Saturday, June 16, 2018

Can he tell, somehow, who I am?

The old man calls my name, and I advance in the darkness in the direction of his voice, bumping against a shelf here, a bench there. First, near the entrance, I touch the cold surface of an hourglass, nearly tipping it over. A leather scroll drops down accidentally and spreads across my path. Meanwhile the wind is flapping, slapping across the canvas, a bird comes squawking overhead, and with every step I can hear a sound that is even higher than all that: my heart, racing wildly. 
At last I reach his bed, above which I can see two open tears in the canvas. Slanting down from there are two long rays, the rays of morning light, the glare of which beams down directly upon his eyes, his odd, blind eyes. 
The eyelids are so fine, the little veins so delicate, so transparent, that in a flash I begin to worry. Can I fool him—or am I making a fool of myself? Can he see, even vaguely? Can he tell, somehow, who I am, perhaps by the slightness of my frame, or the general shape of my shoulders? 
Naturally, I have to test it. So I raise my Esav arm, the one with the hairy sleeve. I raise it with the thought of bringing it down upon him in one fell swoop, right next to his cheek, and stopping just short of a slap. Would he flinch? Would he give a flutter? My hand flies up. I freeze. But then, an incredible thing happens. You would not believe it—I do not believe it myself! I cannot, for the life of me, control it any further.
At first I figure that the old man must have cast some spell over me. By all accounts, he is a master of scriptures and can recite magical chants in a number of ancient languages. I stand there, with my arm frozen in the air over him, and with my eyes burning in their sockets as if to drill a hole in him. But nothing seems to have changed: he does not squirm, nor does he stir under my gaze. And so, little by little, I grow calmer. 
My muscles start to relax and then, of its own accord, my limb comes down to rest at my side. I lay a hand on him and, quite casually, brush against his skin to make sure he feels me. 
“Esav,” he says. “My dear child.”

Excerpt from A Favorite Son

★ Love literary fiction? Treat yourself to a gift 

"She opens the old story to be instead a lively psychological study of family and of greed and longing for paternal love and more. It works spectacularly well." 
- Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Reviewer

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