The International Writers Magazine: First Chapters
BLOOD OF THE LORD
Lansing wanted God.
Tom Beale wanted Anna.
Steve McLean wanted money.
Jack Lomax was desperate.
Then came the miracle!
Anna uncoiled, her naked body sweat-slicked, turning like a wisp
of smoke above a light flame. The stained sheet fell off her,
trailing down to the floor. Anna sighed and raised a long, shapely
leg, then opened her eyes. They were as blue as the sky outside,
but slightly troubled, distracted, as if she had lost track of herself
and hardly knew where she was. Her head turned on the pillow,
her golden hair a glorious tangle, then she bit her lush lower lip and
stared out the window.
She'd just had a dream in which God's light, shining upon her, had made
her feel whole.
She had that dream often.
The sun was indeed shining over the flatlands outside, reflecting off
the oil pumps of the gas station and beaming in through the window of
this rickety old house to illuminate Anna's tanned limbs and return
her to life. She yawned and stretched, a voyeur's vision, seductive,
then slid her legs off the bed and stood up to get washed and dressed.
The house didn't have a shower, so Anna used the cracked sink.
She just ran the cold water, rubbed it over her naked body, dried herself
with a towel, then put her clothes on. She didn't use deodorant,
but her body had a sweet smell. Her mother disapproved of perfume
and make-up, so Anna, when she had put on her clothes, had only to comb
her hair, which fell to above her waist, shining like gold in the sunlight
beaming in on her back.
When Anna tightened the belt on her dress, she was something to see.
She thought of her dream, about God's light shining upon her.
In her dream, that light made her feel good, but now it disturbed her.
It always did when she'd wakened.
Shivering, she opened the door and walked out of the bedroom.
Her mother Beth was in the kitchen, frying up ham and eggs, staring
down grimly at the frying pan, as if at an enemy. Her grey hair
was pinned up and her skin was brown and wrinkled, making her look older
than she was. Yet when she heard Anna come in, she raised her
eyes and broke into a smile that lit up the room. 'Mornin', honey,'
you sleep well? You didn't have bad dreams?'
Anna lied. 'I didn't. I feel really fine, Ma.'
grabbed a plate, flipped the ham and eggs onto it. 'Here,' she said,
dragging her clubfoot across the floor and placing the plate on the
table, 'eat it all up. A growin' girl needs her nourishment.'
get fat,' Anna said, pulling a chair out while Beth sat down at the
other side of the table and grabbed her packet of cigarets. 'Fried
food is unhealthy.'
a treat,' Beth replied, lighting a cigaret and blowing smoke sideways.
'You don't get fried food that often. Besides, the Nicholson women
aren't fat. We're all thin as reeds. It's your family inheritance.'
radio was playing country & western music that filled Anna with
fine feelings as she had her breakfast. For someone so nervous,
she had a surprisingly healthy appetite and always enjoyed the first
meal of the day.
'A real scorcher,' Beth said, gazing sideways, out the window.
'It's gonna be hot as hell out there. Sun's bin up for a long
Anna glanced out. She saw the rusty gas pumps and desolate flatlands
stretching out to the horizon. Nothing out there but parched earth
and sky. The sun was a fierce, shimmering orb; the sky looked
like sheet metal. 'I like it hot,' Anna observed. 'It makes my
body feel whole.'
'Never mind your body,' Beth replied firmly. 'Let others think
about that. You just try to stay sensible.'
didn't reply. She didn't know what her mother meant. She
just finished off her eggs and scooped up the gravy with some bread.
The coffee tasted real good, as well.
blew a cloud of smoke, sucked her breath in with a sigh. 'Trinity,
Wyoming,' she said. 'The end of the earth! I haven't had
one customer this morning. They don't even need gas here.'
real early, Ma.'
honey, I know. I get up too early for my own good, and that makes
the day seem long. Then I look out my window, at that little ol'
gas station, and I think the only thing worse than actually living in
Trinity is having to live on the edge of town. You know what I
like it,' Anna replied, licking her fingers as if wanting to eat them.
'I've always liked being alone. Some folks just make me nervous.'
Beth didn't reply to that. She thought it best to skirt the subject.
Sighing again, she gazed out the window, where the sunlight was brightening.
The noise of the flies buzzing in the kitchen blended in with the music.
'Well,' she said, 'at least something excitin' is comin' to town at
Reverend Juble Lee revivalist tent?'
honey, that's right. He's really taken this whole state by storm,
so I can't wait to see him. The Lord be praised, he might do this
town some good, and that can't be a bad thing.'
never been to a revivalist meetin'.'
gonna take you, honey. They came around a lot when I was a kid,
but there aren't many these days. Reverend Juble Lee... they say
he's the best there's bin in years, so it should be excitin'.
Gimme that old time religion, honey. Get them tambourines rattlin'.'
Anna pushed her plate away, sat back in her chair, then glanced distractedly
around the room. The kitchen and living room were one, untidy
but clean, as spartan as Beth's sun-dried face and her piled-up grey
hair. There were photographs on the walls, as old and brown as
the curtains, of Beth's mother and father, born and died in this state,
though surprisingly there were none of Anna's dad, who'd disappeared
a long time ago. The only photo of her dad was the wedding picture
of him and Beth, now resting on the table in Anna's room. It gave
her comfort to see it there.
doin' anything today?'
Beth said, 'we're goin' to town. We've got to get us some shopping.'
She pushed her chair back, stood up, and dragged her clubfoot across
the bare wooden floor to turn off the radio. A news announcer
was talking about the latest drought in Wyoming and how it was devastating
the economy. Beth cut him off in mid-sentence. 'I can't
stand the news these days,' she said. 'No news is good news.'
stood up to start clearing the table. She didn't like the idea
of going to town and felt nervous again. 'What about the pumps?'
she asked hopefully. 'What if somebody comes by? Don't you
want me to stay here?'
hell with 'em,' Beth said. 'No-one from Trinity travels far, so
they can come back this afternoon.'
prefer to stay here,' Anna said, thinking of hungry eyes that turned
and stared. 'I think I should look after the pumps while you get
need someone to help me carry it,' Beth said, 'so you best come along.
What's the matter? You suddenly don't feel good?'
don't like going to town.' Anna was almost whispering. 'I
don't like the way the boys stare at me. It makes me uncomfortable.'
because you're so beautiful,' Beth said, ' and boys their age like that.
You'll just have to get used to it.'
makes me feel naked. They also stare as if I'm some kind of freak.
couldn't get the words out, so Beth said it for her. 'It's because
you're sick, Anna. You might as well admit it. You're beautiful
- but you're also sick, which is something they can't forget.
They want you and they're frightened of you as well. You'll have
to always be careful, child.'
let me stay here, Ma.'
came around the table, dragging her clubfoot. When she stopped
in front of Anna, her eyes, which were as blue as her daughter's, narrowed
she said. 'You're comin' with me. You can't hide all the
time. Your beauty is as much a penance as your illness, but you'll
have to learn to live with it. Damn the boys in town! To
hell with their rotten fathers! You're my daughter and you'll
hold your head high for as long as I breathe. Now is that understood?'
'Yes, Ma,' Anna said. She nodded, her lovely gaze troubled, then
started cleaning the table. The sun shining through the window warmed
her face and she saw it as God's light.
© W.A.Harbinson March 2005
I'm an Irish novelist with a long track record in transAtlantic fiction,
but this small (60,000-words) novel, THE BLOOD OF THE LORD, is
something of a departure from my normal work and was written without
a contract for that reason.
First Chapters here
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