On the Front Stair
by Dan
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Maurice Ravel - "Bolero" [Buy]

Dear Son,

I hope this letter finds you well. As I write this, the air is clear and cold, like spring water. The broadbeaks and the sparrowlarks have returned to the tips of still-bare branches, and we're all a little better for it. And a little worse, mind, given the racket they make in the morning, and sometimes I fear they'll give us away to the enemy. The sky is still, like a lake at dawn, except for their chirping. This morning I ate my applesauce with my finger because yesterday even the clinking of the spoon against the tin would set off their nonsense. Nice, though, to look at. And the way the grass ripples like the earth were shivering at the thought of another summer. Terrain like you've never seen. Like home, only more like the home you see in your dreams: bright colours, rolling hills, white clay houses with thatched roofs. Thatched roofs, boy, what a century this is!

I've enclosed this picture of your mother and I, as we're no longer in safe enough territory for it to stay with me. Don't show it to her. Keep it for yourself, in your drawer, or throw it away. Think of it like that story I told you about when I was thirteen and met a girl from Braybush; a little golden secret, like a lone beetle or a pet ant. I'm not as young as I once was and the promises I've made add up to the equivalent of being put in stocks in the town square. But a happier man I could not be, son.

Ah, son, I long for the warm bright days of last August when we were all together, riding that automobile at the fair. I think I've figured out a way to bring automobiles to our feet, but I won't write it here, as they screen the letters. I'll say only that it will take a real man to maneuver this invention, so I know your knobbly-kneed friend won't be using it anytime soon. I like that young man, but I don't trust him, you see. If he were here right now, I wouldn't turn my back on him, that's sure. Not for a second. Not even to lower my head to see what I was writing. I'd write whilst looking him dead in the eye.

I've seen so many wonderful things on my trip, boy. Things you'd never imagine. All the giants and monsters you've read about in Uncle Gilbert's old books are real, by God. Not a word of a lie, I shot a monster as tall as the bell tower at St. Bazin's yesterday! Not before he killed three of our men, though. I came up behind him in the fray, we had him pincered, see, in the front yard of this poor farmer whose house and daughter were flattened, and shot him right in his ass. Right in his ass, boy! Think of it! Grampap never thought of such a thing when he was killing cows, did he? Oh, I'm laughing right now, if you could only see. You can probably see the spittle stains on the paper, those are from laughter. Emotions run high here, lad, make no mistake. You may be laughing hard at what I wrote, and that's fine, but it's nothing compared to out here. Where tears and hugs are the blinks and breaths of my old life. Around every corner a monster, over every horizon a beast. Death hovers like a spit-rain cloud, and there's no telling if some blasted warlock will curse one of your men into monsterhood, or if their transformation hasn't already begun. I took a swing at Lloyd Linton three nights ago, when I thought his shadow looked bigger than it ought to, but it was only the dusk playing its tricks. I haven't apologised yet, and we haven't spoken. Silence is a swimming hole that we all go down to once a day, contemplating whether to jump in or stay on the shore. I've been skin-dipping with many, but merely watching with others. I'll apologise tomorrow, if he looks deserving. No matter, he's a weak ropesman anyway, and the next Wolfwind or Bridgehawk will certainly do him in and I won't have to worry about it.

When I get home, son, I'll give you my gun. It's so powerful, it shoots for miles! I caught a Batchet from what must have been 30 paces. Sure, it's a mere Batchet, but that's working alone, my boy. When I get home, boy, that's not the only thing I'll give you. I'll give you a hug strong enough to snap your neck, though by that time you'll probably be twice my size, and a kiss sweet enough to rot the teeth out of your head. I'll take you to market, if it's still standing, and we'll get whatever season's fruit, and bushels of it! We'll eat raspberries like nothing ever happened. Like I didn't ever send half of a town's sons as bait to the wrong side of Firecrest Forest, or laid out my childhood chum like so much chunked meat for a Hoggish to devour, and run screaming in the other direction. Like I never tossed a woman's newborn babe to the mouths of a pack of bloodthirsty Mangecats to show them we were not a threat. Or stole the ration pouches of every man in the brigade, only to cry and confess the next morning, covered in palm extract paste. I'm not proud of these things, son, but may the Lord suck the blood from your eyes if you judge me for it. It's lawless out here, this is a new kind of nation. Don't be scared for your father, boy, I'm fighting for what's right, and no matter what happens, that's what's important. If I didn't do this, they would get you, these hideous beasts, and your mother too. And ol' Tippy, in Braybush. I think about her sometimes, boy, when I'm killing. Don't tell your mother. I'll hack off a jaw or a snout (for food, see) of some horrible urchin, and I'll think about her beautiful face, still fifteen years old. I'm not afraid anymore, boy, not of anything. And I'm too old now to be wrong.

Give the four fenceposts a kiss for me, for luck, and say the rosary before every meal, even today. Get the shovel from my tools and dig a trench in the shape of a heart around the house. I'm afraid I won't recognise it when I come back, and that will tell me for certain. I can feel myself growing stronger, as I finish this letter, boy. I know a brighter tomorrow will make brighter these todays, which will so soon be yesterdays. And may God keep us all on the path, the track, to Heaven.

Heave ho!

- Da

Posted by Dan at June 1, 2007 2:33 AM

This is the world I want to live in.

Posted by marc at June 1, 2007 4:15 AM

I like this..very much
Thankyou (once again)

Posted by Katharine at June 1, 2007 5:54 AM


Posted by Karin S. at June 1, 2007 2:47 PM

excellent indeed

Posted by Dave at June 1, 2007 2:52 PM

This has crippled me for the rest of the day.

Bravo, as always.

Posted by Altman E. at June 1, 2007 4:32 PM

I can't even express how this makes me feel. Unbelievable. Wow.

Posted by Lou at June 1, 2007 6:37 PM

I can't even express how this makes me feel. Unbelievable. Wow.

Posted by Lou at June 1, 2007 6:44 PM

The American poet Hart Crane would play "Bolero" at high volume while writing; part of the reason Allen and Sharon Tate kicked him out of their house.

Posted by Michael Quirk at June 1, 2007 9:17 PM

Wow. Excellent post. Like LeBron's 48 point game!(didyouseethat?>)

Posted by Miguel at June 1, 2007 9:40 PM

If I could only read an extract more each day, every morning would be a brisk awakening. Fantastic. And thank you.

Posted by Mike at June 3, 2007 3:39 PM

this is amazing.
Clarify loves you.


Posted by Girlface at June 3, 2007 11:54 PM

I played that in high school wind ensemble. Years ago.

Posted by Taryn at June 5, 2007 10:36 PM

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