The Book of Creation: A Novel

So, I have decided to post excerpts of my novel, The Book of Creation, while I am awaiting responses from agents.  I will try to post consecutively if not completely.

There’s a lot going on here.  If you get impatient with a post or two, please hang in there.  I think it will reward your efforts.

Here goes:  The Book of Creation:  A Novel by Ezra Wasserman Mitchell

In the beginning I was in the cradle.

Where else should an infant be?

It was a warm night.  I was born in the summer.  The plaster walls were light blue and the cradle was up against a wall opposite the window, which was open.  The cradle was brown. This I may not be remembering from then because that cradle stayed in our family from generation to generation down to this day and I’ve seen at least a dozen babies in it after me so who knows?

But the walls, the window?

It’s been decades since we left that place.

We don’t talk about it.

Trust me.

So it was warm.  The window was open, like I said, but Brooklyn in September sometimes doesn’t know from a breeze.  This was one of those times. The air smelled.  Actually it stank.  Tobacco smoke. It burned my eyes, too, but that’s what you got in those days.  And anyway, what should I have done about it, an infant not two months in the cradle?

I couldn’t sleep.

Not then, not now.

That’s why I write.

What else should I be doing when West End Avenue goes dark, or at least what passes for dark in Manhattan?  The pills help and yes they are from a prescription, but every time I take them I hear his voice in my head telling me that I should only take pills when I’m sick and what kind of a person is so weak that they have to take pills for anxiety and maybe if I got more exercise or ate healthier food or drank less I would sleep better all of which coming from him was an absurd joke.

I take the pills.

And some others to help assuage the guilt.

I couldn’t sleep even as a baby.

That night was no different from any other night.

But I was tired.

I had talked all day.

Talked, you say?  An infant of a month in the cradle doesn’t talk.  What do you know?  So maybe I didn’t talk, if what you mean by that is using words a person could understand.  So if that’s what you mean, of course I didn’t talk.  Whoever saw an infant reciting Shakespeare?  But I had talked.  All day.  Sounds coming out of my mouth, simple and complex, a noise here, a series of noises there.  It’s not my problem if they didn’t understand me. I knew what I was saying.  And as for what you call talking, I know I talked before I even sat on the toilet.

She’s been complaining about it since the day I was born.

So there I was.

On my back.

In a cradle.

Pajamas you ask?  How should I know?  It’s enough to remember the important things.  Probably it was just a diaper in the damp hot Brooklyn night.

Unless Bubbe was there.

She was always cold so she wrapped me in a blanket.

Every time she did she held me.

For a long, long time.

Bubbe knew how to hold me.

So I lay there on my back in the steamy Brooklyn night with tobacco smoke making spider webs in the air.

Turning slowly above my head, but not so slowly that you didn’t get dizzy, was a mobile. They put it there to make me sleep, but who could sleep with the kind of noisy gears they made in the second Eisenhower administration? Who knew from fancy electronics anyway?  The best we had was a new transistor radio from Taiwan over which he went berserk because it let you listen to the Dodgers wherever you might be although he was almost always splayed out in his chair with the Wall Street Journal spread out slipping down across his lap along his extended legs toward the floor and his radio in one hand and his Scotch in the other so why did it matter anyway but he always played the radio loud and the Taiwan transistor had come with a white rubber wire with an earpiece that he could plug into a small hole in the radio and put the earpiece in his ear so that only he could hear it and she made him use it at least at night no matter how much he complained that it was uncomfortable and was going to make him deaf but what was really going to make him deaf as she pointed out was that even with the earpiece on he still kept the radio so loud that you could hear the sound almost perfectly and whenever she left the room he took it out until she came back and made him put it in again until the day he claimed to have lost it which he almost certainly did if you mean by lost that it got thrown down the incinerator.

Followed by the Taiwan transistor when the Dodgers left Brooklyn at the end of the season.

Every ten minutes or so the mobile would stop and one of them would eventually come into the room in a cloud of smoke to rewind the thing so I shouldn’t wake up.

Could you sleep with such a racket?

Who had a choice?

So I lay there on my back and stared at the mobile.

First came a red train, and then a cowboy on a horse, then a red train, and a cowboy on a horse, and a red train and a cowboy on horse and a red cowboy horse on train and train on cowboy red horse and again and again and again and again until it wound down and by the time it did my eyes had closed and I was breathing deeply.

