Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 19, 2014

The Darkest Sabbath

Today, Saturday, is the Jewish Sabbath. The following essay is a brief speculation on what the night and day following Jesus’ crucifixion might have been like for His closest followers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The four Gospels tell the story of Christ’s betrayal, mock trial and crucifixion with few variations. All of these events took place on Friday, the day before the Sabbath. The Romans who crucified Jesus were going about breaking the legs of those who had been crucified to assure their deaths before the beginning of the Sabbath, which commences a few minutes before sundown on Friday and lasts until three stars are visible in the Saturday night sky.

 

The Scriptures do not directly tell us what happened to the people who were closest to Jesus on the Sabbath immediately following his crucifixion and burial. We can only speculate. Based on what we do know about several of Christ’s followers, we can imagine how the night and day following the death of Jesus affected them.

 

John

 

In the Gospel of John, the Apostle often refers to himself as the “…disciple whom Jesus loved.” Not only was he one of the twelve, he was, along with his brother James and Simon Peter, a member of those closest to Jesus and, more— considered himself as the Lord’s best friend. Recall that those three were selected to be with Christ during the transfiguration.

 

As darkness covered Israel the night after Jesus was crucified, John probably had Mary, Jesus’ mother, in his house. He had, at the foot of the cross, been charged with acting as Mary’s son. Possibly she was the one who lighted the candles for the Shabbat. John could hardly forget how, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had asked that he, James and Peter stay awake with him on the night he was in agonizing prayer before the crucifixion, and they could not. He, along with most of the Disciples ran away at the approach of the chief priests and temple guard. Remorse over his failure must have deepened his grief. Did he sleep at all during that during that dark Sabbath?

 

 

Peter

 

The fiery, impetuous leader, the disciple who became the Rock, must have had a much worse night and day, following the death of Jesus. Not only had he failed his Lord in Gethsemane, he had openly denied knowing Him three times before the rooster crowed twice. Peter was a strong-willed proud man and was the only one of Jesus’ followers who offered physical resistance when the Jewish leaders and guard came to arrest Christ. Recall, he drew his sword and cut off the right ear of one of the High Priests’ servants. Of course, Jesus rebuked Peter and replaced the man’s ear.

Did Peter sleep that Friday night? Could he truly rest during the following Sabbath day? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we can guess that he had a long, difficult night.

 

 

 

Mary Magdalene

 

            The woman whose name is, after the mother of Jesus, most prominently mentioned in the Gospels was faithful to her Lord throughout the Passion. She and Jesus’ mother did not leave the awful scene on Golgotha. They were there until the final moments and didn’t desert Him as his body was laid in the tomb. The women probably saw the mighty stone rolled in place to seal the entrance. Despair and pain must have filled the night and following day.

 

We may speculate that she spent that night and the following Sabbath in the house with Jesus’ mother. This is because the scriptures describe them as being at the tomb together on the third morning.

 

Mary Magdalene, the woman who had been possessed by demons before Christ healed her, was faithful to Him through the hour of His death.

 

Did she sleep past tears and mourning during those awful hours following Jesus’ death?

 

 

Mary, Mother of Jesus

 

            God chose Mary to bring Jesus into this world. Although the Gospel of Luke describes her as “…troubled…” when Gabriel told her of her mission, the sense of deep fear isn’t in the story. Remember, Luke was not one of the Apostles. His recounting of the Annunciation could have only come from directly talking with Mary.

 

With no scripture that speaks of the desolate day following Christ’s crucifixion, it is possible to consider that the woman who was Jesus’ mother had a deep faith that her son’s death was not final.

 

She must’ve mourned and felt bereft of her reason for living and the treasure God had given her. Did she sleep?

 

Summation

 

            Could any of these, who were closest to Jesus, find rest until they knew He was resurrected? Certainly, there was no peace in their hearts until they had seen Christ again, much as there is no true peace in our hearts until we have seen Him.

