I'm participating in Kelly's (of Kelly's Compositions) first page blogfest. Herewith the first 24 (and a half) lines of The Poison Hill. Run over and take a look at the others as well.
There had never been a time, after Gertrude had known David, when she had not believed that she would marry him someday. He had first appeared in the driveway in 1919, in that jittery spring after the war: an intense, upright boy who even in high school still tied up his books with a cord, who waited for her brother Louis at 7 a.m., rain, snow or fog, refusing all enticements into the kitchen. Nah, I’ll wait out here. Nah, I’m OK, Mrs. Leskow. He had called their housekeeper, Alida, Mrs. Leskow, and he repeated the gaffe almost daily, never acknowledging in any serious way that he had made a mistake long after he must have realized it.
That was the year that a chant, rhyming “Leskow” with “presto!” was raised whenever Louis crossed the high school campus, the year of his debating win streak, the year the Juniors ran the Junior-Senior Banquet (as they called it) as a Russian Revolution party and served caviar and borscht.
It was the year, too, that Louis brought home “Crazy Blues” and wound up the Victrola until the twining blues, rambling like a vine, climbed out and Gertrude found him dancing a solo grizzly bear on the Persian carpet, arms squeezed around himself, hopping from side to side.
No one else could understand their music. That murky wailing, those screeching horns! Their parents thought it was awful. And yet it was life; it was happiness; it was truth and justice and passion and everything else that had been locked up in the closet and lost. Thereafter Gertrude sat in front of the Victrola and wound it up over and over, shivering happily as the distant voice began again:
I can’t sleep at night, I can’t eat a bite…
’Cause the man I love, he don’t treat me right…
Even David, normally so scornful of everything, had grabbed her as he listened to it, and stepped her backward across the room in a kind of tango and dipped her far, far back until she shrieked.