“for the first time in his life, he felt peace washing over him”
The Storey continues…
My dad was a writer…
I'm just a guy who puts too many words on the internet…
After writing out my thoughts, fears, and dreams over the past decade, I've finally decided to participate in #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for those who do not partake. Every November writers, some of us aspiring authors set a personal goal of turning out a 50,000-word document if not a full novel in 30 days.
I thought it would be a good way to build a more structured writing habit complete with accountability partners in NaNo buddies. It's almost like AA but for writers and you can drink as much as you want. Ok, I've never been to Alcoholics Anonymous nor have I ever written a novel, but none of us truly know what lies ahead, do we?
There's a short story (historical fiction) my dad wrote and published titled – "The Virgin", It's about a Buffalo Soldier named Gospel Storey stationed at Fort Quitman, TX in 1880. The title refers to the Guadalupe Mountains (home to the highest point in Texas), and stories about a silhouette of – La Virgen de Guadalupe visible in the rock-faced peaks…
My current writing project is expanding that character – "Gospel Storey”. Telling the story of his life before and after his time in West Texas. How he now lives to reconcile the horrible things he's done in the past while yearning to live a life of peace, with the harsh realities of his present situation as a black man in the late 19th century…
I really wish my dad had the capacity to comprehend what he's inspired me to do. Alzheimer's has robbed us of everything that we used to do together. He was one of the only people in my life who really took the time to understand me.
I've posted an excerpt from my WIP titled - Gospel Storey further below, and a link to my dad's original short story - The Virgin is included in this week's featured articles.
He's still here, he just doesn't know who the fuck he is, and I'm left with a few of his old spiral notebooks.
My dad kept a spiral notebook full of ideas, plots, & questions, but a lot I’ll have to come up with on my own…
There’s a big difference between writing, and “putting too many words on the internet”. Of course, the internet wasn’t really a thing when my dad did the bulk of his writing.
Anyway, imposter syndrome keeps me in a constant state of anxiety, as I research and compile notes to adapt one of my dad’s short stories into a novel.
Now and then, I get a burst of creativity and things just start to click, until they don’t… I’m left staring at not even half-completed works, waiting to become a story to be told. Transmuting doubt… Longing to become, “sweet tears of recognition”.
💬 In this week's issue:
- The Virgin – “For the first time in his life, he felt peace washing over him”
- I still wanna be able to help somebody – “A creative writer of prose and poetry”
- Writing a Photograph – Pay attention to the world.
- Gospel Storey - NaNo draft excerpt
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— by Clarence Giles
No one seemed to notice Mackey’s angry snarl, and Gospel felt a weight of mourning leak from his heart as he lifted his head toward the image of the Virgin. His doubt dissolved into sweet tears of recognition, and for the first time in his life, he felt peace washing over him. He knew then life would be different, and breaking away from the patrol, he rode toward the mountains, leaving Mackey shouting behind him.
I still wanna be able to help somebody…
Exactly one year had passed since the first time he forgot who I was. That event would change my life and start me on a path of discovery reconciling emotion, and grief and ultimately healing and fulfillment through my writing, prose, and poetry.
I usually don’t. I don’t run my mouth like this ordinarily, talking to people. I guess, but what I’m trying to do is just, let people know that I. I care about em. And uh, even though I look like I’m going to do more than just one little, one little thing… I still wanna be able to help somebody.
— CRG (Clarence Roland Giles) My dad.
Gospel Storey - NaNo draft excerpt
The child’s body had been shrouded in elk skin, his face painted yellow with corn pollen.
He died in the early morning, and now as the sun began to disappear into the valley, his father was taking stock of the landscape.
All was covered with the dust of the desert southwest, as it was embedded upon every crease of his sun-ripened and melanated skin. Everything it touched became indistinguishable as time, wore and withered the edges of the often fertile valley.
His wife’s ancestors had traversed this area long before the Spanish passed through more than 300 years ago.
An oasis of respite from the harsh desert to the south, the east, and the west. From where they stood, traveling north could be considered the most favorable route, but only after, la jornada de muerto – “the journey of death”.