 

 

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 18, 2014

Thoughts on The Resurrection

I’ve posted this before, but now—on Good Friday—it seems appropriate to think about the Resurrection deeply. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After the Resurrection, the Romans—as well as those in the Jewish hierarchy who opposed Jesus and his ministry—said that his disciples had stolen his body away from the tomb.  It came about when the chief priests bribed the soldiers who had guarded the tomb.

 

Matthew 28 tells the story:

 

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him.’  Now, I have told you.”

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy and ran to tell his disciples.  9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said.  They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, 10“Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,   13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’   14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.  And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

What a story.  The part about the Roman guards is amusing—in a way.  There had to be a number of them, not just one or two.  Notice the quote, “…some of the guards…” Also, given the high-profile nature of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, these weren’t just ordinary men.  These guards, I would imagine, were handpicked, tough legionnaires.

The fact that they were so terrified when the angel came and rolled the stone back that they “…shook and became as dead men…” takes on more significance when we consider the nature of the soldiers themselves.  Those hardened warriors were shaking and paralyzed.

I’m reminded of a comment made by a preacher I knew long ago.  He was talking about what happened in Gethsemane when Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  Jesus, rebuked Peter, telling him to put away his sword.  Luke 22:51 says, “But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” The old preacher’s comment was, “I’ll bet that man left Gethsemane and went home!”

Notice that Matthew’s Gospel says that the angel rolled the stone away and then sat on it.  How long he had been there, sitting on the stone when the two Marys arrived, we aren’t told.  During that time, the Roman soldiers were in a state of shaking paralysis.  That was the scene that the two Marys found when they arrived at the tomb.  It must have been shocking and frightening, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid.”

A central theme in Christianity, not just in the story of the resurrection, is embodied in the admonition, “Do not be afraid.” Notice that Jesus said these words to the Marys as they met him.  Remember that the angels, when announcing the birth of Jesus, told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” The angel, Gabriel, said to Mary, “Do not be afraid…” We need to remember those words and root our faith in them. Our faith needs to be strong enough to keep us from fear. Although the women were still frightened by what they’d seen, the voice of the angel and their trust in Jesus had made them stronger than the guards who were paralyzed with terror.

It has been pointed out, by the way, that the stone was not rolled away for Jesus to leave the tomb.   He had already departed.  The angel rolled the stone back from the tomb to show the world that “He is not here; he has risen…” We can imagine the angel pointing to the empty tomb as he spoke.  We can only wonder what the trembling, catatonic Roman soldiers were thinking.

Some of them went to the chief priests and reported everything that had happened.  Notice, that they did not go the military authorities or directly to the governor.  Why? They’d probably have been flogged or executed—or both.  Imagine a hard-bitten sergeant of the guards reacting to their story. “An angel, you say, came and rolled back that rock?  That rock took five strong men and a donkey to put in place!  Have you been drinking on duty?”

Needless to continue, but it would not have been pleasant.  Now going to the chief priests was a different affair.  These were the people who feared Jesus so much that they had demanded his death.  The guards correctly guessed that they, who had the most to lose from the resurrection of Jesus, would pay for the guards’ silence.  And pay they did.  The chief priests apparently paid the guards handsomely to parrot a story they concocted about Jesus’ disciples stealing his body away while they were asleep.  They even—probably at the insistence of the guards—promised to provide a cover story for them with the governor if he should hear the story.

Why?  In most military organizations, falling asleep at one’s guard post is an extremely serious offense.  In this case, the guards could—and probably would—have been executed. Pilate himself was personally involved. “Take a guard.” Pilate answered, “Go, and make the tomb as secure as you know how.” (Matthew 27:65) They not only posted guards at the entrance, they tied a cord across the rock and put a clay seal on each end so that if anyone disturbed the rock, the seals—doubtlessly imprinted with a official signet—would be broken. For the soldiers to be so asleep that all the commotion involved in moving the rock didn’t wake them would have been serious dereliction of their duty.

We aren’t told what happened to the guards, but I’d imagine that they took their money and became very, very quiet men.  Those who were directly paid would have had to share the money with the guards who didn’t go with them to the priests. They would also have had to tell the others the official line, and cautioned them to stick to it.  The story concocted by the chief priests was, however, extremely thin.

