Published by: Meerkat Press
Publication date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been . . . but how will he find her?
When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.
The world flared and dimmed, and after some period of interminable darkness, I saw things within it.
I saw dust hovering in a string above a red clay road, the remnant of someone’s passage.
I saw worn leather boots beneath a wooden bench.
The crooked figure of one of my fathers as he gathered stones for a cairn for one of my mothers. Bees trundled among the wildflowers, the grass knee high, green as paint.
I saw a loaf of bread dusted with flour.
A rusty hacksaw gelled with drying blood, half its teeth broken.
A fly perched on the lip of a milk jug.
A little girl jumping rope.
I smelled the earthy pong of a muddy field, yellowed bones pressed into its surface, a killing ground.
I heard the fattened pause where the needle found the groove but the music had yet to start.
I saw one of my sons, a boy centuries dead now, naked and laughing in a jeweled river, splashing his little fists against the skin of the water that ran headlong against his dusky knees. His teeth like little white stones in his mouth. I smelled the river, felt the breeze stir the hairs on my arms.
I saw some faceless man lashed to a rafter and hung upside down. Blood unspooling from his hair as he screamed.
A loaf of bread rimed in mold.
A wooden puzzle of a blue dog sitting outside an orange house.
The corpse of a seagull in the wet sand, lines of mites leaving its body like retreating soldiers.
The mournful ache of a bow skating against a violin string.
A thatched hut wearing a crown of flames.
My husband in an officer’s hat.
The heft of my wife’s breast against my hand.
A thimble of ink spilled on a tablecloth.
Cornmeal in a blue bowl.
A chorus of rats skittering in the walls.
A fogged window spattered with beaded rain.
A dancing man on a stage.
Joan’s body embraced in flame, crowned in a curtain of stinking smoke.
Joan’s poor little cross laced in twine.
And my father’s yellow coat there in the marketplace ahead of me as I rushed to keep up, the people parting and stepping aside for us.
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.
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