Meanwhile, the first chapter of THE WRATH OF ANGELS is available online over at John’s interweb lair. It opens up a lot like this:
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. — Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)For the rest, clickety-click here …
At the time of his dying, at the day and the hour of it, Harlan Vetters summoned his son and his daughter to his bedside. The old man’s long gray hair was splayed against the pillow on which he lay, glazed by the lamplight, so that it seemed like the emanations of his departing spirit. His breathing was shallow; longer and longer were the pauses between each intake and exhalation, and soon they would cease entirely. The evening gloaming was slowly descending, but the trees were still visible through the bedroom window, the sentinels of the Great North Woods, for old Harlan had always said that he lived at the very edge of the frontier, that his home was the last place before the forest held sway.
It seemed to him now that, as his strength failed him, so too his power to keep nature at bay was ebbing. There were weeds in his yard, and brambles among his rose bushes. The grass was patchy and unkempt: it needed one final mow before the coming of winter, just as the stubble on his own chin rasped uncomfortably against his fingers, for the girl could not shave him as well as he had once shaved himself. Fallen leaves lay uncollected like the flakes of dry skin that peeled from his hands, his lips, and his face, scattering themselves upon his sheets. He saw decline through his window, and decline in his mirror, but in only one was there the promise of rebirth.
The girl claimed that she had enough to do without worrying about bushes and trees, and his boy was still too angry to perform even this simple service for his dying father, but to Harlan these things were important. There was a battle to be fought, an ongoing war against nature’s attritional impulse. If everyone thought as his daughter did then houses would be overrun by root and ivy, and towns would vanish beneath seas of brown and green. A man had only to open his eyes in this county to see the ruins of old dwellings suffocated in green, or open his ears to hear the names of settlements that no longer existed, lost somewhere in the depths of the forest.
So nature needed to be held back, and the trees had to be kept to their domain.
The trees, and what dwelled among them.