My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Part 2: Chapter 1

Part 2: Beati

From: Angie Parr

To: Jason Slocum

Re: trip?

Hey Jason; now that Christmas is past, my schedule should be a little more sane. You said you were here for interterm, right? There’s something I want to show you, sometime soon.


“What can you see, on the horizon, why do the white gulls call? Across the sea, a pale moon rises, the ships have come to carry you home. And all will turn to silver glass, a light on the water, all souls pass…into the west.”


From Jason Slocum

To: Angie Parr

Re: trip?

Yeah, that would be great! I’m free this Saturday, if that works for you.


P.S. Sorry for the trouble last semester; I’m still working things out, but I’m trying to be a little more open now. Thanks for your patience.

“I can’t see where you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led.”

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Saturday morning dawned clear and bright, and, as a consequence, freezing cold. The days were beginning to get slightly longer; not enough to make a diffrence in temperature, but enough so that you could notice it. The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I got into Angie’s car—two weeks ago it would have still been completely dark at that hour of the morning.

“Hey, Jason. Ready for a day of sight-seeing?” Angie threw the car into reverse and backed out into the street.

“Yeah, I think so. Got my hoodie sweatshirt, camera phone, and my wallet. Think it’ll do?”

“It should. Can’t think of any reason you’d need the phone or the wallet, but better to have them with you.”

I hadn’t realized that I missed the weekday mass at Our Lady until I stepped into the church. While it was warmer than the air outside, the stone floor and walls still had a distinct chill, counterbalancing the warmth of the lights and candles.

A bell clanged, and Father Timothy walked in, swathed in red vestments. He gestured for us to be seated, and began a short history of the life of the saint commemorated on that day. Today’s saint was Vincent, deacon and martyr. Vincent had been taken, along with his bishop, and persecuted heavily. In the end, Vincent had been given a soft bed, in the hope that it would “break his constancy.” Instead, Vincent held firm to the faith, and died in that bed.

After the opening psalm and the readings, Father Timothy began the homily.

“Today, we celebrate the life of St. Vincent, deacon and martyr. He was not even a priest, but held firm to the faith as a layman. Vincent suffered many terrible things before he died, as most of the martyrs did. The detail of the bed that was given him is intersting; it seems that what his persecutors intended as an instrument of destruction, actually became a small comfort and respite, allowing him to die in some comfort at the end. God can work through anything and anyone; a great witness gave testimony, suffered, and died, but was comforted. Even now, we can be sure that Vincent is receiving his comfort from God, where he prays for us, with Mary and all the saints. In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

Though I was able to follow the rest of the short service, my mind wandered to thoughts of Vincent. Would he really have been all that comforted by the unexpected gift of a soft bed in which to die his painful death? It seemed that it would have only enhanced the pain and futility of the whole experience. He left no children behind, no works of art, no crafts of his hands. It seemed his life had been, to use the oft-quotd phrase, “nasty, dull, brutish, and short.”

As I went forward to receive the bread and cup, I looked up at the figure suspended on the crucifix. What comfort had there been in his death? What comfort was there in any death?

As I knelt at the commnion rail, hands cupped to receive the sacrament, I mourned, heart breaking for Vincent, and Hannah, and my lond-dead grandmother, and all who’d had to face that gaping abyss.

“This is the Body of Christ, the bread of Heaven.”

Father Timothy’s warm dry hand pressed a round white wafer into my palm, and I brought my hands to my mouth, carefully eating the bread.

“The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”

The wine burned my throat as it slipped down, like a fire that flamed but did not consume. And I suddenly realized that this was the comfort; the burning richness of the wine was a grace; you couldn’t drink of the richness without being burned, but even the burning, which at first seemed harsh, did not destroy, but instead gave life. Kneeling in grief and anger, I got up in serenity, comforted.

After the service was over, Angie and I got into her car, and got onto the freeway, “Help me keep an eye out for the 101,” she said, handing me a sheet of paper with directions on it. “I have a tendency to miss that switch.”

“So where are we going?”

“You ever watch any of the old Laurel and Hardy routines?”

“Yeah, a few I think. I’m more the Marx Brothers type, though.”

“Did you ever see ‘The Music Box’?”

“Um….no, I don’t—wait, was that the one with the piano?”

“That’s the one!”

“Ha! Yeah, I’m not sure if I’ve seen all of it, but I know I’ve seen parts of it.”

“Great! Then you’ll really enjoy this.”


“You’ll see when we get there.”

“I hate it when you say that.”

As we drove, the freeway curved around, taking us into the heart of the city. Random attempts at beautification surrounded us. On my left, just under an overpass, the concrete wall was painted with a gigantic mural of children playing. It looked as if the paintings had been badly painted from photographs, and they were slightly disturbing. Shortly afterward, on the right, an entire concrete wall was painted with a space scene, fragments of Roman architecture floating through the planets. Somehow, this was more beautiful than the giant children.

“You, know, it’s funny,” I mused.

“What’s funny?”

“You’d think they would have painted angels on the sides of the freeway. This is the City of Angels, after all.”

“Actually, it’s not.”

“What? Yeah it is. Los Angeles. City of the Angels.”

“Los Angeles isn’t the full name of the city. I can’t pronounce it, but it’s actually ‘The City of our Lady of the Angels.’ So really, they should cover the freeways with pictures of Mary. Well, maybe that would be a little impractical. But still.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that.”

“Most people don’t. Maybe the reason there are so few angels in Los Angeles is because we’ve evicted their Queen.”

I glanced out the window, just in time to see a series of windows, with angels etched on them. “Well, maybe there are still a few left in town.”

“Yeah, that’s the Cathedral center there. We want the next exit.”

“Not the Cathedral?”


Where in the world were we going?

We pulled off on an unremarkable exit, and were soon winding our way through a series of back streets. I was lost in time and was grateful that Angie was driving; I just read off the list of street names and turns. Finally, we turned right onto a small street, and Angie pulled over to the curb. “Ok, end of the road.”


We were parked next to a run-down apartment, in a less-than-savory neighborhood. Here?

“Yep, here. C’mon.” We walked across the sidewalk, and up to a small space between two apartments.

And there it was. A long, narrow staircase, seemingly out of place on the outside of the building. In the old black-and-white pictures, there hadn’t been an apartment on the other side of the staircase, and the neighborhood had obviously gone through many developments and deconstructions. But it was the same staircase.

Angie tapped me on the shoulder and silently point to a small plaque on the sidewalk; nothing big, or flashy, or anything you would even notice unless you were looking for it. It simply mentioned the history of the staircase, and had portraits of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on it. I looked up, and the street sign said “Music Box Way.”

“It seems so strange that it’s still here, doesn’t it?” Angie’s voice was quiet, but clear. “I mean, it’s an odd thing. Just a random staircase from an old movie that most people don’t remember. But I love it. I love the fact that it’s here, with no fanfare, where no one would ever notice it.”

“I think I like it. But I’m not sure why.”

“I don’t know either. I mean, I’d hoped you’d like it, but I can’t tell you why you do. I like to think about the reason it’s even rememberd at all. Because two men made a film here, and they made people laugh. Even when times were hard, they could make people laugh and feel a little better. And being here, you can kind of feel that. It’s a memorial to happiness, to laughter. To men who bring joy to other people.”

I nodded silently, looking up the long flight of stairs. Why had someone chosen to put them on the outside? It was probably a terrible architectural idea, and horribly dated. But it was still here, and people still loved it. I loved it. I crouched down, and lightly touched the plaque, tracing the lines of the well-known faces. Comfort comes from strange places in the city.


Post a Comment

<< Home