Saturday, April 19, 2014

S is for Stash, Syd, and Sybillia: Blogging the #atozchallenge

It would be hard to find three more unique characters than Stash Cizik from The Haven in My Last Romance and other Passions, Syd Jupiter from Depraved Heart: A Novel, and Sybillia Windfelder from The Confession of Genny Franck in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall. All of them have been through a lot in life and have faced big, big challenges. Stash is a former seaman and tough guy who now manages a Mariner's Home. Syd is a former NFL linebacker who was just released from prison. Sybillia Windfelder was a nurse and herbalist in "the old country" but is now a mid-wife and alleged "Hexe-woman."

from The Confession of Genny Franck
Though I had taken our cow to graze in the cemetery nearly every day of my girlhood and had often picked blackberries and strawberries along the edge of the trees at Brunner's Glen I had never seen the house that seemed to appear through the trees. It was tiny, low and made of stone, with cross-paned windows, and shutters. There was a large pile of wood stacked by the front door and in the clearing on the far side of the house I could see the dim outline of cold-frames lined up along the edge of a garden and a small greenhouse that jutted out from the cottage's rear. There was an outhouse beyond the garden. Though most everyone in Marienstadt had electricity and indoor plumbing some who lived outside of town still used outhouses and kerosene lanterns. As we came around the corner to the front of the cottage I noticed a wishing well with a wooden bucket hanging in it. Fragrant smoke floated up from a tin stovepipe overhead.
“Sybillia?” Clara called tapping at the door. “It's Clara.”
I heard the rattling and rasp of metal latches and then Sybillia Windfelder's face
appeared around the door. “Come, come,” she said. “Don't dawdle.”
Though I had seen Sybillia Windfelder in town on marketing days I had never been close enough to have a good look at her. Then she was usually bundled up in a long black coat and headscarf and I thought her quite frightening. But now, standing in her living room, she seemed like any other aged woman from the Old Country. She was of medium height and rather stout but in an energetic, muscular way. Her hair was snow white and had been braided with small ivory rings woven into the braids. She wore them wrapped around and around her head. She wore mannish woolen trousers, a hand-knit pullover sweater, and heavy boiled-wool clogs on her feet. She could have been anyone's eccentric auntie visiting from home.

from The Haven
He stands in the light-filled kitchen. Everything here is simple—plain, scrubbed wood, undraped tables, walls covered with unframed charts and maps. This could as easily be a Shaker meeting room or a monastery.
            His back is to me as he bends over the table. His arms and shoulders move steadily, rhythmically, and I realize he is kneading bread dough in a glazed brown bowl sitting on a folded linen towel. Whish-thump, the bowl rocks back and forth on the table under the expert movements of his big hands. Whish-thump.
           I step quietly toward him, slide my arms around his waist, and snuggle as close as I can get, pressing my face into the rough wool of his well-felted sweater.
          "I smelled your perfume," he says and from the tone of his voice I know he is smiling.

          "I couldn’t wait to get her today," I say, kissing his back between his big shoulder blades. "I’ve wanted you all morning."
          He turns holding his sticky, dough-caked hands out and away. He sits on the edge of the table and lets me cuddle close wrapping his forearms around my shoulders. I kiss him. God, I love his face! It is hard and lined and bony with a nose and jaw that are too big and eyes that are like hematite nuggets set under bushy, untameable brows. Everything about Stash has a wildness to it, a rocky, brokenness just on the edge of ruin, and yet so delicious in its wanton imperfection.
        "You didn’t come to work then?" he teases. His eyes twinkle and I am lost.

from Depraved Heart
A few paintings, landscapes mostly, hung above the mantel. Art always soothed me; after my first few minutes at Hathor, I needed soothing. The first painting I noticed was a harbor scene with mountain-like, multicolored clouds filling a summer sky. I glanced at the signature, Henry R. Kenyon. Of course.
I have heard...” a deep, quiet voice said, “...that Kenyon sometimes painted with Paul Gauguin.”
I turned. He had entered through the door Audrey Nettleton had just exited. Even in a room of such vast proportions his size was impressive. His jet black hair showed gray at the temples and his once-famous face was still calm, reserved, and handsome. He crossed the room quickly, hand extended, and when he took mine I looked up into those eyes all the magazines once described as the color of sapphires.

Welcome to Hathor, Ms. Hobbs. I hope the ride over was pleasant.”
Yes,” I said, hoping my voice did not quiver. He was courteous, gracious, perfectly at ease. Fifteen years in prison seemed not to have touched him. He exuded power, and that great dignity that the journalists who covered his trial marveled at. The only thing I sensed as he held my hand just a moment longer than was customary was absolute, unquestionable integrity.

Thanks for reading.

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