Mesquite, mescal bean, & cottonwood, spaced only by hardened soil. Now in some spots, especially those unreachable by the shade provided by sparse leaves of the cottonwood trees. The dirt curled up in perfectly even and sun-dried squares, where the water had risen and then receded again too quickly to be of any use to the reeds content not to grow beyond the banks of the Rio Grande.
He thought that it shouldn’t be so quiet. Of course, It must be the time of day. Only a few hours earlier, the songs of redwing blackbirds would have filled the void that was now an eery silence, broken. A Chihuahuan raven cawed above their heads as if she were speaking directly to them, a tribute in solidarity for a kindred soul gone too soon.
He would remember where he was buried, although he had been instructed not to, and reluctantly agreed. His intent to honor the customs of his wife and child, who he knew had a stronger connection to the land under their feet than he had ever felt as a forgotten son of his ancestor's homeland, was already a broken promise lost to grief.
He sought a mark among the cottonwoods he would surely remember, except they were everywhere. All along the banks of the river. Until, a tell in an inviting branch that stuck out like the swing he had built for him on the front porch.
“That’s the one, Wolf”.
He reached under his chin to feel the scarred skin on his neck, an ever-present reminder of how much he should hate himself. Lest he forgot, the driver had made sure to remind him daily. Even before the day that the Master’s son killed his Pa, and beyond the day the overseer gave him his mark. It was his fault then. It was his fault now.
He was numb, and his head felt light and full at the same time. All those years ago, while stationed at Fort Quitman, he had been told that praying was easy.
And when he spoke to la Virgen de Guadalupe, it was almost as if he could see her face, listening intently with a look of grace and salvation that always made him feel better.
Only, It wasn’t working now.
Surely, she knew. Anybody who looked at him knew.
He had called upon borrowed faith when there was nowhere else to turn, all while abandoning any effort to restore what was rightfully his. Sacred rituals and sacraments passed down from generation to generation through story and song. All of it is cast aside along with the blood and flesh of his people.
Who were his people?
He wasn’t sure he knew.
True freedom was the only thing that seemed further away than, Angola? Still, he wasn’t sure if he heard that before or was making it up.
As much as he wanted, everything that matters now to be all that was in front of him, he couldn’t help but feel judgments cold reach grasping to call him home away from this life.
He felt, ready.
And now, he couldn’t pray once more. The silence in his head was deafening. His body leaned forward, and his legs buckled at the knees as if the breeze had ushered him into a station to receive penance. He knelt, and he wept.
A cool wind whistled through the mesquite as it traveled to the south and east.
“Should be blowin' west”, he thought.
West was the prevailing wind direction for this area of the Chihuahuan Desert, at least until fall.
The air was cooler now.
The sound of the wind was eclipsed by the wailing sounds of the woman who called him, Tsét'soyé. So much time he spent trying to get her to say, “Gospel”. Still, he was her Bear, and she, his Owl.
She had knelt a few feet from the small grave beside him while his face had been buried in his hands as he wept.
The knife she held was privileged to more stories than they had ever spoken to one another. The stone blade was with her on the day they met in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains, in West Texas. It would have one more story had it not been for a divine intervention.
Today, it was this same blade that she abruptly cut her hair with, and was now without ceremony being used by her hand to slice into the flesh below her left eye as she continued to wail.
Within arm's reach, he did not touch nor console her. It smelled of rust, her blood on the desert wind.
He called her name.
“Nascha… It’s time to go”, said Gospel.
Her fingers clenched the wooden handle tightly as she pushed her fists down into the earth to lift herself up. She turned to face the mountains and started walking.
As he rose, his eye surveyed the river bank one last time.
“I reckon, I’ll be seeing you again, Wolf.”
Gospel turned to follow his wife as they began their journey, home.
He would remember the cottonwood.
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Writing a Photograph
My wife and I got to take a trip to Napa, California this year for our 18th wedding anniversary. The Napa Valley Wine Train was a really cool experience. Is the glass half full, or completely empty? 🥂
It was a nice change of pace to be able to slow down and pay attention to the world. I came back refreshed and ready to create, ready to write.
This week, socially speaking
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