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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Preview From: Like Litter In The Wind A New Novel by L.M. Ross

Gig Swinton was my father.

His version of a mental/spiritual/physical breakdown was full of flying blind rages, smashing glasses and silent tears. He would fight with my mother over the smallest things, but she seemed to take it all in stride. My father was in pain…and my mother, she understood pain and war and the pain that came after war.

Gig was so torn apart by The Kid’s death that he’d go to that secret place inside his own darkness. Often he’s just leave, leave his space, leave conversations, completely abandon our family and retreat to parts unknown. Sometimes he’d take his horn to our fire escape and blow such long and angry decibels into the wounded night…only what he played, it didn’t sound like music anymore. It sounded like the noise of a wild and fractured heart. The Kid’s passing had thoroughly trounced his spirit and kicked him in what was left of that heart.

I don’t think anything before had so emotionally collapsed my father’s spirit. He was never quite the same man after that sad day. Even that carefree way he’d had, that breezy jazzy bounce so inherent in the swagger of his walk had abandoned him now. He stood among the rest who’d gathered on the wind-driven street to say their final good-byes. Seeing his kid brother’s coffin, draped in the American flag, only made the rage so much deeper and wilder.

Dakota, no doubt, feared for his sanity, and she worried just a little about what Gig’s moods were doing to me. I didn’t know what was wrong, back then, but something about that strangely brooding red-eyed man who shared a room with my mother began to scare me.

To deliver me safely from my father’s feverish fits of unpredictability and brewing madness, my mother devised a special plan. I loved my mother, but trust me, Dakota Swinton was a woman so full of secrets and private plans. This one plan was to ship me off to Virginia. Virginia, where the summers were much quieter and ‘safer’ and a kid like me would have half a chance at some semblance of normalcy.

She made it all sound like some fantastic adventure would be awaiting me there, a Disneyland of live cows, pigs, horses, and chickens, and people who would love me simply because I was family.

Family love was a given, since we all had the same blood running through our veins. She presented this idea in a way that made it sound like something I needed, an escapade I would be forever grateful for, once I’d made it to that magical place called Virginia.

However, before leaving, early one morning, she awakened and bathed me, dressed me up in my Sunday’s best. My mother had made a key and strategic decision: she was taking me to church.



While my parents weren’t exactly heathens, neither Gig or Dakota ever knew any preachers, pastors, reverends or rabbis on a personal basis. The name of God was used, at best, as a wild exclamation in our home. Now, my mother was taking me to church, escorting me to ‘God’s house,’ as she put it. This seemed a very strange move to me...but this was to be a primer, a preview of upcoming events, because one couldn’t reside in my great Aunt Bessie’s home unless they’d attended church regularly.


This place of stained glass and praise, this temple of high ceilings and higher voices raised in celebration and ceremony was all at once, strange, and yet riveting to my senses.


Before the pulpit stood an older gray man with a stooped and waning posture he’d undoubtedly attained from carrying the weight of his faith and the faith of the whole congregation on his back for years. But his voice remained and it was as mighty and piercing as a clarion horn, delivering this song of salvation. His voice, his urgent words, and the force of his sermon would rock and sway the bodies of those who had come to listen.

I turned, I fidgeted, and I looked around to see all kinds of people in attendance. Faces and bodies of those I’d seen on the street were now scrubbed clean and dressed impeccably. I even saw my mother’s friend Miss Lola. At least, I thought it was Miss Lola, though her hair looked glossy and different somehow. Mama informed me it was a wig.


The women who’d gathered there donned wide brimmed feathered hats and cooled themselves with paper fans, bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Some of them brought their children, babies, and grandkids that restlessly tussled inside their seats or else they gazed around the room, like me.

But the music, oh, that music was so freeing and moving, so loud and triumphant that at times it was almost frightening and yet so warming to the soul!

The people around me all sang along and even my mother raised her voice, though she didn’t seem to know all the lyrics to the songs.

In front of the choir, there stood a zaftig woman with a voice as mighty as the spirit in that room. She pitched that voice as high as a sparrow in flight, and then she made curve unexpectedly and she went low as an eagle touching down on a landing of gravel. It was the first time I could remember the sound of a human voice giving me chills, actual goose-flesh as she sang in her robust and moving crescendo.

