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Posts tagged ‘Feral’

As the Girl Slept

Excerpt from Feral by Deena Metzger

As the Girl Slept

The woman elected to sit by her in the car for several hours with the girl’s head in her lap. The door to the woman’s cottage was only a few steps away. She didn’t go in. Instead she sat down on the back seat, lifted the girl’s head gently, placing it on her lap, feeling the girl’s dark hair cascading like skeins of heavy silk across her hands, then covering the girl with a mohair blanket she kept in the car.

Intermittently, she thought of undoing the belt around the girl’s waist or slipping the knife out of the sheaf, but she put those thoughts out of her mind. Better to remove the knife from her mind. Whatever reasonable explanation she gave herself, the truth was that she didn’t want the girl to disappear. She didn’t want her to awaken in anger or fear and so shapeshift into a bird and fly away. The girl might become anything, go anywhere, do anything. The woman… the woman… the woman wanted to go with her.

Only once did the woman allow professional thoughts to disturb the exquisite peace that existed between them. If someone came by… if she were discovered sitting with a naked girl in her lap… if she as a therapist were discovered with her naked client… if, on awakening the girl had thought she might have abused her… if…

If can be a dangerous word, she contended to herself, trying to banish it from her mind. She focused on the stars, on the coyotes howling in the hills, on the entire animal valley suddenly alerted. Somewhere in the brush, Timber Wolf added his glorious arpeggio to the chorus. A conversation in progress that the woman had never thought to understand. As the girl was asleep, she took the opportunity to apply herself but the stars remained silent, the wolves, dogs and coyote’s language was incomprehensible to her, and the night birds only sang their odd melodies intermittently. Failing to comprehend, the woman was unable to avoid the camber of her own thoughts.

She didn’t know what her responsibilities were nor could she distinguish them from her inclinations whatever they were. Everything was unfamiliar and unpredictable. She wanted to go with the girl and converted this, immediately, into ways she could entice the girl to stay with her. An about-face in her mind pretending not to be an about-face. A reassertion of a very different mind. A mind not unlike Carmela’s mind, certain, self-righteous, determined. A different kind of shapeshifting altogether. More like possession, a thought, the kind of though the girl might have had, flickered briefly through her consciousness, an ember quickly extinguished as the woman sank into the mindset of a strategist, not Carmela’s mind, but her own old mind, very familiar and, yes, treacherous. She was unnerved and alternately was blaming the girl, Carmela, her peers, her profession. Such habits of mind often afflicted her clients. She was skilled at helping them because she knew the pattern and so could confront herself; it was not right to blame others for her face in her mirror.

Read more of Feral at Amazon.

Do you ever lie?

Excerpt from Feral by Deena Metzger

Do You Ever Lie?

The woman settled back again against the tree but more carefully this time. Careful, that is, about what was in her mind. And this led her to wonder what in fact was in her mind. Was there anything in her mind that belonged to her? Or was everything in her mind something she had gathered or been given by others? Was there anything in her mind about the girl and what they were doing there together that was her own thought? Was her mind her own or did it belong to others?

It was a May afternoon. She was sitting under a tree. The girl had clearly decided there was nothing better to do. At this point, she almost faltered again by thinking of how the girl had brought her to this extremity. For it was extremity. Sitting in the damp of someone else’s piss was not extremity; she’d suffered many inconveniences and discomforts for others’ sakes over the years. But sitting at the base of a tree with no intention of doing anything else, this was for her an extremity.

And what was in her mind that was her own? That she wanted the girl to come down. To come down to her. To come down to her for her sake. For her own sake. She wanted the girl to come down for her own sake because she wanted to be with the girl. Yes, the girl had appeared at the right time. She had come exactly at the time the woman was considering becoming an animal.

“That’s better,” the girl said.

“How do you know? Why do you presume to know what I’m thinking?” the woman shouted into the leaves with as much wonder as irritation.

“I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking, only if you’re thinking about me, about yourself or about something else. Sometimes I know more, sometimes I know the shape of your thinking. You were thinking about you. You were thinking about changing shapes. You were thinking about being a shapeshifter.” The girl’s tone had shifted to the murmur of kindly musing. Revealing herself as she was considering the woman. For the briefest moment, the woman could see the girl clearly. Girl, leaves, branches, sky, clouds were all distinct. The girl was not deliberately obfuscating the situation.

