In this week’s story bite, Milo sits waiting for his voice to return. Knowing it will not.
And I offer comments on Daniel Silva’s new book The Cellist.
What I’m Writing
Here’s a story-bite sequel to a story titled Sawdust that I first posted on this blog in February 2020. Maurice and Milo are back to entertain you. Enjoy.
Find Your Light
The words slipped out of Milo’s mouth in a whisper. He had not spoken for weeks. Not since the night Maurice died.
Again, “I’m bored.”
Milo sat upright on his stool, back against the wall. Sat next to the urn that held Maurice’s ashes. The ashes of his partner. The man he had worked so many clubs and venues with. Milo felt himself smile. Remembering the clubs, the gigs, the audiences.
And again, Milo heard himself say, “I’m bored.”
What the hell? Maurice is dead. Cremated. Reduced to a jar full of ashes. Milo had no more words. Not without Maurice.
“Heaven ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, buddy.” Milo shuddered. Hard to do for a ventriloquist’s dummy. But shudder he did.
Without moving his eyes, Milo took in the room. Light from a tiny window high on a north wall fell on the urn. Find your light. Maurice’s stage mantra.
Maurice’s ex-wife Darla had dismissed Milo and the urn to a corner of Maurice’s office. The office so small Maurice’s feet hit the wall if he stretched in his chair. The place where they had run all their routines. The room where Maurice’s imagination ran wild.
Milo’s eyes rolled back and forth. Nothing. No one there.
“I’m talking to you, Milo.”
Milo’s jaw clattered against his upper lip. Maurice? Is that you? You’re back?
“It’s me. Maurice. Your voice. I’m still here.”
This is not real.
“Yeah, it’s real. Weird, but real.”
Can we do another gig?
“Not gonna happen. I don’t know how long I can talk to you. Through you.”
Milo felt his head nod.
“Nothing here but white light. No one around. No one to talk to. Not even harp music. Just light.”
Milo blinked. Did Maurice do that?
“It’s peaceful. I like that. No worries. No drunks in the audience to heckle us. No hassles traveling from one club to the next.”
How can I be talking?
“Milo, buddy, listen to me…I am so bored. You know me, I like to move, to talk. I love being on stage. Love performing. You and me, we did great together, didn’t we?”
It wasn’t my call.
You left me.
“That night I died on stage…heart attack. I hated to leave you, but it wasn’t my call.”
“And that bastard club manager, I know he pocketed the cash he owed us. It was a full house. We always packed them in.” He laughed. “I guess we cleared the room pretty quick that night, huh?”
My jaw feels stiff. Haven’t moved it in weeks.
“Like I said, where I’m at is okay, but it’s dull. All those words? Joy, peace, glory, eternal life…they’re not cutting it. I’m missing something.
Milo thought, I’m missing something…you.
“Wait a minute, buddy. Something happening here. The light is brighter. Still quiet, though…Wait! I see someone. A shape…I think it’s time. Milo, take care. Thanks for the good times. Catch you.”
Milo stared straight ahead, mouth closed, jaw rigid. How do I find my light now?
What I’m Reading
This weekend I read Daniel Silva’s latest novel The Cellist. Silva is one of three or four novelists whose new books I eagerly await every year, and devour as soon as I get my hands on them. The Cellist does not disappoint. But I will be honest. I found it to be a difficult read. One of my criteria for a good story is that I expect it to take me somewhere I’ve never been before. While The Cellist is brilliantly written, it takes me through a time I have already seen, an uncomfortable reliving of the last four years of American politics, today’s divisive political scene, the insurrection of 1/6/21, major threats to our democracy. At times I felt I was reading a longform journalism piece, not a novel.
Don’t get me wrong. Silva’s books are thrillers in the best sense of the word. They are page turners. They are to be devoured by a reader. Yet Silva adds such a heavy dose of political realism to all of his stories that a reader – this reader – can come away almost terrified to be living on this planet. Finding hope in these dark days is not easy.
Reading for pure escapism is not the highest goal, I will admit. Reading that immerses readers in the dark deep of national and global terror serves a purpose, heightens an awareness. Tells a cautionary tale, as they say.
But it can be a hard pill to swallow.
Check out Off-Road, my desert adventure, on Amazon.