“Lawd, I swear that girl sounds just like Miss Mahalia Jackson!” someone said from the pew behind us.


So this resounding noise was gospel. And the Pure Gospel this was! It made some people shout, “Hallelujah!” It made some fan themselves even faster, while others leapt quickly from their seats, as if their bodies were suddenly charged by bolts of electricity. It made Miss Lola shake and shuffle so wildly, she almost lost her wig. Some people ran up and down the aisle, screaming while raising their hands to the heavens. And strangest of all, it made some people fall to their knees, roll around on the floor, wildly weeping and speaking in a bizarre and rambling tongue.

“Why are they cryin’, Mommy?”
“They’re cryin’ because… they can feel God in the room, son.”

Oh. God was there, indeed. It must have been God's Spirit lodged and working inside each of them… Even Miss Lola. It was He swaying their heads, their necks and shoulders. It was He pitching their voices higher. It was God cryptically pulling the strings of their postures, and God was The Light in those faces with the rolling-back eyes. God was the ventriloquist who placed His hand up their spinal columns and made them speak in chattering tongues. God was jerking the bones and the working in the lungs of those people dancing, singing, shouting and hollering ‘Praise the Lawd!’ God was so involved, He was showing up and showing out in this overwhelming sound filling that church. Yes! God was so deep within this music.

I found it odd that my parents had never played these kinds of songs in our home before. Gospel, along with Country Western received no Swinton love. In a home so full of music, those genres were somehow excluded from their usual play list. Yet as a child, sitting there in the pews, though I didn’t quite understand it entirely, something in the power, the tempo, and the spirits of those who sang it, moved me to clap so enthusiastically in my seat.

My mother looked at me and smiled. “Now you can tell Aunt Bessie you go to church on Sundays,” she winked.

And so, after the maiden launch of my first religious experience, I was sent away to the ‘safety’ of Virginia.

My mother, yes, Dakota Swinton, rode the Greyhound bus with me to Richmond. Along the way, as my eyes gazed at the people reading, walking the aisle, or sleeping and snoring around me, she tapped my hand and she told me, “Don’t stare! It’s rude! Never stare at people, son! You stare too long, and before you know it, they get the wrong idea.”

Parents say things and expect a child to understand, to actually comprehend their hidden meaning. Some things they say, children do understand, and others they don’t, because their parents never provide a real cogent reason why. They simply expect you to remember that thing they said or warned you about. But as a child, I liked staring at people. They told me stories with their bodies, their expressions, and with the mystifying things that lay written in their eyes.

So I stared at people, hoping to read, to get a glimpse of their silent stories. I didn’t listen to my mother’s warning, and perhaps that would explain my later punishment.

When something terrible happens to a child, a part of him is never the same again. Whatever was new and innocent...whatever lay trusting within that gentle spirit gets shattered—mutilated beyond repair. It fractures and without a voice, without proper love and repair that spirit will slowly begin to splinter.

And when a season turns and the world grows colder, a sudden shift in the breeze can break that spirit in two. It can be such a small thing, or some catastrophic twist in nature that snaps it like twigs…and life as we knew it could fly away, like so much litter in the wind.

** From The Forthcoming Novel “Like Litter In The Wind” By L.M. Ross


Mizrepresent said...

Very moving and intrigueing...i'm hooked! But you know i love your writing, always so vivid and filled with passion. My brother Pen, i sense this is going to be a GREAT one!

Val said...

If this is a teaser, it worked! I want to read more, Lin.

You are an amazing writer. You always paint such a vivid picture with your writing.

Go, Lin!

Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz said...

You have such a way, of letting us share what it was like to walk in your shoes...things I have never experienced, but can visualize through your words...

Moanerplicity said...

@ Miz:

Thanks Sis Pen. If you only KNEW! The background story of how this book is finally coming to be is a whole other NOVEL within itself. But I'm & even richer in spirit for having taken this often maddening journey.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Val:

Thanks so much, Valentina. This is a departure & a whole other genre of writing for me. It's a family psychological drama that's also a sorta historic novel, w/ many of events w/in the book being things that actually happened in the years between 1958-1985.

