Going against my paranoia of putting creative ideas in public domain, I’ve decided to put several excerpts from Eden Prairie, chosen a bit haphazardly late this night.
Note: The following words are the property and copyright of Priscilla Thomas. And if I find anyone that ever plagiarizes these words, may whatever god you believe in help protect you from me. That’s not a threat, that’s a fact.
When Ruth was younger, she sort of came upon the Forgotten Eden. From the outside, it don’t look like nothing more than an oversized shack. Some of the planks are rotting, others crooked out, all being held together by rust sick nails. The Forgotten Eden was built on the edge of town; it’s the first thing seen walking in and the last thing out as people leave. But most pass it because it don’t look like a warm place, a welcome house. And most in town consider it unholy.
“Forgotten Eden is marked like Cain,” Ruth said, “Almost no man will deal with it, but they can’t help but be drawn to a cursed thing. You always wonder about its story, about a mark that can’t be hidden. And there’s a lot of cursed souls in a place like this. All a bunch of Cains tellin’ their story.”
“I’m not sure I get what you’re saying, Ruth” I paused to take a drink from my cider, “But I just know I feel pain in a place like this. It aches just as bad as a bruise.”
Ruth smirked, and took into her cigarette, letting the smoke blow out slowly from her nose. “Jessie, one day you’ll come to know that everyone is Cain, just some come to realize it, and others just rather deny what they really are.”
There was no guitar or drum, so Ruth just started humming real soft with her eyes closed. And it seemed that all them men and women put down their glasses just to hear.
Paradise got lost along the way
A forgotten dream like miner’s gold
It’s morning in Eden
But God is asleep
And I wish I could sleep
But I can’t go home
To a Mama that says I lie
To a preacher man that gone and made me cry
Pretty blue eyed girl he told me once
And I thought him kind
But I became a prophecy gone wrong
Fallen off Jacob’s ladder
Heaven lost forever
Preacher man tore my wings
Now I just a bird that can’t fly
No longer the glint in the spirit’s eye
Yes, preacher man did me in
With that nasty little smile
And a hand of sin
So I can’t go home
And I can’t go back
But I miss the fire in my soul
Before God slept in Eden
And left me on my own
But none of that struck me so much as the music did. That thing called Blues was something different. The sound seemed like it came from the belly, a deep moan that just sang so loud and long, weaving through the air, and it just had the power of the soul. And that seemed its meaning, to rise up from the spirit to speak. It was something the people in this place could understand. And though its words was about pain, it somehow made me feel down but comforted. It healed because it made me come to see my pain and know my hurt, and it didn’t promise nothing past that. Didn’t give me no heaven, no promise of peace, but it made me think about my sick soul and I had to do the rest myself. And to me, the Blues might as well be God talking to me, telling me it knows my pain, lets me feel it, and lets me go mending how I see fit.
I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and I knew I must have been lost in my mind again because I wasn’t paying any mind to anything around me. Rabbit stood pale and wet. Those eyes dark as coal seemed to shiver. Reaching up, I grabbed his face with my hands, and he felt cold. I rushed up, and took him to the back room where no one could see us. I sat him down on a wooden box, tucked back his wet hair cause it was sticking to his face. Taking his hands, I started blowing into them to warm them. He was shaking bad, and even his clothes were soaked.
“I know you won’t like it,” I said looking him dead in the eye, “But you have to take your clothes off.”
He jerked his hands back and shook his head.
“Oh don’t be so damn modest,” I said, “You want to just freeze? Ain’t no one gonna see you.”
Rabbit just sat there shaking, not doing a thing, so I started unbuttoning his shirt. His body tensed up so tight, but I couldn’t stand to let him be going on cold. By the end of it, I left only his under britches on. I ran back into the main room to grab my coat and put it over Rabbit like a blanket. He’d finally stopped shivering. I asked him what had happened, and he actually tried talking. But nothing came out that I could understand, a bunch of sounds bunched together, and then the pained look on his face when he couldn’t get it out. Almost like he forgot he couldn’t talk. He just closed his eyes tight, bunching up his brow, and then he started to cry. I wanted so bad for him to tell me, but I knew he just couldn’t. All I knew to do was just stand there and hold him. And before I knew it, I couldn’t help but cry too. There we were in that back room, him in nothing but white shorts and my worn plaid jacket, holding each other and crying crazy mad. Neither of us could say why. His tongue was not right and my spirit was no better. So, I guess the crying was all we could do in a moment like that.
