I joke about it, but actually her compliment buoyed me up from a low spot and made me feel much better, especially after the rejection letters I've been getting--two more since my last post, both lovely rejections, both stating that my story was not what they were looking for, but rejections none the less.
Tomorrow night I'm going to present my first few pages of the short story that I'm re-writing. I'm including here a few paragraphs. Let me know if you would be interested in reading more. I've renamed it Hindsight and am making it a bit more sinister.
The cement wall of the oven vault warms my back as I sit in the pleasant May sun, and I wonder whether the idea of a year and a day is absolute. It has been nearly a year. At this point if the crypt was opened, would anyone know the difference? I suspect not, but on days like this, when I come to visit, when I look back and wonder, I contemplate whether I should have, would have done something different. Probably not. I’m not exactly known for making the best decisions—thank you, Momma—but I like to think I learned from the experience, at least as much as I benefitted from it. Then again, probably not.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only mid-August of last year and hot as nine-hundred hells as I walked up to the ramshackle storefront. The sign on the door said Laveau Botanicals, and as I walked into the building, the cloying smell of patchouli and sandalwood loitered heavy in the air already laced with the musky smell of sweat. The lack of air conditioning made the room stiflingly hot, the humidity smothering. The shelves covering the walls added to my sense of claustrophobia, shelves holding hundreds of jars, all labeled by hand. There were large jars with what looked like herbs, barks, and roots. Medium jars with dusts and powders. Tiny jars with oils, unguents, and ointments. There were jars holding things I didn't recognize, and, even now, I hesitate to guess their use. Other shelves held candles of all colors and shapes, one shelf devoted to human shaped candles: men, women, hands, penises. I can only imagine the spell that requires some of the paraphernalia housed on those shelves.
The woman behind the counter, she knew that she was beautiful. I could tell by the way she carried herself. She also knew that I believed her beautiful, more beautiful than I could ever hope to be. She could tell by the way I carry myself. My dishwater blonde hair, fuzzy from the humidity, had nothing to attract the eye the way her coffee colored braids did. The beads of jet and gold woven through her braids only added to the exotic air surrounding her, making me feel all the more dumpy and dowdy. She wore what must have been twenty pounds of jewelry, with four or five gold bracelets adorning each arm. Gold against cafe au lait. She smiled at me, a brilliant toothy white smile broken only by a single gold eyetooth on the left side.
Her smile announced that she knew why I was there, but she asked anyway. "Help you?" she said as she played idly with a gold coin hanging around her neck, her thumb rubbing back and forth over the disk’s surface.
Fearing her contempt, I faltered, wiped the sweat from my face, not sure what to say. That fear made time seem to drag like a knife through cold honey. In my memory, the room still takes on a surrealistic golden sheen as if I am looking through that same jar of honey. The woman, the shelves, the jars, everything in the room appear in tones of gold and sepia, except for the painting behind the counter. From behind the shopkeeper’s head, a fluorescent Mary and Jesus glared at me, their cartoon-like faces reproaching me for being there.
She smirked and asked again, “Can I help you?”