Took my fiction students to the art gallery today. The object was to search the exhibit for inspiration of some sort. I always work with my students, grabbing a little time with the page when I can. Here’s what I found, rough certainly, but a doorway:
The executor was older than Gregory’s father had been, a hunched, compact man with fingers nearly too gnarled to hold the magnifying glass he used to read the thick pages of the will. Really, Gregory thought, what sort of paper had they used? Parchment? Sheepskin? The ink had been scratched into tiny letters; the words themselves were scrunched and cramped, like the footprints of insects. The executor cleared his throat in a long, moist gargle as if he was about to speak, but he did not speak. His mouth hung open and whatever bile or decay that had been coring this thin old man from the inside wafted through his lips and into the room. He lost his grip on the magnifying class and it fell with a thud onto the will. He made some noise–a groan? some invective?–to indicate disappointment and the set to pick up his tool. On his forehead, a small dot of blood sat like a third eye. It was most certainly an irritated spot on the old man’s skin that he’d scratched until it bled, but Gregory found himself imagining that through this third eye, his dead father could see clearly into the room, and thus into his own guitly heart.
His sister was there, too–Victoria–Vicky or Tory depending on whether or not her father was present; Vicky was the innocent, the perpetually virginal, naive, and devoted daughter; Tory, whom she claimed was an extension of her torrid side, was loose, an immoral woman who’d loathed her father. She’d always been Vicky to their father and despite the few moments of Tory that had slipped through her mask, and for which her father had chastised her and for which she’s dutifully acted the penitent, he’d died thinking of her as this quiet and meek thing. What would his father think now, Gregory thought, seeing Tory in this office in her low-cut blouse and skirt above her knee? What would he see through his crimson portal in the executive’s forehead?
They’d not brought their mother of course, for she was incapable of leaving her bed and incapable, so far as anyone knew, of remembering anything and hadn’t even recognized their father for nearly two years except for one time that she sat upright in her bed and said, Randall?–which wasn’t his father’s name, but some other man’s, some other memory that she’d secreted away, presumably from her childhood, before she met and became engaged to her husband at seventeen–but then said, No, not Randall, but Peter, dear Peter, and her face had softened into a smile–a generous smile according his father, because neither Gregory nor Victoria had been present–and they’d both enjoyed this final and fleeting moment of lucidity. Gregory had been to see his mother the day before and she’d not woken at all during his visit, merely slept without moving in exactly the same position she’d been sleeping in the last time he visited, and she remained the same, near-translucent ghost that she’d been now for–how long? Years? Even trying to remember his younger mother, the woman more vivid in photographs than actual experience had become a futile exercise. Her oldness, the tough, wrinkled knot of her body, blotted out decades of his memory.
The executor had regained control of the magnifying glass and was holding it in front of the paper. The bloody eye on his forehead pulsed due to his exertions. His breathing was labored too, as if he’d been climbing stairs. His body shook so badly from palsy that Greg was unsure how he’d ever got his clothes on or prepared himself to leave the house. He must have started dressing at an ungodly hour–or had perhaps dressed the night before. He wore a dark suit with an enormous collar and a white shirt yellowed at the cuffs and down the long row of buttons. His tie was intricately knotted. Beneath his jacket suit jacket cuffs peeked a pair of gold cufflinks. It was suddenly clear to Gregory that these were the only clothes the man wore, that there could have been no way that he could have removed them. Whatever body lay under the fabrics–and Gregory wasn’t even sure there was a body, nothing that one might call a body anyway–was fused with the stitching and the cloth. Undressing the executor would reveal not a naked body, but the innards of the man himself, his faulty, pitiful heart and gasping, starved lungs. But the eye? There was some devilish aliveness there, some demonic agency that gave the executor more power than his powdery body deserved. His head floated about the jacket collar, seemingly disconnected from any neck, just hanging there, jittering this way and that. Your father…he said in a voice so dry that it made Gregory thirsty. Goodness, Victoria said, startled by the rooms sudden aridness. Both Gregory and his sister sat up straight and listened and the executor began the reading of the will.
(Fun to write, but then class was over and I had to get home… I hope to develop this little beginning into something at some point.)