Mausoleum

Good morning/afternoon, you wonderful internet people.

Today we have another chapter from my work in progress, The Genealogies. As always, comments are welcome.

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Every Sunday right before July 20th—or July 20th itself if it fortuitously fell on a Sunday—Marcelo and Carlos and Lexie would gather at Mamá’s house early in the morning. They would all bundle into one car and drive the few blocks to her church. There was always a debate as to who would drive. As Lexie usually had the worst car, she mercifully was excluded. Carlos preferred larger SUV’s, so the family normally decided on his car, which he took with a resigned equanimity, being used, as the oldest child, to doing the yeoman’s work in the family. Marcelo never understood why there was such a hubbub every year. Oftentimes he would offer to drive, just to keep peace; their mother, however—who had never owned a car nor in fact had ever learned how to drive—always preferred going in Carlos’ truck, both for the roominess, and because customarily he drove slowly and carefully when she was in the car, figuring that the path of least resistance led to Paradise, or at least to calm with Mamá. Marcelo, also customarily, though he never drove more speedily than normal, also never changed his driving habits simply because one person or the other was in his car. This included Mamá.

“You’re going to give me a thrombosis,” she would say almost always when she would get into the car with him. Marcelo would meet that with the frustrated grunt and the eye-roll he had perfected as a teenager.

On that day, or near about it, they had their yearly appointment to hear a Mass for the dead. Every year Mamá would arrange for Papá’s name to be mentioned in the Spanish 10 a.m. Mass when the priest asked the congregation to remember the recently and not-so-recently departed, dear or otherwise. Carlos—father, ex-husband, all-around decent fellow despite his torture of Marcelo when younger—would bow his tall, slightly stooped frame when that portion of the Mass would arrive—not so much out of religious conviction, but out of filial duty. Lexie always glanced discretely at Mamá to make sure that her eyes were cast down, and then allow her gaze to wander, taking in the parishioners, some dressed in Sunday finery, others in backwards baseball caps and shorts reaching down below their knees. Mamá would let out a phantom sob at the point in the Mass when the priest read Papá’s name. Marcelo would stare straight ahead throughout most of the service, normally not glancing left or right, his eyes fixed on the priest, the altar-servers (no longer altar boys as they had been as recently as his youth, no, girls could now serve the Mass, which, while he considered it to be commendable, he also considered it to miss the broader point of sexual politics in the Church) the altar, the looming, bloody crucifix that seemed to always exude a pain and suffering that taunted the worshipper, diminishing him or her to the kind of insignificance one sometimes feels upon considering the vastness of the universe and the paucity of the self. That morbid iconography always left an impression on him that nothing anyone ever did would quite measure up to that sacrifice on a gnarled tree, and he resented the fruitlessness it suggested. Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? He had concluded that any religion which posited that salvation was available only through adherence to a beaten and bloodied figure was not one for him. Yet, every year, there he would be, in the pew, kneeling, sitting, standing, genuflecting, even going up to receive the Host. As with his driving, it was a hard-wired habit.

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Ties which bind

I had dinner with my ex-sister-in-law, M, last week. My wife has been helping her once or twice a week since she returned from caring for her father. M invited us for a meal, and of course we accepted.

I’ve known her since before she and my brother married in the mid-eighties. I visited them in 1984 for the L.A. Olympics. It was awesome, because they both worked, so I was left to my own devices during the day. (I didn’t do much. I mostly spent the time watching the various Olympic events on ABC. Being a 14 year old visitor to Los Angeles in 1984 before light rail and subways didn’t lend itself to getting into trouble.) From the moment we met, she didn’t treat me as her fiance’s little brother, but as a human being in my own right, whose opinions and feelings were as important as her own.

She and my brother divorced at the break of the millennium. The breakup forms a chapter in my novel The Genealogies. And it was this chapter which I sent to her last week.

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A taste of my novel

So, my previous blog, Novels in Progress, was supposed to be a virtual fiction workshop, where I posted my novel and got feedback. I soon realized that this might not be the best idea, if I wanted to actually publish. So, I’m not going to post every chapter of The Genealogies on this brand spanking new blog either. But, for a Sunday diversion, here’s the first chapter, “Opening” (with a nod towards Philip Glass for the title).

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