Consider: They were saying that they slept through the racket of the disciples rolling back the rock.  All of them!

Consider: If the disciples—those men who had run away in fear at Gethsemane and had denied Jesus in public—had planned to steal his body from the tomb, what they’d have had to take into account. First, there were a number of soldiers guarding the tomb and most of the disciples probably didn’t have swords much less shields and armor.  The disciples certainly wouldn’t have been able to count on the guards being asleep! And, they were demonstrably not all that brave in the face of soldiers. They had run away from and left Jesus alone in the garden. Second, if there had been enough of Jesus’ disciples to pull off robbing his tomb, there’d be enough people who knew of the theft that the story would get out sooner or later.

No, the angel did not roll the stone away so that Jesus could leave the tomb. He was already gone. When we look into the empty tomb, we see that it was there where the empty body of Jesus had been placed.  Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and because he was a prominent citizen, Pilate granted the request.  “So Joseph brought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” (Mark 15:46) Joseph was a wealthy and well-connected man.  He would have hardly done the physical labor of moving the stone himself.  Later, Mark mentions that the stone was quite large.  No problem for an angel, though.

Luke is the only gospel that describes the reaction of the apostles when Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James told them of the empty tomb and the words of Jesus and the angel.  “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.  Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away wondering to himself what had happened.”

We call Peter, “The Rock,” and refer to “doubting Thomas.” It appears that there was enough disbelief among the apostles to go around.  We consider the apostles, sometimes, as saints above us all. They were men. These men ran away when the soldiers came to Gethsemane. Their greatness came through their faith in Jesus. Peter’s wondering what happened was later replaced with a steadfastness that deserved the name, “The Rock.”

The empty shell, that had been body of Jesus when he was alive, was placed in the rock cave and lay there waiting until He returned and gave it new life. Jesus’ ministry and miracles included raising several people, recounted in the gospels, from the dead. A major theme of His ministry was resurrection from death—the conquering of death. Of course, the crowning event was His resurrection.  Those He raised from the dead during his life on earth were people who were physically dead. Their resurrection is a bright symbol for the millions upon millions whose souls have been dead, but who may come alive again, for eternity, once Jesus enters their hearts.

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 5, 2014

When Magic Leaves Our Lives

This poem is unlike anything I’ve ever written—before or since. The fables we loved as children disappear when maturity hits us.

                       Fables

Published in Elk River Review, Fall `91

“Pan, pan is dead.”

                             E.B. Browning

Had I not heard the dirge’s tune,

sung upon the death of Pan,

then I could hear a lilting flute

chasing through each April breeze.

Had I not seen the funeral bier,

topped with a silent shepherd’s pipe;

flashes of dogwood white I see,

while walking in dark pines at dusk,

-skirts of a laughing wood-nymph

running to a moonlight dance.

 

But I felt Earth’s grinding moan,

trembling through the Grecian Isles,

and knew Olympus’ deities,

-unhoused,

wandered in darkness as vagrants,

that night when Great Pan died.

 

My hand, I knew then, would never feel

the water-sleek tentative touch

of a Naiad’s brief and playful kiss,

as I dipped my arm in a haunted pool.

 

Sacred groves no longer stand:

storied oaks, once proud and strong,

where wood-nymphs danced and Dryads lived,

bow down their heads to the chainsaw song.

TD 4/91

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 29, 2014

For Vietnam Veterans’ Day

I wrote this in the time I was dealing with some painful memories. With this bit of poetry I began seriously writing.  Vietnam Veterans were still routinely dismissed with barely-concealed nastiness. The refrain, “Soldiers should not make their own monuments,” has its roots in the fact that, in fact, soldiers and their supporters paid for The Wall. In a way, that makes the memorial more faithful to its reason for being.

