Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Retreat 2

Yesterday, I shared the flash fiction I wrote at the writer's retreat I went to. On our second day there, we each drew another slip of paper out of the bag and had 45 minutes to write a short story concerning the word. The word I drew was "anal-beads". For an exercise where I had 45 minutes to pull a short story out of my ass, I think I did okay with the word...


“Hail, Mary, full of –hrk!” his breath caught on the last word.
She smiled. “You have to relax.”

The way a rosary works is absurdly simple, so it comes as a surprise to hear how tedious some people make it. Each bead is a prayer.

His mouth formed a small 'o' as he exhaled. His abdominal muscles slowly loosened, and then the rest of the muscles gradually unclenched. Nodding in encouragement, she gave a gentle push, and then it was done.
“Blessed art thou among women,” he said. His voice was not quite a whisper, but the breathy comment was full of gratitude and relief.
The woman shrugged. “I know.”

The larger prayer beads represent the “Our Father who art in heaven” prayers. The five large beads are separated by ten smaller beads. Each smaller bead represents a “Hail, Mary” prayer. When a priest gives a portion – or even all – of a rosary as penance, the idea is that the person praying is able to find absolution in the repetitive nature of the prayer.

She began again, and so did he.
“Hail, Mary, full of graccccccccce.” The last word came out as a hiss, the exhalation helping him keep his muscles relaxed.
She smirked this time, but there was no meanness to it. “Blessed art thou among women?” she asked helpfully.
He nodded slowly. “That's right.”

The rosary actually has its origin in pagan ritual. Druids and magicians often used a staff or wand as a way of focusing power. They would repeat their magical chant over and over, narrowing their energy and focus down to the simple piece of wood, and when they achieved harmony with themselves, and their surroundings, and their wooden catalyst they were able to perform miracles. The rosary works in the same way.

She raised hand to begin again, then paused. “You know,” she said, “this is a little different from what I'm used to.”
He didn't answer. He continued to look up at the ceiling, breathing slowly and evenly. It was almost as though he could see through the ceiling and up into the sky beyond.
Her hand touched his thigh gently, then curled lightly around his erection.
“No,” he said immediately. “Just the...” He paused, searching for the right words.
She released him and nodded, though he couldn't see. “Okay,” she said. Then she pushed.
A small smile curled across his lips. “Hail, Mary...” he started the prayer again.

Some Eastern religions have something similar. They use a phrase or sound while they meditate, repeating it over and over as a focus while they clear their mind. The phrase loses all meaning relatively quickly, but it provides a tether for their focus and prevents them from drifting.
If a man were to say, “do not think of elephants,” it naturally is the first thing to pop into the mind. So how do you empty your thoughts to nothing without also thinking of everything?

“Hail, Mary, full of grace,” he said. It was getting easier, except now he had to deal with a feeling of fullness. He smiled. It was almost like a feeling of completion. He went on, “Blessed art thou among women.”
She watched all these emotions chase across his face. She was confused. For some reason, and she knew she'd never be able to explain it, she felt aroused. She reached for the last one. And pushed.

The quest for Nirvana. The magical connection to nature and all living things. A search for absolution. It seems strange that they all revolve around the repetitive nature of a word, sound, or phrase. A vibration of the vocal chords escaping the lips on an exhalation of breath from within. Could it be that power does not exist out in the universe at all? That, in the end, the power comes from within?

She pulled, and a groan of relief escaped from his mouth, against his will. Every sin, every regret, every mistake he carried with him drained away as each prayer was pulled from his body.
Afterward, he lay on the table, cleansed and whole. He was crying.
She stood and tossed his sins aside. She looked down at him, her breasts heaving. She was more aroused than she'd ever been in her life, but as she looked at him, she knew she could never consummate this relationship. She had seen. She felt him touch God in that one pull of the string.
He reached up and grasped her hand reverently. “Thank you.”
She pulled away from him and picked up her robe. She slipped her arms through the sleeves and cinched the belt tight around her waste. Not looking at him, she said, “After you get dressed, leave the money on the table.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Retreat 1

Last weekend I went on a writer's retreat with 3 other guys with the idea that we'd lock ourselves in a cabin for three days and come out the other side with a book written. I consider the venture successful!
Additionally, we did a writing exercise each morning to warm up our brains. James Ninness is being super cool by posting all the results on his blog, and you should go check out what he and Joe Pezzula and Marcel Losada came up with. I'll be posting what I wrote here.

For the first day, we each wrote down four words on slips of paper and placed them in a bag. Then we each drew a word (it couldn't be one we wrote down) and had to write a piece of flash fiction about the word or using the word as inspiration. Flash fiction is essentially a lightning bolt of creative writing composed of exactly 55 words, no more or less. The word I drew was "Snowman".

It's like waiting for the firing squad to kill you. Dawn breaks over the mountains, and the slow crawl towards death begins. It's not quite murder, nor justice, nor even suicide. Just accepting inevitability; thin stick arms stretched wide for an embrace and a sad charcoal smile for a greeting. It is a good death.