Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Monday, October 26, 2015


The year is winding down to NANOWRIMO--National Write a Novel in a Month month--November. Therefore I am getting as much done now as I can before the first of the month.
I have big plans to write MUDLARKS therein. I shall be wallowing in Dickens to my heart's content, as the above book shall be as close to a Dickensian novel as I can make it. I wish I'd already gotten to go over and actually muck around in the Thames mud, (I know. Barking mad.) but not only is that trip not happening until next May or so, but I don't know if we'll get down into London. We'll be up in Ireland--a place I've ALWAYS wanted to go, though not under a bridge near the Thames.

So. In preparation, I've just finished approving the first half of the rewrites for the second printing of SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO today. I also wrote an alternative ending for SUMMERHOUSE, the next book coming out. Later today I'll probably get into THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS if I have edits back. I'm also trying to finish sending out Beta versions of MARIN AT THE WELL.

For your viewing pleasure and because I think you're pretty cool for coming here, Here's a snatch of MARIN ATW. I hope you like it:

I wondered where the rest of the sheep and goats had strayed. I loudly cussed them out until I remembered it was all my fault. I was the shepherd. I should have been paying attention. Now I'd have to fix the problem or I'd cost us loads of money and food and wool for Martha to weave. Then I yelled at myself—something I never did. In my regular life, mistakes I made rarely showed a clear picture of the consequences as this mistake would.
But how could I get that fat ewe back up the cliff? The ledge she stood on was tiny. I could barely stand on the ledge and it didn't look all that stable. I couldn't see anything nearby that would work.
“Why don't you talk to Me, Marin?” I heard in my head.
“Great. Now I'm going insane and hearing voices,” I said to no one in particular. “Must be sleep deprivation and eating who-knows-what.” And then I caught myself and giggled a little hysterically. “No, it's sheep deprivation.”
I thought I heard a mental groan. Or maybe it was my pun-detesting side rearing its ugly head. But the voice was there, quiet but strong like my dad's heavy test fishing line. “You aren't delusional.”
“Said my crazy head. I doubt any really loony person thinks they're insane.”
“Be still and know that I am God.” I felt the power of that statement zip around my body, arcing between my fingers, lifting the hairs on the back of my neck. Power. Real power.
That got me. I would never have said that in my head. So I was hearing God now? Inside my head like it was coming over my headphones? “Why haven't I ever heard Your voice before?”
“You were not listening.”
“How is it any different today?”
“You are ready. Ask Me.”
“Okay. Will You...Thee...whatever...get this stupid sheep up the cliff?”
“It does not work that way.”
“Of course not.” I folded my arms and glared up at the sky. I felt like stomping, but I was afraid the ground would give way and I'd be down there with the dumb sheep.
“What do you really want?”
“I don't know. Help.”
“Study it out in your mind. This is your test.”
“Well if you won't get the sheep up the cliff, would You at least make me strong enough to do it myself? And could You strengthen the ledge so it won't fall away and take us both with it?”
“There is a stick over there.”
I looked around and spotted a broken sapling lying on the ground not far from me. I could have sworn it wasn't there before. I'd have noticed it and added it to my short list of things that probably wouldn't work. What was a stick supposed to do? I couldn't just lean the stick against the wall and hope the sheep could scramble up it.
Every couple of minutes I considered giving up. I mean, why was I putting all this effort into helping one stupid sheep? It's not as if I'd be around to miss it. Plus I was ignoring all the rest of the missing sheep to help this one. But a growing feeling inside me told me this was something I had to do. I'd never really pushed through in my former life. If a job was difficult, I bailed. Clean up dog logs? Bleah! Wash my own clothes? Mom's job. I mean, who wants to ruin her manicure if there are people payed to do the work for you?
This, though, I had to see to the end.
I wanted to ask for an idea, but I figured God had done enough helping, or at least He'd think He had. It was up to me to come up with something. I was still kind of freaked that He talked to me at all. I thought about calling for Joab, but he'd taken off as soon as it looked like I was crazy. He was probably far away by now. Even if he wasn't, he'd mock me for losing all my sheep. So that wasn't going to happen.
I picked up the stick and looked at it, turning it this way and that. I could use it to whack the sheep, but it wouldn't do any good if the sheep couldn't get up the cliff. I could maybe make a halter with my head scarf, fish it down with the stick onto the sheep's neck and haul the thing up, but the old biddy would just strangle. I'd just have to climb down on that ledge and boost her up. Maybe I could put the stick under her hind end and push with it. Hopefully I wouldn't get kicked to death.
I rolled onto my stomach and dangled my legs until they were about a foot from the ledge. There was nothing for it but to jump. Getting back up? Unless the sheep helped me out like I helped it, I'd be out of luck. And believe me, I already knew sheep were total ninnies.
I jumped.
The ledge crumbled alarmingly but most of it held.
“Tie your veil around the ewe's neck and don't let go of the end when she climbs out.” I heard those words as clear as tap water. So I did that. Maneuvering on the ledge was as hard as trying to share a bathroom with my little sister. Finally I managed to straddle the sheep and angle the stick under its rear and rest it on my bent knees. Talk about heavy! This one must have been grazing on lead. I pushed with all my might and felt it's legs scrabbling against the cliff side, knocking dirt and pebbles bouncing past me, reminding me how far it was to the bottom.
My whole body shook with effort, sweat slicking my hands and trickling down my back. At the extreme end of my strength, I gasped, “Some help here, please?”
Suddenly I felt strength flow into my body. I was able to bench press that fat old biddy the last bit up the wall until she could get purchase with her hooves. She lunged up and stood there like someone had carefully trained her, waiting for me to haul myself up using my delicate veil. Amazingly nothing tore. Inch by inch I staggered up the wall until I fell stomach-first at the sheep's feet, gasping for air, my muscles twanging guitar strings.
When I could, I sat up and looked that sheep in the face. She stood there placidly chewing her version of gum with a vacant look in her eye. I had a new yardstick for stupid. “Thanks and no thanks. I'm going to call you Ethel because it's the worst name I can think of, you fat tub of lard.” I felt a presence waiting. “Oh! And thank You, God.”
“You're welcome.”
© 2016 by H. Linn Murphy

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