The Wall

 

For the Vietnam Veterans of America
I. Roll Call

Arrayed in perfect ranks and files,
row on row,
gleaming metal and polished black,
sharp straight edges cutting the wind,
they stand
in static silent formation.
Only their nameplates speak…
a voiceless babble of American families,
no other speaks, or spoke, for them.

Soldiers should not make their own monuments.

Away from this place of silence,
this place of unheard voices,
(where a limp flower hangs,
pushed into a crevice of the black stone),
the nation erected proper monuments of heroism:
sinewy white marble demigods with laurels;
or helmeted bronze men, thrusting a flagpole upright.

These recall brass band parades,
bright red roses, gleefully flung into city streets
beneath gleaming, triumphant boots; V-Day kisses, tears of victory, of joy;
these, …in memoriam…in appreciation… are proper.
These tell sufficient truth.

Soldiers should not make their own monuments.

II. Personnel Files

Teachers filled their childish ears
with the rattle of musketry,
— Valley Forge, San Juan Hill,
and, yes, Antietam, Gettysburg, Atlanta, they believed. Believed nostalgic fathers, wistful uncles;
— grand visions of Over the top… over there,
Pearl Harbor infamy:
steaming Sands of Iwo Jima, Okinawa’s steel typhoon;
—Inchon landings and The Bridges at Toko-Ri.
Victory, heroism, glory.
“Glory, glory, hallelujah…” they believed
in “Duty, honor, country,”
with the Faith of Our Fathers,

and on silver Paths of Glory,
blazed into thousands of sunsets;
-on insubstantial contrails,
Blowing in the Wind evaporating in the heat,
leaving no track home.

III. Separation

Believing, they went…
then losing belief,
fought
- or, just endured
and changed.
Some died, most returned;

many to the silent muster of this wall;
more to await honors
from fathers who could not hear,
and children who would not listen;
making their own hollow parades in shabby fatigues,
down almost-empty streets.

These have made their own monument,
a prostrate memorial in black stone.

Soldiers should not make their own monuments.

 

 

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 31, 2014

Poem to Commemorate Tet of 1968

 I’ve been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, but remembering Tet, forty-six years ago, brought me back.  I’ll be posting more frequently soon.

 

             VETERAN’S DAY

 

The windows of my winter room face south,

days move in cyclic patterns,

shadows and light,

against the distant wall.

 

First touches of late dawn

dimly light flowers on the wallpaper

past curved green steel

at the foot of my bed.

 

Large petals, once bright

as the floral pattern of Mother’s dress,

vivid in the black and white snapshot

that shows her smiling,

holding a child that once was me.

 

Tiny wildflowers I can see in midmorning,

illuminate spring-day memories in green light;

a lake of blue forget-me-nots

the patchwork quilt, our private island,

and afternoon–infinity.

 

Hard light of noon,

cold this late in the year,

brings out the stain,

(too far for me to touch again)

that seeped from inside and spread,

dark as old blood on a sidewalk

in Saigon’s Street of Flowers,

at Tet: The Year of the Monkey.

 

Long slanting light of winter evening,

(sliding quickly now, across the far wall)

glows red like nights of neon, there,

where slender black-haired girls

sold their flowers, wrapped in cheapest paper,

cut off in morning, shriveled by noon.

(I had not known roses could be garish;

gladiolus, tawdry.)

 

The open door sucks up terminal light,

as into a black hole

until night drops like a collapsing tent,

a phantom weight where my legs once lay.

 

Mercury vapor lamps outside glow blue;

like parachute flares that began with a pop

then hung and fell,

swinging in metronomic quiet,

provoking quick machinegun spatters,

-tracers burning like quick meteors

into awful silence-

and moving shadows of winter’s skinny limbs

bounce their wind-dancing mockery

across flat, empty blankets.

 

Still,

here,

only the cycling turn

spinning this vast wheel of darkness and light

touches me now

-since that hard, high flash:

truncating pain

that tied this shell as souls are tied,

over curving junctures of black and white,

yin and yang,

lying in detritus of yesterdays

-waiting with the rest for dawn.

