So, November is National Novel Writing month and so I am back to working on mine-- I have snippets (some of which I have included here) from various places in the text, 25 page worth: but I finally took a stab at the opening, as follows:
The Electric Lighthouse
BEFORE THE STORY: LILIA’S REQUEST
The day that Evangaline gave me the book, I did not immediately know what she had handed down to me; all that had been bestowed and buried, all that we would leave behind. After the fires and the ash both fell away, it was no longer her secret to keep. As I finally opened the worn and faded cover on the long train-ride that would carry me away from Maine and my father’s Lighthouse, I felt the weight of the story seep into me. Like my sister’s fear of sadness and her love of the things of flight – and I knew finally what I was supposed to say. And with this book, with its apple green binding, the cracked leather fragile and wrinkled along the folded corners, the pen-knife engraved seals on the cover, I became the caretaker of my father’s story. In the end one might say what you are about to read is, perhaps, more a ghost story than anything else. And there are ghosts here but it is also a story of our castle and the sea.
My father’s castle cannot be found in any book. And those who once knew it, and where it stood have long since died, and the jut of land that it stood upon along that small strip of coast is now called by another name and mostly, it has been reclaimed by the water it was once guard and sentry to. But what I would come to know as my father’s castle did not belong to him either. Nor his grandfather, from whom he had inherited its keep. And this would be the beginning of all the trouble. But we must start before then.
At the age of eleven, Simon Weatherfield lost his mother. It was only a fever and a small cough, she said. Then one day as she was bringing in the cows from pasture, she died in the fields, watching the first snow of the year come across the White Mountains. The doctors said she had been born with an enlarged heart and looking directly into Simon’s gray eyes, made sure he understood. And since his father, had gone to fight in the Red River War and died trying to remove Kiowa Indians from the middle plains just two years earlier, there was the issue of who would raise the boy. Like his mother, he was an only child and so there were no living aunts or uncles to take him in. And his father’s family was still in England and either had received no word of the orphaned son or refusing to be bothered, they had been silent on the matter just the same. Finally, the courthouse in Exeter came to discover the whereabouts of his dead mother’s still extant father. A professor of Letters retired from Harvard, who had taken up residence in Maine with his second wife, and it was there that Simon would go to live.
He would often dream of his mother, she would come the fifth hour of All Souls and he would wake, cold and see her sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, looking out over the sea. Just as in life, she rarely spoke; her movements, small. She smiled her lop-sided smile. He had always pictured her like some human-shaped hot water kettle, constructed to bare secrets, songs, mirroring the images and the mysteries. He had never seen her cry, not even when word came that his father was dead. He had waited for her to cry out in pain or fear or grief but she didn’t, she accepted everything that moved around her, as though nothing more than leaves in a burst of wind. And now she sat, full clothed in sashes and white cotton tied to her ankles, which made a shisking sound across the floor. Her eyes were cold and grey but they also shone with a bright stillness that comforted him even in their eeriness. And he would stay in bed, knowing that he could not approach her, nor touch her, for then she would dissipate like a mist burned away by the sun; he would simply wait for her to speak.
It wouldn’t be until years later when I would find myself sitting with Jack at his kitchen table in a farmhouse in Iowa, that it would all seem right again. I don’t think they ever really wrote. I think Clover was ashamed, and Jack felt the smart in that -- felt in his body her absence like any lover would, the bitter tugging from a memory emblazoned by the one they had lost. I think he had just been so frightened of disappearing completely that his need to survive no matter what cost came screaming in behind his minds eye and in an instant he felt the only thing he could do was the one thing that he did: and he left all of us behind.
It was late spring. That day the sun was warm on the green grass, and the oaks shaded the porch where one could just as easily sit and hear the creek and see the rows of corn, as look over the pastures before the hill where Jack’s two little girls ran and laughed in the barnyard, skipping and dancing as they fed chickens. I realized then that he had found peace in a way that perhaps, none of the rest of us ever would.
As I had sat looking at him then, all grown up, a beard darkening his cheeks, he seemed for the first time in all the time I had known him, filled with his own light, finally a glow completely independent from his twin’s effervescence. I had to swallow, because I felt my throat tighten, and I blinked and said: “I’m really happy for you, Jack.”
He cocked his head at me, reached out to wipe the tear that slipped down my chin and he smiled. “Me too.”