“You want to be someone else. You want to be like me.”

Was this indeed true? Had the woman dared such a thought? Was she,
herself, considering that such activities might be for her?

The girl laughed. “I just made that up. I don’t ever really know what you’re thinking.”

“I think you do know what I’m thinking.”

“I don’t know a lot about thinking. It shifts too fast. Thinking doesn’t have any substance to it. Do you know what I mean?”

“Do you ever lie?” The woman believed that the girl would answer this
question truthfully and she thought she needed to know the answer.

“No.”

What did the girl mean by such a no? The girl’s answer implied that the question was unthinkable but not on moral grounds. To lie would be, the woman assumed the girl meant, unnatural, but the girl would not use such categories. The woman did use such categories and was constantly
concerned with trying to discern the natural from the unnatural.

“You are going to give me a headache if you keep thinking so much. Your thoughts are like splatter shots, you follow one line and then you have to follow another. It’s so arbitrary. You’ve got a brain,” the girl said, “like a Jackson Pollack painting.”

Then the woman remembered that among other things, the girl was a
painter. And wasn’t really a girl, only appeared so. Because of the delicacy
of her bones and the openness of her face, her innocence. But she was far
from innocent. Because she couldn’t dissemble. Wouldn’t dissemble. She
appeared like a child because of her honesty. “I mean I don’t ever really
know for sure, what you are thinking.”

The woman could not discern whether the girl didn’t have the capacity to decipher her thoughts or whether her thoughts were confused and so were indecipherable.

“What I am thinking or what anyone is thinking?” the woman asked.

“What you are thinking.”

“But I need to know just this,” the woman tried to cajole a truthful answer, “would you ever say anything that was not true?”

“Do you mean like rabbits or doves making distress sounds away from their nests in order to distract the crows? That’s not lying.”

“What is it?”

“It’s what they do. What small animals do.”

She was, herself, very much a small animal, in that moment.

“What’s a lie, then? Is a lie doing what you don’t do? Are you a … ?” the woman didn’t know what word to follow with. “Are you someone who lies or someone who doesn’t lie? And if you’re someone who lies, is it lying
when you lie?”

“Do you think I would lie to you?”

The girl had nailed her. She didn’t want to know if the girl lied, she didn’t so much want to know the girl’s nature, she wanted to know if the girl would lie to her. She wanted to know if they were having a relationship. If the girl cared that she, that she in particular, was sitting under the sycamore, waiting.

“Yes, of course I think that.” Now the girl was forcing her to be truthful.

“Am I right?”

“I don’t lie.”

‘Why not?”

“I never have to.”

“Are you lying? The question was a triumph, but the woman couldn’t maintain it and found herself asking immediately, “Would you like some juice? Or cookies?”

The girl did not answer and her silence was inevitable. It wasn’t like the woman to resort to such pat maternal questions. The woman no longer knew whether the words that came out of her mouth were the result of her will or whether she had become some puppet, some marionette operated by a master puppeteer from a remote distance. How like the girl it would be to put words in her mouth and then jeer at them or take umbrage and retreat.

“Aren’t you ready to come down?”

MORE from FERAL by Deena Metzger

Favorite Books of All Time

What are your 10 favorite books of fiction written so far (not including Buddha’s Wife, written by yours truly)?

Mine are (in no specific order):

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Feral by Deena Metzger

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Street by Ann Petry

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

On the other hand…

The 10 best books for living with loss are (nonfiction) CLICK HERE

What Is It? Who Is She?

Beginning of the novel FERAL by Deena Metzger.

The moment it first occurred to the woman that she would bring the girl home was when the girl had climbed to a sturdy branch halfway up the sycamore and ensconced herself there, first removing, then dropping, her yellow leather work boots and then her socks, stretched out like lilies at their tops, fluorescent lime green no less. The girl wrapped what looked like prehensile toes around some of the finer twigs so that it appeared that she had grown into the tree or it into her. When the woman was trying to discern the nature of the being she was examining, first she thought feral, then thinking feral, she thought wolf. But wolves don’t climb trees, both the girl and the woman knew that.

