pretty pixies and cute mini-Budas with wings? We’re talking about primal beings, creatures older than dinosaurs, older than things with tentacles sleeping at the bottom of the ocean – the first things God made in the dark, without practice or light to work by.
“They’re the first soldiers, prototype killers. Every punishment, every killing, God sends an angel to smite someone Old Testament style. They turn cities to salt, kill more kids than King Herod – every still birth, every plague, every famine, every storm, every volcano, every extinction – and it’s a prehistoric monster with wings and he’s playing a harp the entire time.
“Every demon is an angel that tripped.” Mal takes another puff and there’s nothing in the room except his voice and the gremlin squeezing my neck.
“So you guys tell me. If, some night, you’re walking down a dark alley . . . would you really want to meet an angel?”