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 10, 2013

Poem for Veteran’s Day

This poem was written when a friend, Dr. Sue Walker, challenged me—in a phone conversation—to write a poem about wallpaper.

I imagined a disabled veteran lying in his bed watching the changing of light and progress of the seasons.  This is from the chapbook, Finding The Way Home. The title is Veteran’s Day.

 

The windows of my winter room face south,
days move in cyclic patterns,
shadows and light,
against the distant wall.

First touches of late dawn
dimly light flowers on the wallpaper
past curved green steel
at the foot of my bed.

Large petals, once bright
as the floral pattern of Mother’s dress,
vivid in the black and white snapshot
that shows her smiling,
holding a child that once was me.

Tiny wildflowers I can see in midmorning,
illuminate spring-day memories in green light;
a lake of blue forget-me-nots
the patchwork quilt, our private island,
and afternoon–infinity.

Hard light of noon,
cold this late in the year,
brings out the stain,
(too far for me to touch again)
that seeped from inside and spread,
dark as old blood on a sidewalk
in Saigon’s Street of Flowers,
at Tet: The Year of the Monkey.

Long slanting light of winter evening,
(sliding quickly now, across the far wall)
glows red like nights of neon, there,
where slender black-haired girls
sold their flowers, wrapped in cheapest paper,
cut off in morning, shriveled by noon.
(I had not known roses could be garish;
gladiolus, tawdry.)

The open door sucks up terminal light,
as into a black hole
until night drops like a collapsing tent,
a phantom weight where my legs once lay.

Mercury vapor lamps outside glow blue;
like parachute flares that began with a pop
then hung and fell,
swinging in metronomic quiet,
provoking quick machinegun spatters,
-tracers burning like quick meteors
into awful silence-
and moving shadows of winter’s skinny limbs
bounce their wind-dancing mockery
across flat, empty blankets.

Still,
here,
only the cycling turn
spinning this vast wheel of darkness and light
touches me now
-since that hard, high flash:
truncating pain
that tied this shell as souls are tied,
over curving junctures of black and white,
yin and yang,
lying in detritus of yesterdays
-waiting with the rest for dawn.

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 2, 2013

Caution for Poets in Fall: Autumn Caveat

I posted this a year ago, but now that it’s November, here it is again:

Autumn Caveat

It’s mornings like this;
The stingy sun trying to hold back
Even the warmth of its reflection,
-Flashing cold fire In the lake.
When November leaves drop in sudden gusts,
Like a red and yellow flock of birds
Swooping at once to ground.
Or, even nights:
When winds reach wet hands
To take you spinning with random paper
Down back street gutters, under straining bridges
To clogged rivers.
It’s this:
The time of year, along with spring,
When poets must take care
Not to sing the same old songs
Stolen from tribal memory.

Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 25, 2013

What is “Voice” in Fiction Writing

In a writers group, recently, the question arose about the definition of “voice” for a fiction writer.  The subject intrigued me, so I asked several writers/poets to give me their thoughts on the subject.  Here,  in alphabetical order—by author—are their thoughts.

“It is the style or the way if you will, someone writes.”
Marion Dollar, writer and newspaper columnist

“To me, voice is a signature. Word usage, the air inspired by your narrative. I’ve always looked at is as being comparable to style.”
J.M. Kelley, author of Daddy’s Girl and Almost Magic

“The Author’s voice is the overall effect of the tale, or series. After all, the author is God in the pages they write. They hold full control over the weather, lives, and what gets told.”
M.R. Mathais, award winning author of The Wardstone Trilogy

“In prose ‘voice’ is what the writer says as he comments, sets scenes, and describes his characters.  It is his own distinct fingerprint made up of vocabulary, word choice and emphasis, patterns of stopping and starting sentences.”
Sue Scalf, author of nine books of poetry, her latest book is Almost Home.