And then the door opened and smoke-woven light shot through to my crib and I blinked hard and maybe I cried as she came in to rewind the mobile.  Already by then I had abandoned all hope that she might pick me up and hold me or even heaven forefend kiss me but she had demonstrated on at least several occasions that she did know how to slap me so as soon as I became aware of the fact that I was pointlessly and maybe even dangerously crying I forced myself to turn it off.

And asked her not to rewind the stupid mobile.

It wasn’t my problem if she didn’t understand.

She told me to shut up.

And rewound.

And walked out quietly pulling almost closed the door.

Slowly they spun.

I stared.

They spun.

I stared.

A train.  A horse.  A train.  A cowboy.

A corse.

I forgot the heat.

I forgot the smoke.

I stared.

.  .  .  .

Because there was nothing.

Not trains.  Not cowboys.  Not horses.  Not blue walls nor brown cradles nor spiderwebs of smoke.

Just white.

Pure white.

It transpired just as the trains and the cowboys and the horses began to blur again.   As the blur receded it spread behind it a sheet of gray.  The gray slowly brightened, the way a cloud cover opens to diffuse the light after rain, backlit by the sun as it dissipates, growing ever brighter until I was staring at a brilliant white canopy stretched across the heavens.

Or a Brooklyn ceiling.

It stayed that way for a very long time.

Who could sleep with all that light?

My eyelids descended.

Closed.

And quickly opened.

And closed.

And opened.

Two incandescent cloudy lines began to descend.  As they did, the ends slowly drew together at an acute angle.  Another line behind them formed a triangle.  Two more attached as legs. Gently falling.  All emerging from the white sheet above, floating on wet Brooklyn air.

Lazily tumbling end over end.

My eyes transfixed.

I did what babies do.

I reached to grab it.

My chubby hand swatted pure air.

Like a feather, it completed its descent.

Posing firm upon my belly.

I recognized the shape as something I had noticed once before, the time she pulled the newspaper from my mouth.

“A.”

It must have been special because I still feel the sting of the slap she gave me as she babbled loud noises at me.

Why not put it in my mouth?

It tasted like honey.

And now here it was, staring at me.

Dominating me.

Frightening me.

Defeating me.

I reached for it again, tried to grab it, to feel it, to taste it.

Nothing.

Air.

No feel, no taste, no sound.

I had to have it.

.  .  .  .

Another shape initiated its descent.

A loop.

And then another.

They joined in midair like a flying trapeze.

One side began to straighten.

It gently settled to the right of the A.

“B.”

Shapes floating down conjoining, as wet snowflakes do when they gently drift toward earth and meld, creating new shapes from the old.

It went on for a long time.

The white canopy began to drape outside the window.

Twenty five of these shapes had aligned across my belly.

The white outside the window began to streak with yellow.

So sleepy.

I startled up.

Three more lines descending, floating, joining, turning, tumbling ever so softly.

Landing on my chest.

Last to land it took its place before the others.

Vanguard of what had been.

And what was to be.

The “Y” stared deeply into my eyes.

Yellow flared outside my window.

II

Take a close look at the letter “C.”

What do you see?

Right.

Closed on the bottom, on the top, and at the back.

It almost encircles you.

It keeps you safe.

There is only one direction you can go.

One direction you’re exposed.

But one direction you can control.

One way out.

Forward.

.  .  .  .

The word “creation” begins with C.

And “create.”

.  .  .  .

Now take a look at the Hebrew letter “ב.” Yes, I know you don’t know it.  Work with me.

What do you see?

Right.

Closed on the bottom, on the top, and at the back.

It almost encircles you.

It keeps you safe.

There is only one direction you can go.

One direction you’re exposed.

But one direction you can control.

One way out.

Forward.

Don’t argue.  Hebrew is written from right to left.  By Hebrew it’s just as forward as C is in English.

The word “creation” in Hebrew  – ״בר׳אה״ — begins with ב.

And “create” –בורה.

Obviously.

Put a C opposite a ב.

Put them together.  Cב.

Right.

A circle.

The world.

You can only go around.

No escape.

.  .  .  .

There is one difference between the letters.  The Hebrew ב has a dot in the middle.

We call it a point.

We put it there to make it sound like B and not like V, which of course it would without the point.

And there you are.