The Writing Disorder


New Fiction


by Susan Dale

      David, the Cherokee son, became distracted by dainty footsteps he heard hurrying his way. He turned to see a young Vietnamese girl rushing over to him. Her long, dark hair was flying behind her and she was covered from head to toe in rustic stone jewelry.
      She called to him, “Mister Westerner, wait, please wait.”
      “Whoa!“ He stopped still and she almost ran into him.
      He smiled down at her and she skidded to a flustered stop; she quickly looked down. His height, chiseled features, and vague smile spun her heart in a tailspin. She felt it fluttering wildly, and it was a time before she could muster the courage to bring her head up and face him.
      In a playful mood he waited, and when she looked up, his smile broadened. Blushing, she quickly looked down again.
      He wondered why she was layered with jewelry. Stones and beads covered her petite body ... ankle bracelets on both legs, and arms to elbows circled with bracelets. Neck to waist hung with necklaces, and many jade belts were buckled around her waist. Even her head was wrapped and draped with hairpieces. Amulets were pinned in her hair, and one of them was slipping down over her eyes.
      Smiling, he lifted the beads from her forehead and said, “What is this?”
      When he lifted the amulet from her face, the girl reddened to blushing fits; she looked down to hide them. He waited until slowly, hesitantly, she lifted her head for David to see her wide-eyed with blushing cheeks.
      She stammered a sales pitch. “You, you, will you, you wanna buy beads; beads of me?”
      He laughed- “What would I do with beads?”
      “For wife; for girlfriend?”
      “Neither, nor. And no cash, err- no dong. I am afraid you picked a poor candidate to buy your jewelry.“
      “No dong?” Her mouth formed a circle of dismay. ”How you live? How you eat? Where is protection in the night?”
      He shrugged. “I just go along; catch something; fish, wild pig; pick some berries. But if all else fails, I will take up residence beside the mountain man who begs. Depend, as does he, on the mercy of monks.”
      “Monks have much mercy, but you cannot beg.“
      Already, she felt herself enamored of the Cherokee son, and getting braver and bolder because of it. She struggled to include him in her day.
      “You can come,” she began, then firmed up her tone. “You come to Buddhists’ soup kettle. You come. Every afternoon we bring vegetables; we bring fish. We add to monks’ soup. We eat together: a friendly time. You welcome.”
      “I am on a journey,” he said in words, that even as he said them, he wondered where they were coming from.
      “Am I on a journey? I thought that I was running away from the MP’s.” Lines of confusion settled on his face.
      “To where you go?”
      “Somewhere,” he replied slowly, vaguely.
      It seemed to the Cherokee son that his words were taking over his intentions. “But I’m about to leave, ” he added in a half-hearted way.
      And as uncertain as he was, she was certain that he must stay. Pushing back the jade amulet, again slipping down her forehead, she said, “But you must eat before you go on sacred journey. If you eat with monks they bless travels.”
      Laughing, he said, “A sacred journey, is it? You know more about where I am going than do I. I will stay then and see what else I can discover.”