I couldn’t think a darn thing, I just could feel it all. And that Blues was reaching for me in that back room, calling my spirit, but I didn’t want no pain. That melody deep and low like a knocking on the door. Leave me be, that music, it knowing me too well. And I sobbed into Rabbit’s hair, holding him closer. Took all I had not to scream for no good reason. But that music was climbing deep into me, it just wouldn’t let go. It swam in my blood, became my bones, and my heart was beating with those plucked strings. Blues had me good, and my eyes were aching from the crying. But I couldn’t quit those tears, and Rabbit cried into my shoulder. And in my mind I was yelling let it be, let me be, let it be…please, God let me be.
I didn’t want anyone to wake, so I left the lights off. Bringing a chair to the kitchen window, the moon was shining down bright that night; so, I could read with just a bit of squinting. Right before I turned that first page, I was still debating to read it or not. This was Rabbit’s thoughts, but I just wanted so bad to know Rabbit. My curious mind won out, and I turned the cover slowly as if someone may hear the pages move and find me out.
His scribble was hard to read, like he slanted his hand while he wrote. On the inside of the cover was a sketch of a girl walking on creek rocks. It took me a bit to notice the wild hair, and I knew it was me. My arms were in the air almost like an L, on the tips of my toes walking across the creek. It was a pretty little sketching. I could better know his drawings than his words though.
Eve defied. Madam cursed by Adam. No serpent in Eden except Eli I’le.
That first line alone seemed like nothing I’ve ever read before. And that’s all there was on the first page. If this is how Rabbit thought all the time, a working tongue wouldn’t do him much good anyway.
A republic lost. Land lay in soil. Wrapped in the grasp of a snake’s coil.
Eden forgotten like the left hand, evil a live, evil a live.
How easily Lucifer descends upon man,
Another pawn in the lions’ den.
“This is how He works,” his voice quaking, “I can heal, but my body reacts. I ain’t goin’ to make you sickly child. I just take in the poison of the unclean myself, but God lets it pass.”
I just kept thinkin’ about how nice Preacher Man looked, and how he looked covered with fat boils on his body. Eli ain’t no healer; he is. And Eli gone and needed somethin’ to make him look like a magic man. But he couldn’t do it alone. Preacher Man still on the floor cryin himself out of his mind. I can’t stand to see a being in pain. Hurts me bad when I can’t do nothin’ but watch. But I figure I ain’t got the power to heal a healer, but I can help him hurt less. So I find strips of white cloth and grab a basin of cool water and the holy oil Eli uses on occasion. And though he tried to push me away again once I settled on the floor, I just grabbed his hands firm like a man would and tugged them down. Not so much as lookin’ Preacher Man in the eye, I start dipping his hands in the water to help that fire in his fingers. And those boils feel almost like paper wax, like one tough touch and they’ll be busted open and sore. So, I keep gentle as can be, and once his hands feel a bit cooler, I take the holy oil and pour a small bit in my hand. Slowly rubbin’ it into his hands so that the oil coats the skin well, protecting it from the air. His hands gone cool just like I hoped, and in all that oil, they became shiny. Then I took the strips of cloth and started wrapping them around his hands till it looked like he was wearing a leper’s gloves. All the while he ain’t said a word to me. Just kept looking into my face, but I kept my eyes on his hands. And it wasn’t till I was done that I finally looked Preacher Man in the face. Though some bumps had come up, they wasn’t red hot or large like the ones on his hands. Just looked like he had some blemishes creepin’ up on his face.
And it strange how you may see a person, but don’t see a person. All that while I’d seen Preacher Man and his city boy suit, and looks as nice as an actor in the picture shows. But his eyes didn’t match none of that. They seemed like an old man’s eyes lookin’ back at me. Something in them that ring more true that I had first thought. Preacher Man may put on a revival show, come as a God lovin’ entertainer, but he believe strong in what he does. So much so that the Lord let him heal. But that healin’ brings him pain, brings boils on his hands that heal, but that don’t stop him none. Preacher Man still came down to help little girl. He still hadn’t said a word to me, and I thought it funny for two people just to be staring at each other so long.
“I know,” he said.
“Well that’s good and all, but I don’t know you from a hare.”
He almost smiled, “Malachi Jefferson.”
“I know,” I whispered, “But for some reason, I just call you Preacher Man.”