“Giving voice to a fictional narrator is an acquired skill that can be polished with intelligent practice.
Not so the author’s voice, which is expression of mind and soul. It develops, as the writer surrenders to his mandate, as naturally as acorn becomes oak.”
Russ Tate, who writes when he can’t help himself

“The importance of voice is its ability to add complex visual imagery to the written word. It determines if a reader is pulled into the scene or simply a passive observer.”
Tom Temple, author of Cheese Grits, Stories to Nourish the Southern Soul.

If you, readers of this blog, have a definition of “voice” in fiction writing, let us know with your comments.

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 22, 2013

Prologue to “Overload”

The news today about certain people “demonstrating,” outside Busch Stadium makes the following something to grin about.   The book is, in the words of one reviewer, “[There is a…frighteningly real possibility of something just like this happening in the United States…” Larry Enright, author of Four Years from Home.

Terrorists are coming into the U.S. across our Southern Borders.   The atrocity that happened in the Kenyan shopping mall, could happen here.  The book has such an incident in the early pages.

Prologue to Overload -
Rastus Wright screamed, spittle flying and dripping down his red plaid shirt.
His yells nearly drowned out the higher-pitched, frenzied yelping of his daughter.
Wright’s mouth, gaped wide with yelling, showed missing teeth and the yellow of the remaining few. He wore loose, dark-blue denim trousers. The frayed cuffs dragged the muddy cemetery earth at the heels of his hiking boots.
He carried a professionally printed sign, two by three feet reading, in six-inch tall black letters, “GOD WILL PUNISH QUEERS!” His daughter’s placard of the same size read, “BODIES OF DEAD SOLDIERS ARE LOVELY SIGHTS!”
Wright’s hollering echoed across the open ground, louder than one would expect from a bandy-legged man standing about five-seven.  His narrow chest contrasted with a belly poking out like half a basketball, stretching the bottom buttonholes on his shirt. He wore a blue baseball cap so dirty the original product or company advertised was illegible.  His hair was yellow-gray and hung in a greasy ponytail four or five inches below his shirt collar. His short beard dripped with drool.
“Filthy warmongers! Your miserable deaths are payback for the country’s fags in power! More are gonna die! The Lord will take them!”
A crowd of mourners stood around an open grave, about a hundred yards away, trying to ignore him.  An American Flag covered the coffin, held suspended by nylon straps over a gaping mouth of dark red earth, waiting to receive the vault at the funeral’s end.

Wright’s daughter, Cora, a short, doughy woman with a ruddy round face and oily brown hair, told the Texas State Trooper, in an adenoidal complaining voice, through snuffling and rubbing her nose on a well-used hanky—her memory of what happened next.
“Daddy was just a’ standing and testifying to them sinners over at the grave. He leaned backwards and drew in a breath to preach louder, and his head blew up.  His ponytail landed about five feet over yonder. Somebody shot him in the mouth.”
The Trooper grimaced.
“Did you see anyone with a weapon?” He said.
“Them soldiers over by the grave have guns”
She pointed her quivering double chins to where the funeral group hadn’t dispersed.
“Yes, Ma’am they do.  Those are honor guard soldiers.  Their rifles will only fire blanks. We’re currently checking their weapons and interviewing people who were around the grave.  Now, Ma’am, did you see anyone with a weapon pointing toward your father?  Could you tell where the shot could have come from?” the trooper said.
“Naw, daddy was just preachin’ to them sinners.  We gotta stay a ways away from their graves now.  New law.  He was witnessin’ real loud so they could hear what the Lord meant for them,” she paused, “…then his head blowed up.”
“Thank you, Ma’am, I’ll get back in touch with you when we have some leads on the perpetrator,” the trooper said.
He touched the brim of his “Smokey Bear” hat, turned away and marched back to the State Patrol cruiser.  The grim line of his mouth almost hurt. Laughter bubbled behind clenched teeth.

