This was my first attempt at writing a full length novel. Since I happen to be of Cherokee descent I decided to use mythological themes from my ancestry and add them to a kernel of an idea that I had when my boys were very young. Like most new, and neurotic, parents, I had a fear of what it would be like to somehow lose my children, to wake up one morning and they would just have disappeared. That started me thinking about if I would be willing to sacrifice my own sons if it meant that many other children would be spared. That idea both horrified and fascinated me.
I had purchased the excellent book anthropologist and one of the foremost authorities of Native America history James Mooney. In Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees I came across the idea of a race of little people that lived in the Smoky Mountains that my ancestors were very eager to appease. It seems as though if one got on their bad side they could do them bodily harm and even go so far as to steal their children. Immediately the lightbulb went on and my brain started churning. The result is a story about identity, dealing with loss, and finally redemption. For my first attempt I thought that it wasn’t too bad, and I hope that perhaps the reader can accidently learn something about a now extinct way of life that holds a large place in my heart.
Excerpt from The Silver Man :
Sitting there in front of the mirror, the morning light filtering in from the growing day outside, Cheryl Spencer sat lost in her own thoughts. Normally she would be busy applying layer upon layer of makeup to disguise the multiplying wrinkles that plagued her once perfect face. The morose mother of two hadn’t bothered with her morning ritual since her grief would have ruined her efforts. Fat tears effortlessly oozed down her well-formed cheekbones and splashed softly onto her plentiful chest.
The diamond solitaire that served as her wedding band flashed rainbow sparks as she twirled it distractedly upon her finger. Absently Cheryl tugged it from her slender hand and pushed it onto the smooth wooden surface of the antique vanity at which she sat. She was certain that the man who would surely find it lying there abandoned later would not fail to grasp the reason for its removal.
When she was a child, she had asked for “take backs”. If she did or said something for which she would get in trouble, she would simply take it back. Now, sitting in her room, looking at her naked body in the full-length mirror, she wanted a take back.
With her nails, freshly done in stylish French tips, she traced an invisible line across the tiny crow’s feet around her eyes down her wrinkling neckline. Her auburn hair, freshly frosted with red highlights, was done up in a bun that was perched squarely on the back of her head. Twenty seven was today’s count of grey hairs. Her green eyes fell sharply to her ample breasts tipped with nipples tinged light pink. They sagged slightly, victims of two children that had used them extensively. The aforementioned boys had also given her the stretch marks that resembled tiny white tire tracks around her mid section. She dared not even get started on the horrors of cellulite.
To most onlookers Cheryl was still a beautiful woman, but she longed to return to the physical specimen that she was before time had worked her over. As she reminisced, tears of regret over things long past and freshly revisited fell heavily on the hardwood floor in front of the mirror. The wish that things in her life had turned out differently assaulted her from all sides, but there would be no take backs.
From outside, Cheryl’s life looked pretty good. Although she was nearing her late thirties her figure was almost ideal. She was always well presented with her makeup and nails done perfectly and the latest fashions draped elegantly upon her. It appeared she had raised a nearly perfect nuclear family as well, complete with two handsome, well-behaved boys and a husband that brought home the bacon, and sometimes even fried it up in the pan. Her personal automobile was reasonably new and their spacious home, which had been a wedding present from her father, stood on a well-respected street in an equally well-respected neighborhood.
Her family and all of those material possessions should have been a fertile garden where happiness should have sprouted, but her life was nothing but pity and misery. Those that looked through other’s windows at night could have learned her cold, and pitiable truths.
You see her father Karl had a secret. He was never rough, and she always seemed to be willing. The young girl’s innocent smile stayed upon on her pink lips and in her green eyes as he touched and she returned it. It was never dirty, never shameful, and her father always told her that it was just his way of showing that he loved her. He whispered that no one would understand so it was best not to say, especially not to Mom.
But Mom knew all too well. Instead of rushing to protect her daughter from experiencing something that would destroy her, the hateful women grew cold and envious of her own flesh and blood. Many times, she stood just outside the closed door listening to the muffled voices beyond, itching to burst in and expose her degenerate husband to the harsh light of day.
What she mistook as love for Karl combined with the fear of losing her comfortable lifestyle bought her silence. Over the years, her anger and jealousy would bubble blackly at the surface, but she was good at disguising harsh punishment upon her daughter as good old-fashioned discipline. Her husband would become more of an indentured servant than a mate as her demands for things kept him working seventy hours a week to keep her in new cars and clothes. Cheryl’s mother withheld her wifely duty, reasoning that her husband must not have been interested in her sexually anyway.
It was no wonder that her pity parties had become a way of life for her. She had been the victim of the two people that should have loved and protected her above all others in life, and after that betrayal, it would have been nearly impossible to become a well-adjusted adult, let alone wife and mother. Her own husband Jim followed much that same pattern of busy indifference that her father had in her youth. It was easy for her to see her mate as an extension of her father, in and out of the bedroom. The two men even worked together on a local golf course’s maintenance crew and they kept much the same hours.
She couldn’t say that she didn’t love Jim because she didn’t truly know what that word meant. She desired him and had gone to extremes to catch his eye, to be wooed by him, and then consented to become his bride, but love never really had been a heavy factor in any of her decisions. Deep in her heart, Cheryl wished that Jim had been the man that could have taught her what true love really meant, but it was not to be.
With that thought, she began to cry. Not just a pity cry, but deep, sorrowful tears that overflowed her pretty cheek bones. Losing the boys had been the last straw. The only truly beautiful things that she had produced in her life were gone. Fresh agony tore through her, her green eyes going grey. There was no way that she would face another day in front of that mirror in her fortress of solitude.
Cheryl took one last look at her reflection, not at her body this time, but straight into her eyes. Red rimmed, mascara streaking her cheeks, she looked remarkably like those Sodomites in “The Ten Commandments”, perhaps she would meet those irredeemable sinners where she thought that she was going. With her jaw clinched tight, she held two fingers to her lips, gently kissed them, and touched the mouth in the mirror before her.
Cheryl had decided that her weapon of choice would be the Henkel boning knife, and she had prepared it by honing it to a razor’s edge on the bench grinder in the garage the night before. Grasping the heavy handle in her shaking hand, the inviting coolness reflecting in the mirror finish of the blade, the shell shocked woman’s only wish was the that the end would come swiftly and painlessly.
Seated gingerly in the middle of the large bed with the fresh white sheets as her burial shroud, the exorcised wife and mother stared off into the distance as if she was looking for something there. With the steely nerve of a samurai committing hara-kiri, she pierced her neckline just below the left ear, slipped it down and to the right and then back up to complete her savage arc. Crimson fear ran easily across the king sized pyre as the she buckled to her knees and the scalpel slipped gently from her fingers.
With the final ounces of her life spilling out onto the bed before her the last thing that Cheryl Spencer would ever say bubbled from her pale lips into the lonely room. She simply said, “I’m sorry”.