Thursday, July 7, 2011

The original opening of Always

As promised, here's a thank you for your support of Kelley's Clarion West write-a-thon. It's the original opening for the third Aud novel, Always:

My early version of the cover.

It was an early afternoon in the first week of May but the air that streamed through my car on the drive from Laurence's office was already slippery and swollen with humidity, as dense and soft as a woman's inner thigh. When I entered the Loew Museum of Art, though, it could have been winter. The cool air, stripped of all organic information and chaotic flow, hissed evenly from the ceiling and was sucked in by the floor vents, cleansed, modified, reorganised and rereleased in a seamless, neutral river cold with the tang of ductwork, cool stone, and floor-cleaning solvent. The ceilings were high and painted pearly white, and the sunlight was funnelled through skylights, unmoored from its source and clarified of its southern gold, toned down to anywhere light and decanted coolly to illuminate only what the designers wanted. We are nothing but our minds, it seemed to say. Even the echoing marble floors could have been designed to intimidate the body, forcing the more self-conscious visitors to tread softly and wish their weight away.

I flexed my hand, remembering the crunch of Karp's bones, the hot spill of his blood. Six months ago. It could have been yesterday.

The first item in the exhibit was a two-drawered nightstand. From a distance its dark red wood looked top-heavy and unstable, as ungainly and improbable as the skeleton of a T-rex, bones polished and drilled, high-tension cables replacing living muscle. The catalogue told me it was a Cubist-Constructivist side table, and talked about its construction of sixty perpendicularly aligned rods, two hundred and forty sides and seventy-eight joints, all perfectly machined to within three one-thousandths of a inch--aerospace tolerances, as though the wood were steel.

People were so fragile. Karp, though, had lasted longer than I or anyone else had expected.

The catalogue told me about Weinberger's early modern influences, Malevich, Mondrian, Rietveld. It talked about Fibonacci numbers, negative space and Euclid's harmonic proportions. It did not tell me what kind of tree the nightstand was cut from.

Karp's death wasn't unexpected--and I wouldn't miss him, I had met him only once, spoken a single word in his presence before hitting him across the throat--but I was only just beginning to grasp its implications.

There was no sign saying Do Not Touch, so I ran my middle fingertip along the wood and bent to examine the grain: tropical wenge. I leant on it surreptiously--despite its unbalanced appearance it was supremely sturdy. I squatted to peer underneath; it didn't smell of wood, just the seed oil--linseed, possibly--it had been rubbed with. I slid the top drawer in and out and the balance of the movement, its extravagant precision, reminded me of an luxury handgun.

I was about to stand and move on to something the catalogue described as a pearwood tension-rod credenza when heels echoed off the far wall, and I turned, and it was Julia. There was so much I needed to ask her: what to do about little Luz now that Karp was out of the picture, whether I really should care what my banker, Laurence, said about the Seattle real estate broker stealing me blind, how I could find a way to make it all make sense again, the way it seemed to before I met her. But of course it wasn't her, just some woman her height and colouring. Julia was dead. She had been dead for three weeks less than a year. She would always be dead.


There's more. Stay tuned.

ETA: Kelley's latest Clarion West write-a-thon piece is up. "Magic" is a classic rhythmic riff, Ray Bradbury style. Go read it. Consider sponsoring her.

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