A Writer’s Dream from Venice, Italy


December 19th, 2014

I’m just waking up on Giudecca Island -Venice, Italy – to a volley of sights and sounds – a deliverance from the cathartic, but brooding ancient history of Rome, from where we just came. Here, I imagine, I’m in a living painting, and an artist, with his paintbrush and palette in hand – captures me and my robe-covered torso, thrust outside my unscreened window – just now at the Hilton Molino Stucky, from his own studio window across the Grand Canal.

Outside, I hear the reverberating serenade of tolling church bells, which I can pinpoint with my own eyes, to various steeples, speckled with pigeons and seagulls. Each tower stands guard of her parcel of Venezia, soaring high above, looming and majestic, and traipsing along the Canal.

Splashing waves steadily rise and fall onto the foamy, green and blue algae and barnacle-covered docks and seawalls, swept up by power boats which dot the landscape like steed on an aqua-colored, rolling field. Each ship is captained by proud, generational seamen, who glide their ships in various directions, transporting trusting townspeople and holiday tourists about their elusive city. And, it’s through this foggy haze, I know I am graced with an inspiring, omnipotent view – and it occurs to me, I must be here, in Charles Dickens’ Modern Venice, the one he imagined long ago in his “Italian Dream.”

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When It Comes in Threes (The first six pages of my novel, unedited).


I’m about ninety, 8.5’x11″ pages into writing my first novel. I sure would enjoy some feedback on the first six pages from people in my network. Thanking anyone in advance who takes the time to read this, and please remember this is unedited, for the most part.

When It Comes in Threes

by TONIA ALLEN GOULD

Prologue:

Right before you die, your feet turn white and your legs get all mottled-up in color somewhere between the vibrant hues of purple and blue. You can’t see your legs and feet anymore, because you’re immobile and on your back, where you have been placed, in your final resting pose by your nurse. Your hearing is strong, and the audible whispers of the people around you confirm what is happening to the body that you can no longer see or feel. It frightens everyone around you to watch the metamorphism as your organs begin to shut down, one-by-one. Life, or what was left of it, leaves your eyes long before this, before your body becomes a chameleon and starts to change its colors.

The bright blue eyes that you once had are now dark and glassy and all fogged up. The people around you become nothing more than clouded, living and breathing visions through your own drug-induced, fog daze. Thankfully, the morphine you have been administered takes the edge off of anything that resembles pain.

It takes you awhile to focus in on your surroundings and find who you are looking for as you scan through the sea of faces hovering over you. You give an obligatory nod to each new one you see to let them know, that you know, that they are there. These are the people who have come to watch you die, but your pride won’t allow you to do it in front of them.

While your family is gripping your hands and holding you tight; you stare off, for a time, into a place that only the dying can see. You’ve just started to entertain the prospect of going there and start to play with your own breath to see if you can stop the beating of your own heart, but you’re not quite powerful enough for that. Also, you’re not ready yet, because people have come to pay their respects, and waiting is the right thing to do.

Your loved ones seem more prepared for you to go than you are because they don’t want you to suffer anymore. In those brief moments you have to escape within yourself, you admit, if only for a fleeting second that you are scared. But, by now; you’ve ultimately come to grips with your destiny. You know you will soon die, and suddenly you have an altruistic sense of what that really means.

You muster up just enough energy and final breath to say goodbye to all the people that float in, and drift around you; a steady influx of people that rattle the door every time they enter your personal space and pull you away from where you almost went. You’re just lucid enough to stay awake, because you owe it to them, and know it’s important that they get to say their final goodbyes. They are the people that care about you the most, the ones who have come to bid their final farewells, and you chalk off the people who didn’t; they are now permanently erased from your mind.

You tell everyone that you love them, and you say it with your eyes too, because speaking takes too much out of you. This time, you mean it with all of your heart and soul, and in a way that only the dying can feel, and you wish you had the words and the voice and a loudspeaker so that you are sure that they know. Those people who stand over you, lurking, are hoping and praying that you’ll die soon, while they are watching, because secretly they are in awe of your teeter-totter between life and death, but mostly because they don’t want to watch you feel any more pain. They have no qualms about telling you that it’s alright to go, and that they’ll see you on the other side. But, you’re not quite sure that is where you’ll end up.

