Monday, February 18, 2008

My Father's sword

This is a short story I'm working on for my Writer's Workshop Class. I don't know how far I want to tkae it, but I think I want Manny's father to visit him a few more times. Feedback would be appreciated. And remember, this is till a pretty rough first copy. Thanks!

Those hooves, those hammering, ruthless hooves pounding down, down, down. I cursed the dust, clogging the air, hiding everything but those hooves and the occasional flash of color from a glimpse of my father’s costume. A pulsing heat was invading the left side of my face, casting a blurred shine to everything I saw. I was running, all calls of warning missing my ears completely. I was surrounded by a silence ounctured only by my own racing heartbeats. I reached my father just as the handlers got the bull penned, his body surprisingly straight, lying still on the ground. I knelt and gripped his hand, staring, my eyes desperately trying to suck a sign of movement from his chest. His mouth moved, and a whisper penetrated the deafening drumbeat emanating from my chest.
“Manny.” My name gurgled past his lips. I leaned in closer. “I love you.”
“Papa, don’t go! Please-" Another thundering whisper cut me off.
“Please, son. Just listen. Take care of your mother. Treat her like the goddess she is.” A rivulet of blood crawled out of the corner of his mouth. “Remember to live with passion, as I taught you. We are Spain.” He coughed, sending another crimson snake slithering out of the other side of his mouth. “I will always be with you.” The medics were there, trying to take my father from me, trying to pull his hand from mine. I couldn’t let go. It took three men to separate me from my father. I didn’t scream. Not with my mouth. I just stood there, listening to the agonized, tortured symphony bursting from my heart, the blood of my shattered soul leaking from the corners of my eyes. The hilt of my father’s sword was burning in my other hand, welded to my fist.

That was when I woke up. I didn’t wake up suddenly, or all at once. Tears were still slipping down my face as I pulled out of my slumber. Every night I had gone back. Every night, I was back to that moment. Stuck, reliving those moments when my father had been ripped from my life. The cut on my face was burning as though it had reopened, and I brushed my fingertips over the scar, a raised pink line sitting on my cheekbone. I didn’t need to look at the clock. I knew I had awakened at the same time as every night before, and that there were still a good 4 hours before daylight would even consider coming. I turned over in my bed, not wanting to let sleep take me back. I started school tomorrow, and I knew that I needed to sleep. But I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t close my eyes. I sat up and turned on my lamp. Reaching into the gap between my bed and the wall, I pulled it out. It had become part of me in those moments when I watched the EMT’s covering my father on the stretcher and hoisting him into the Ambulance, the hearse that drove my father away. I pulled it out of the scabbard, staring at the light that danced along its edge. I pulled off my covers, and got up. An idea had struck me, and I started rummaging through one of the many unpacked boxes sitting of the floor of my room. I found what I was looking for, and sat on the edge of my bed.
As I opened the cleaning kit, I thought back to when Papa and I used to clean his sword, both before and after his fights. We talked about everything, school, sports, especially bullfighting, and simply about life in general. It was a time when just the 2 of us were together, and we weren’t just father and son. During those times, we were friends and equals. I would tell him about girls at school, or things that bothered me, and he would tell me about work, stories about when he was my age, and about things he and Mom did when they were younger. I started running the oiled cloth over the blade, and a few leftover tears began to leak out again. One hit the handle, but I ignored it.
“You know, saltwater isn’t good for the blade.” The voice wasn’t mine, and I looked up, startled. “Over here, son.” It came again. I looked at the end of my bed, and saw my father, sitting there in his matador costume, clean and whole, but still surrounded by that shiny blur he had had when I held him in the ring.
“Papa?” I decided that I was in another dream, and hoped that this one wouldn’t turn into another nightmare. “You’re gone Papa. What are you doing here?”
“Obviously you need me more now than heaven does.” His reply was soft, and warm, but tinged slightly with a wistfulness that I understood more deeply than anything I had before.
“You’re not real, are you?” It wasn’t completely a question, but not a statement either.
“It doesn’t matter whether I am or not. You need me, and I told you I’d always be with you.” He came over closer to me. “I’m not a ghost, or an angel really. Now what’s going on?”
“I can’t sleep, Dad.” I kept cleaning the sword as I spoke, and it was just like it used to be. “I keep seeing you die, over and over. I miss you.” The tears threatened to return, but I held them in.
“Did I ever tell you about the day my father died?” He hadn’t, and I realized then that he had only been a few years older than I was now. “I wasn’t there, because I was resting from a fight I had just finished. I rushed out, and rode with the ambulance that took him to the hospital. I kept wondering, asking myself, why couldn’t I have stopped it.”
“Dad, you weren’t even near him or the bull. There was nothing you could have done.” And it was my fault in the first place that you fell. If I hadn’t gotten hit by that rock…
“Manny, I know that. But grief does things. For weeks, I blamed myself, dumb though it was. I kept seeing him under the bull, or gored by the bull, or lying broken on the field. I told myself, if only I’d been there, if I’d been one of his lancers. It was his only match that I’d missed, and all because I was too damn tired to go watch it.”
“Dad? Do you still think it was your fault?” Because it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t been there. He hadn’t gotten hurt and made his father trun away from the bull, hand’t made him trip and get trampled and trampled, and trampled…I had finished clening the sword, and was sliding it back into its sheath as sobs ibrated my body. I couldn’t lok at my father. Suddenly I felt his hand on my head.
“Manny, you have school soon. You need to sleep.” I felt him gently pull back my covers, and laid down. The blankets slid over me, and I heard his voice, softly singing an old Spanish lullaby that he had sung me to sleep with until I was seven years old. The last thing I felt before I dissolved into sleep was his kiss on my head. I wasn’t crying anymore. The next morning I awoke, refreshed, and the memory of my dream was clear in my head. I got up, and my foot brushed the cleaning kit, neatly packed up and laying beside the sword. I knew at the moment, that whether it had been reality or not, my father had been with me last night.
School in Seattle, Washington isn’t that much different from school in Toledo, Spain. You get a shorter time for lunch, and the classes have different names, but it’s the same stuff. It was hard, being in a place so far from what I had known and grown up with, all my old friends far away, and not knowing anyone here. But I got through my morning classes without anything going hugely wrong.

1 comment:

lilitron said...

hey! I really like this piece. It has a lot of emotion in it, and the setting and whole, bullfighter idea is really unique. It gives the story more depth. However, I was really confused at the beginning and it took me a while to figure out everything the first time I read it. Maybe drop a few more hints about his dad's occupation, or give more detail about his costume or something. Bullfighting is something practically nobody really knows about. (at least I don't) so work more of that into the dream? I dunno. You're definetely a much better short shoryist than I. I like essays. But anyway, I loved it. And I'll add more to my wannabe song:) love ya!