On top of that, at its heart it's an intricate thriller & a mystery that I doubt many readers will figure out until the final pages.


Roger Poladopoulos said...

This is the best news that I've had in all of 2012! I just re-read "The Moanin' After" last week while I was in Florida. My copies of all three of your novels are dog-eared from so many repeated readings! When will this be published?

I confess I didn't read the excerpt here. I want to keep it all as a surprise when I get my copy. This is the best belated birthday gift ever! Thank you, my blogger brother!

Moanerplicity said...

@ Teri:

Thanks for the compliment, Teri. I seriously do try to paint word pictures. This is not my personal story... but I WANT it to feel that way, & especially for my readers to enter this world & to feel it with every one of their senses.

When that happens, then I've succeeded... regardless of sales or critiques.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Roger:

Wow! Thanks, man. Glad someone out there still reads my works. With the exception of TLBM, both novels that followed were well written attempts that were... unfortunately, terribly edited. Those in charge completely dropped the ball & literature suffered as a result.

Those last two were NOT a great experience on so many levels, so I will be self-publishing this next book. This time it will be a completely HANDS-ON project. It's the only way to avoid the heartache, the corruption, the indifference & the shady dealings of others.

Hopefully, if I can get all my ducks in a row, it will be available by mid-summer.

Thanks for the support, man.

And OH...

Happy Belated Natal Day!


Val said...

I love mysteries, Lin!

WynnSong said...

You know I've been waiting with excited anticipation.....
Forget that.....I just can't wait.
I know the finished product will be a milestone for you and I know a incredible read for us.....

Moanerplicity said...

@ Val:

Good! This definitely qualifies.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Wynn:

Thanks so much, my friend. You KNOW this process hasn't been an easy one, so now that it's in the finishing stages, I really want you to read, experience & enjoy it from the first to the very last page. I think you see the growth in craft AND in storytelling.


Anna Renee said...

Wow!! Lin, I can't wait!!

I need a galley so I can do a review!! Please? Are there any ready right now?

I need a galley, my friend. Im a professional book reviewer. You know that already. So I need a galley. I'll go back to Hootsuite to hype the book all up!! But only to those who matter. I'll hype you at Marcus Books here in Oakland :)

Moanerplicity said...

@Anna May:

Whoa! I didn't realize I had some influential peeps as friends. (smiles) I don't yet have a galley, tho I should shortly. I will be sure to email something your way in the near future.

Yes. Hype can be a good thing. Especially when it's something ambitious that one has worked on for the longest time & is actually proud of the accomplishment... & in this case, I am!

Thanks, Sista Westsiiide!


Sunny said...

Hi Lin :) Wow you sure are one talented writer. and...thanks for the prayer, hugs, Sunny

Moanerplicity said...

Thanks, Sunny. I appreciate it.

And you're very welcome, my friend. Remember: a Positive Attitude is everything! So I hope you're still engaged in snatching JOY.

Keep the Faith, ok?

One Love.


Chet said...

Pleased to learn that you have taken the pen in hand and found the courage and love to write again.

The sample you have provided us offers us at a glimpse inside the Black Church and the women that attend those churches.

Looking forward to reading the novel.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Chet:

Without giving too much away, on the surface, it's a church scene that features a young boy having his first religious experience.. However, the above scene & several others within the manuscript are really about more than one theme at once. It's based upon the motives, secret agendas, undercurrents & the unspoken signals we often use to manipulate others, even children... & how damaging this can sometimes become.

Thanks so much for the support, man.


SABAH said...

Yo dad....

I'm floored man!!!! I've got to get this book like two years ago. Woooooooooooooooooow! Your writing seems to have accquired a second wind, a fresher flow. I'm with this man! Beautiful and teasing!

-Capa don

Moanerplicity said...

Thanks 'son.' :-)

Truthfully, I put more emotional stamina & depth into this one than in all the previous works combined. The message in the finished work is very powerful, violent, poetic, deep & sobering. I hope you'll like it & will be haunted by it contents long after you read the book's final page.