Miraculously, your closest loved-ones, your children and your spouse, are each willing you to live and praying for you to die at the same time. They are silently begging you with their own eyes to stay, as if you have some degree of say in the matter. They also are praying that you’ll be taken comfortably and without any further degree of suffering. They are conflicted by this push/pull of both willing you to live and willing you to die. These people are the ones with words still left unspoken. They have unresolved issues with you about how you lived your life, and how that impacted them. You know they are in turmoil, and even though you took so much from them, and caused them so much pain, they are still there—forgiving you for the life you lived, and letting go of whatever was left of what they were still holding onto. The guilt of this and of dying consumes you. You’ve caused everyone so much pain already, and you know that they will be there when you take your last breath. If only you had more time, then maybe you’d undo some of the things that you did.

Chapter 1: The Journey

Less than twenty-four hours earlier, I was sitting with my husband under the pavilion in our backyard, sheltered from the sun, snacking on real images of my home and life, with my laptop finally open, pecking away at that novel I’m only half-way finished writing. Occasionally, I would glance-up to watch my son’s newly perfected dive permeating the pool’s crystal clear surface. When his head broke the water each time, and he managed to catch his breath again, he would look up at me to see if I had been watching him. I’d smile, he’d swim to the edge of the pool and get out and do it again. I sat there for hours, watching him, and reveling in the fact that my husband was home from his business travels for a spell, both of us content to just sit there, and just be home together again for a while. Both of us, I’m sure, sat their wondering what our lives would be like, just the three of us, when my daughter, Gabriella finally left for the University of Colorado at Boulder in just two short weeks.

But, as anyone knows who has ever suffered any degree of loss, life can turn on you like a dime. Here it is now, vast and wide, and staring me straight in the face from the window of a Boeing 767. I rub the misty, double-paned glass, and realize the drops of moisture are only present on the outside of the window. I resolve myself to settle into my seat and relax during the four-hour flight from Los Angeles to Detroit. Jesus. How did I even get here? Hopping on a plane wasn’t part of any one of the carefully laid-out plans I had for myself today.

The flight attendants’ finally prepare themselves for take-off and the plane gains speed and shimmies down the runway and I am almost instantly and immensely humbled by the intense sunset glowing starboard, burning hot like a California wildfire. The distant fiery blaze ignites the horizon, as the plane rises and ascends to the West over the Pacific, as one lone tear traces my face, and lingers a moment on my chin before dropping to a small, wet stain on my white linen shirt. I haven’t the energy to wipe it away. Already it has been a very long day and I wish that I was home with my family having the backyard barbecue we had planned with our friends, The Coopers.

Like my tears, the sunset begins to fade and the other passengers fall quiet as they reach up to turn off their seat lights. It is in this instance that I welcome the sudden hushed voices in the cabin along with the steady hum of the plane’s engine. Somehow, I am soothed, like a baby who is quieted by the constant purr of a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner despite her mother’s own desperation to calm her. Turning again to face the window, I just barely catch the sight of the sun as it finally dips and then drops, disappearing entirely into the horizon as the plane continues to rise up over the Pacific where it finally makes its subtle turn towards the East and back to the place where I was born. The magnificent peace of the sunset coupled with the plane sailing through the air, penetrating the clouds, quiets my mind for the first time today and I surrender to the beauty and enormity of it all. I have never felt so small.

My circumstances preclude me from getting up to use the restroom, although I really have to go. I’ve had to pee since I pulled out of my driveway to make the sixty-minute commute to LAX from my suburban bedroom community in Agoura Hills, located just northwest of Los Angeles. I wish now, too late, that I had used the restroom at the airport, mostly because the small, dark-haired woman with a pixie haircut who sat next to me appeared to be hunkered down for the night. Coiled up neatly into herself, her tiny frame was completely shrouded by the airline-issued red, micro-fleece blanket.

My seatmate stirred only once when the plane shook from a bit of turbulence. I wondered how many people before her have used the very same blanket she cuddled with so contentedly, and I imagined that it had never been washed by the airline. A bit of bile rises in my throat and I am sickened momentarily by the thought of someone else before her wiping their nose or slobbering on the blanket that she surely thinks is her own now. I don’t even want to think about the thinly covered pillow that rests behind my own head which was propped against the window. I was happy to have been assigned a window seat so I would have someplace to rest my head. At least my husband had the foresight to take care of that detail for me when he desperately raced to book my emergency flight back to the Midwest.