                                                                                           * * * * * *

       He journeyed through the night; zigzagging around planets and moons. Blinded by the suns on the other side of tomorrow, he felt the universe expanding with deep breaths. He heard it puffing deep to widen a notch into sunrise: more deep breaths followed to expand into the tides of tomorrow. Across space he traversed, stars lighting his way; tiers upon tiers of stars. He stepped on one and jumped to another. Stars defining space, and space bending into time.
      He jolted up, and in those first awakening moments, he felt that he was being squeezed between dimensions. He took a deep breath to wiggle his way out of his dream dimensions, and enter into the unknown reality of a mountain night.
      But yet and again he felt lost; lost in so many ways. Lost between dimensions. Lost between continents. Lost amongst his loneliness, lost in the darkness of night.
      Most of all he was lost to himself. His eyes caught the faintest of lights, soft and whispering to him, ‘here it is; an opening.’
      He looked to see a faint light coming from the entrance of the cave. The light seemed the beacon to a night of many layers. And like it was the tail of a mouse, he kept pulling at the light until yesterday, and then last night came back to him. And part of his recent past was the Vietnamese girl now lying beside him, amongst her beads and stones, like pebbly flowers scattered around her ivory body.
      Remembering their lovemaking within the cave of the mountain night, his body into hers, he smiled to feel her closeness warming him against the crystalline night. He remembered the both of them coming here, hand in hand, to this cave of sacred spirits; the cave’s sanctity foretold by the mani stones, which were piled at the cave entrance. The stones were inscribed with the sacred symbols that bid the two of them to enter the cave. Upon entering, they saw the cave painted red; red being the favored color of spirits. The spirits watched over them as they entwined in cave embraces that deepened into love-making. And while the two of them were together inside the cave, as close as blood, and as close as the breath of one to the other, and then closer—outside the cave, a faithful follower was turning a wheel of paper petitions and sending them off. The Cherokee son and his Vietnamese lover listened to the creaking of the wheel, and the whir of paper prayers being lifted by the breezes to fly off in rustlings that fluttered throughout the happy village.
      The cave was separated into two caves by a stone wall that ran the length of the cave. On their side of the cave, the mountain daughter whispered endearments to the Cherokee son. And in the other side of the cave, a monk wearing a paper mask, bowed to pray at a stone altar.
      The lovers heard his singing litany: it continued in the background of their reaching and touching in a tenderness that eased the vigil of the Cherokee son, and heightened the passions of the mountain daughter. The monk finished his prayers and left his side of the cave, and the cave lovers fell into sleep.
      Outside the cave a nighttime ritual walked the villagers in a circle; clockwise while keeping their right sides facing the holy center of Buddha. The village incantations drifted through the air in low hums that echoed back and forth across the mountains, and into the spirit cave to become part of the lovers‘ dreams.
      Soon after he awoke, he knew that it was time for him to leave. He turned to cover the girl’s nakedness with her ao-dais. He hunkered on his thighs to tuck her beaded apron around her shoulders. The stone floor was mountain cold, and the cave walls radiated an icy moisture. Up straight he stood then, and was heading for the cave’ opening, when on an impulse, he bent to pick up a good fortune amulet. Because the amulet had been fashioned from the stones of the Buddhist village, he slipped it in his pocket for luck … and for remembrance. He stepped over the beads and over the sleeping girl. Prowling panther-like on padded feet out of the cave opening, he stopped to take short, panting breaths of the thin mountain air. He was hearing a strange music; eerie with notes sounding like the plucking of a harp drifting off to become part of the night. He turned towards the vibrating notes to know that it was the mani rocks that were singing. Because they were inscribed with the sacred mani signs, they were given the grace of songs. Their music sang of wind, and of the timelessness of mountains. It vibrated with echoes and yesterdays. It followed him down the mountain — directly into a mountain night; the night deep and dark. Stars dancing, and the milky way running in rivulets, like candlelight through the skies. And, as it was in his dreams, myriads of shooting stars were burning paths across the darkness; blazing through the wondrous silence of a mountain night to shoot through the skies to come to tomorrow.
      A treacherous journey down; down within the silence of night. Down, and through, and around the mountain rocks. Descending, and looking hard to pick his way through the mountain mist while feeling the wise old eyes of the mountain watching over him in the mist-washed night. The somber moon lighting his way.
      Clutching at the tall shoots of grasses and holding on to the ledges and boulders, he dug his feet into the mountain gravel for leverage. He was laying his path on the mountain of many faces. Around a bend he walked to come to night in its last stages; a thin covering of mist brush-stroking his journey. Night, and the fog slowly being lifted by mountain winds. When he began his journey downwards, he had been so high up on the mountain that he felt he was swirling within the stars.
      Now it seemed as though he was coming down from the stars swirling around his head, to his footfall angling through the mist, and around the rocks to come to the bottom of the mountain. Setting his feet on the gritty sand of the shoreline, he circled to walk the rounded path that hugged a gray lake. Around a curve he strode, and the curve circled him into the powerful winds of whooshes and roars. They churned the clouds into vapors that passed over a somber moon; the moon on its night journey across dreams and stars. He walked on through the night, too buoyant to rest.
      With him now, his memories, his lost loves, and the love left behind in a cave. Taken all together, loves, remembrances and wonder in all of its endless forms— caught time in its outward journey and held it to the gray before dawn.

Susan Dale has over nine pages of credits. She writes regularly for print magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Pegasus and Hudson View. Online she has poems and fiction on Ken * Again, Smoking Poet, Eastown Fiction, and Jerry Jazz Musician, Tryst 3, and Pens On Fire to name a few. On she has flash fictions, short stories, a chapbook, and poems. Mani Stones and Stars is an excerpt from her new book, Search. Another excerpt from Search, Sands Sifting to Infinity will be on the website in their autumn/winter edition.

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