Confronted by the girl’s feet, she was compelled to say simian, ape, primate, mono, monkey, but stopped there as no one would identify a species by its feet alone. Then as the woman teetered between one identification and another without knowing if the confusion or complexity was in the girl or in herself, the girl raised her mouth to the sky and opened it into a fluted goblet as if to catch rain. The sadness the child exuded was so like a perfume that one could not bear taking it in or being without it. Grief eased out into the air extending itself in mineral colors like oil on water, the thinnest of diaphanous films until it found its destination and wrapped itself about the living body, a sculpture in opal and mother of pearl. So many days, the woman admitted, she had been curious about grief while most willing to avoid the textures of its mysteries.

Climbing the tree had not been a thoughtless or impetuous action. The girl had taken a Jew’s harp, a handful of dried cranberries, a scrap of blue leather, feathers, a vial of silver and turquoise beads, a needle, some thread, other secret objects, some sacred, all carefully balanced in the lap of an oversized T-shirt that the girl turned alternately into a desk, a knapsack, a handkerchief for blowing her nose, while another T-shirt became a bandanna, a snood, and a white banner that declared most adamantly: “I will not surrender.”

Closer scrutiny indicated however that this was not a wolf or a monkey person. Nothing so close to human. Or so diminished as to say humanoid. No protoperson. Nor was she any animal the woman could identify, but she was of another species, the woman thought, of another species altogether. The way the words fell together, something else she could not yet understand was presented to her mind: An animal of other species altogether. Or, as she was only later to understand the meaning of: an animal of other species all together.

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Feral by Deena Metzger

Feral a novel by Deena Metzger. (2011, Hand to Hand Publishing). Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A story that takes you into and out of your self is a good story. This is such a story. One of the best I’ve read in years. “The girl postulated an entire universe by her mere existence.” Is an apt description of Feral. Within seconds of the opening, it becomes apparent that one has stepped into a familiar, yet alternate landscape. There is no preamble, pretense or long description of the journey upon which you are embarking. It has an immediacy and aliveness that take hold upon first sight.

Deena Metzger’s story about the connection between a woman, who is later called Owl Woman and a girl, who is at times known as Azul, blurs distinctions between who is saving who and looks intimately at the way we define and see our selves. In one moment of clarity, the woman realizes, “She was wrapped completely in the shimmer of her own mind.” It is these illusions and myths of what is real that Ms. Metzger explores and plays with so exquisitely that readers immediately lose themselves within the story. The woman wonders, “Was there anything in her mind that belonged to her? Or was everything in her mind something she had gathered or been given by others?” The girl can sense the woman’s mind chatter and says, “It’s such a burden, all your knowing. It makes me tired.”

The author uses words, timing and nuance like none other. An example of this brilliance is seen in the following. “Feral was the word she used to explain the girl and what the girl was doing to her. Feral. It was efficient. Feral. Again. Good.” Language is a thing. It has power, meaning and weight. It appears that there is not a word in this novel that is written without mindful intention. “She recognized that she had always sought out those who would challenge her and open the door to new ways of living.” That is what this story does for readers. It challenges us to re-consider what we tell ourselves about the life we live and what living authentically demands of our attention and time.

Everything in Feral is alive and asks us to be real. It is a beautifully told story, which blurs the lines between nonfiction and fiction. The girl tells the woman, who has been trying to counsel or “help” her that, “I don’t want to know your secrets. And I certainly don’t think I can fix anything. I just want you to be real.”

Could it be that there is no distinction between species and the differences we create within our tribes of being to describe another are illusions we have constructed to give us a sense of control and righteousness? Is it possible that we are all teachers and students in symbiotic relationships with one another, such as the characters referred to as “woman” and “girl” are in Feral?

One of the themes that runs through the story like an underground river, which can be heard, but not always seen, are questions about our shared responsibility to one another and the planet. The woman realizes that the girl has experienced and is aware of a great amount of suffering and tells her that she doesn’t have to hold on to it, but the girl says, “Someone has to carry it?” Does she? Does some “one”? Does anyone have to carry “it” or do we all carry it? Could it be that carrying suffering creates more suffering? Are there times when we’ve convinced ourselves that suffering is the only way we can stay connected with the past (people and events) and use it as a means to avoid the present and take responsibility for what exists now in front of our face? Do we have the courage and animal instincts to open our eyes and not turn away from what is real or painful?

Reading Feral wakes you up. It provides a sense of being more alive, aware and connected than you were before you embarked. With the inner strength of a well-grounded counselor, writer, naturalist and human who includes all life in her being, it is told with integrity, grit and wisdom.

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