One month from today – October 8, 2013 – I’ll be releasing my second novel, The Recluse Storyteller. I’m very excited to finally publish this novel which I wrote in the summer of 2012. It was very unexpected and different from Beauty Rising. The structure is unique and, perhaps, a bit confusing. In order to help set the stage for the story, the novel begins with a prologue to introduce the characters and especially the protagonist, Margaret. I’m happy to share it with you today.
The Recluse Storyteller
Prologue: The Stories
Perhaps a word before we begin would help set the stage for what is to come, for the recluse storyteller is not so easily comprehended and frequently misunderstood. People think they know the type and consider her standoffish ways to be nothing more than her being inhospitable, awkwardly social, or even a little off the rails. While each of those descriptions may perfectly depict our storyteller to one degree or another, they fall short in truly understanding who she is.
Margaret. That is her name. She has been bottled up from the world for a number of years. Not by anyone’s choice—not even her own. It just is. A casualty of our age, perhaps. She lives secluded in her second floor apartment 2B, flanked by Michael Cheevers on her right in 2A, Mrs. Trumble directly opposite in 2C, and the Johnson family down the hall in 2D. Mrs. Trumble remains her biggest pest, if a recluse can indeed have a pest. The Johnson family has adorable twin girls named Sam and Pam whom Margaret often peeks at through the keyhole or a discretely cracked door. These are the characters that complete the second floor occupancy in the drab, dimly lit, well-worn apartment building where Margaret weaves her stories. They are the characters—at least to her—that inhabit the four tales she continues to tell as a master craftswoman, constantly chipping and buffing, ever refining and redefining the heart of the stories which have become her only obsession or worthwhile possession.
So who is this storyteller precisely? She is not a writer because she never writes anything down. She is not a raconteur because she speaks to no one but herself. But the stories are real, and they surround her at all moments, so, when the time is right and the familiar feeling comes heavily upon her shoulders, she releases them into the air, and they hang over the apartment like a heavy perfume that cannot be easily whisked away—seeping deep into the furniture, into the walls, entrenching itself inside the very being of the apartment. She can’t escape them, nor, so it seems, would she want to.
“Red Hat.” Cheevers wears this red baseball cap that seems to mesmerize Margaret every time she hears the thud of his door and his heavy plodding steps, which tepidly fade out of earshot only to see him emerge on the street corner below donning the familiar colored hat. Her eyes have followed him for years, scouring the darkened crevices of the hallway, understanding his past all too well. He, too, is somewhat of a recluse—a jovial, cynical one for that matter. But he keeps to himself and tries to forget the past. Margaret cannot forget, and so she tells his story with ever increasing frequency. It is a story that Cheevers needs to hear.
“On the Ridge.” In the bottom right drawer of her computer desk sits a large stack of letters bound with a silver ribbon. They are from Reverend Davies with whom she hasn’t spoken for many years—not since her mother was alive. But he persistently sends her a letter or card from time to time. Margaret cares little for their content, but they serve as a reminder of the horrific tale of war which still hasn’t quite come to its end. What does Margaret know of war? Perhaps more than most recluses. The ridge, overlooking the quiet village of To Hap, has been seared in her mind over the years; the clues, the reminders, the memories, pieced together like a fractured piece of stained glass—each colored shard telling its own story, fracturing the light in its own unique way, making truth elusive. But not to her. She knows the truth and often wonders what would happen if she ever decided to talk with Reverend Davies about the ridge, but that thought never lasts long. A recluse is content with idleness—or so she keeps telling herself.
“The Mark Across the Sky.” Then, of course, there are the sweet twins. If ever there were any two people who might entice Margaret out of her well-barricaded cocoon, it would be the twins. She sees their goodness, and the rare smiles which pass across Margaret’s face are typically brought on by catching a glimpse of the two in the hallway—badgering each other with sisterhood. It reminds her of a lonely tree on a hill that hangs against the canvas of a darkening sky, a warning to all who might pay attention. If only they could hear the story of the single tree and the strange mark that flashed across the sky, perhaps they would understand a little better why certain inexplicable events have to happen. She loves their innocence. She remembers it. She longs for it.
“Blinding.” Finally, the light of morning perhaps speaks the loudest into her solace. It greets her each dawn with such brilliance that Margaret often feels faint and blind in its presence—trapped by some higher purpose or some alternative calling not yet understood. She stands on the brink, dizzy in despair, ready to sacrifice everything, knowing that nothing can save her from the light, and so she thinks of Janice who will give her all for the light. It pains her greatly.
These are her stories. She would sacrifice everything for them. Perhaps she already has. Day in and day out, she watches her muse, the movings of her apartment block, and she tells their story which her eyes can’t help but see—perhaps even better than they see it themselves. For this is, indeed, their story, and they are about to embark on a journey of self-discovery courtesy of the gifted storyteller and her magical stories.
But unbeknownst to Margaret, this is also more than just their stories. It is also her story.
This is the story of the recluse storyteller.