I really didn’t want to talk to anyone right now, particularly not a stranger who might like to engage in small talk. Tonight I was lucky. I usually end-up sitting next to some chatty person wanting to know what I did for a living or asking me other trivial questions that, in my opinion, a perfect stranger should never ask another. Besides, I really wanted to be alone with my thoughts to take the inevitable journey down my old and cobbled memory lane. This is a one journey I wouldn’t necessarily be taking right now if it were not for today’s earlier events.

True, it has been some time since I have allowed myself to dig-up the old decaying bones of my somewhat repressed childhood. Something told me that I should do it now, on my own terms. Otherwise, all of those memories and emotions will come flooding back to me tomorrow morning, in one giant sensory and environmental overload the moment I pulled my rental car into my parent’s driveway.

Finding myself unable to sleep, I finally succumb to the nagging, incessant urge to get out my laptop. I bend over at the waist and stretch my right hand as far as it will reach and poke around for my backpack that is jammed inextricably under the seat in front of me. I am aware that the tall man sitting there feels the commotion and I hope not to make him my mortal enemy on the trip as a result of my restlessness. Unzipping my bag and extracting the computer; I immediately revel in the thought of using it for something other than to rifle through various client presentations or to check email. It’s rare for me to “turn-off” work, but I know I won’t be able to do much for my marketing business this week when I am back in the Midwest dealing with the latest Colbert Family upheaval.

Life is about falling down

The Urban Dictionary refers to a clutz as someone who is extremely careless, stupid and a hazard to be around. Trips over shoes constantly, breaks anything he/she touches, should not be alowed around heavy machinery or anything that might put other’s lives in danger.
Mr Clutz walks into old, rich woman’s house with lots of v. elaborate, precariously placed ornaments and brakeables scattered around.

Clutz: Oooh look a penny!
(As he picks up penny, knocks down v. expensive china vase)
Old woman: Good heavens! That vase was my Great Grandmama’s!
Clutz: Huh? What vase?


Like a Kid in a School Yard

When I was in elementary school, I loved the playground. The playground was the one place that you could run around, uninhibited without a care in the world. On the playground, you could forget about all of your worries and just be a kid, but it also was a pretty dangerous place for a scrawny, little clutz like me.

Back then, I was a bit of a tomboy and when I wasn’t playing baseball or dodgeball with the boys, you could find me on the swing. The swings were always my favorite place to go when I just wanted to be by myself. I didn’t need someone standing behind me, pushing me from behind. It’s probably no suprise to people who know me today that back then, I’d push myself. All I had to do was pump my legs and I would soar higher and higher. From up there, it felt like I could touch the sky or punch a hole in it with my feet if I wanted to.

The boys would always pick me to play on their teams, because I was good at sports, despite how clumsy I was in real life. In real life, when I wasn’t throwing or catching a ball, I would fall down A LOT! One day, after the bell had rung, I jumped off the swing and landed forehead first onto a rock protruding from the ground. It wasn’t a big rock either, but I liked to tell people that it was a huge boulder. In truth, the rock was only about six inches in diameter, but it packed a big punch to that tiny little noggin of mine. Like every other time when I fell, I just picked myself up, brushed myself off and went about the rest of my day.

The following morning, I awoke with two black eyes. I looked ridiculous and, of course, my little eight-year-old, immature friends all laughed at me and called me a raccoon. That didn’t matter though; I loved having them, those two big black eyes. They hung around for a while and became a part of me for a short period of my life. I earned those black eyes, that time I fell down. Those two black eyes told a story; a seemingly nothing kind of story; a story about a kid who once fell down and bumped her head. Still, that story was mine to tell. I owned it and learned to form and shape the story, any old way that I liked. That’s why I love to write, because nothings sometimes have the propensity to turn into somethings, if the tale is told just right.

So, here’s my mantra. I think life is all about falling down. If we could just learn to get back up with as much grace and poise as we can possibly muster; we’ll be alright. And, hey, if you are someone like me, who fell down a lot in both the literal and figurative senses, then you’ll ease into old age with a lot of practice and hopefully you’ll spare yourself a broken hip.

P.S. I learned a lot from that swing, and I still push myself. Sometimes I have to push myself to get back up. You might have to push yourself to get back up, too. Trust me, it gets easier every time.