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 20, 2013

Sample from “Devil’s Blade”

devilsBlade_coverFollowing is the beginning of Chapter 2 of Devil’s Blade. The protagonist, Malacca Longwood—an NYPD homicide detective—has returned to his apartment after a long day. The shade of his maternal grandmother is there.

~~~~~~~~~

CHAPTER 2

After we filled out the redundant paperwork, the office clock showed a little after 5 AM.  I left a message on my boss’ voicemail telling him that I’d be in about mid-morning or later.  I needed sleep, if possible after what I’d seen, and a shower.  I headed to my apartment on John Street in the beginnings of the morning traffic on streets slick from an early morning shower.
Before the door to my apartment was fully open, I knew someone was there—or had been.  I don’t smoke and don’t allow anyone to smoke in my apartment.  The scent was faint, but unmistakable.
I slammed the door, rattled the deadbolts and chain but actually left them unlocked in case I had to get back out very quickly.  Easing my .45 out of its holster at the small of my back and releasing the safety, I shed my suit jacket. All senses were focused, blood thumping in my ears, trying to locate evidence of someone still there, one of the mob thugs I’d helped send away, for instance.
Nothing but rancid cigarette stench.
I felt a little sheepish, later, thinking that I must’ve looked like some “B” grade Hollywood screenwriter’s version of cop checking the place out as I moved through each doorway. I even checked behind shower curtains, in closets and in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, leading each step with the .45.
Hey, you never know.
Feeling a little foolish and quite a bit relieved, I relaxed a bit, feeling the exhaustion again as I picked up my jacket from the floor and locked the door. Turning back into the apartment, I walked through the door into my bedroom, which I’d just checked and saw who’d been smoking.
It hadn’t been a mobbed-up thug whose smoke had fouled the air, it was her.  It could only have been one person, smoking those damned nasty Picayune cigarettes, I finally realized.  She was the woman who had kept and sheltered me for my first five years and obviously never quit loving me.
Marie Clapion, or as many in New Orleans would have called her, Madame Marie.  I had always called her Mama Marie.
She sat in the big leather recliner in the corner of my bedroom, kicked-back, with a lighted cigarette dangling from her right hand.  Tonight she wore a dark turquoise turban-like cloth in a spiral on her head, and her usual long, white linen ceremonial dress.  Her feet were bare. They were a little darker than her face, a true café au lait, on top than on the bone-hard callused bottoms.
I stood there in a sort of suspended animation as she took a long drag on the foul cigarette, then half-turned to her right and blew the smoke toward the closed window.  Her black eyes glittered, squinting back sidewise at me through the haze she’d created, as if they reflected ritual bonfires.  She seemed to draw all of me into their depths.
Madame Marie Duminy Clapion, Mama Marie, watching me from the chair, died when I was eleven years old.  I wept at her elaborate, ritual funeral in New Orleans—twenty-two years ago.
She flicked the butt away toward the middle of the room, but instead of dropping to the carpet it vanished.
She enjoyed doing things like that—always had—her tricks had caught my attention when I was a child, and still did.
Usually, when Mama Marie—or more accurately, the shade of Mama Marie—came to visit, she spoke but didn’t respond to questions or comments. I believe that Mama Marie always hears, but sometimes doesn’t choose to answer.
Now, I sat on the edge of my bed and watched her. She looked away as if I wasn’t there, out through the open drapes into the beginning dawn. Her left leg was hanging over the edge of the chair. Her left bare foot and right hand beat time to the slow, insistent rhythm of music only she could hear.
She stopped, and turned completely, facing me, dark eyes softening as she left the dance behind.
“You up agin’ a bad ‘un here, Honey.  This man you lookin’ for is just plain evil—crazy, too.  Watch everythin’ real close. You gotta catch him ‘fore he kills a bunch more people. You’ll see when you face him—he’s cold as a copperhead. Watch him close, now. Watch ever’ little thing he do. You gotta stay calm, too, jus’ like I taught you when you was a chile.”  She spoke quietly, her mouth a flat grim line and a hard glint in anthracite eyes. She began to fade slowly into transparency and was gone.
The smell of Picayune cigarettes faded more slowly than her shade, or maybe it was just the memories, awakened by the smell.
Yes, I’ll watch him but first I have to find him. Those thoughts were my last before I collapsed on the bed without undressing.

 

 

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