The Saving of Aris

The Saving of Aris

by NovaMelia

ISBN: 9781432751333

Publisher Outskirts Press

Published in Parenting & Families/Parenting

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Sample Chapter

CHAPTER 1Papi's house was a white painted wooden structure with drywood termites in the attic and bottles of beer and ammonia under the kitchen sink. The termites were eating their way down the kitchen studs behind the plaster and into the kitchen doorjamb. The beer, according to Gram, was eating its way through Joshua's soul and down into his game leg. Aristophanes Ball was born in Papi's house. He was born in his mother's bed in Papi's house on a steaming Florida summer evening with a white plastic sheet beneath him and the thick smell of ammonia all around him. He was born soft and shriveled and his small body kept folding back into its fetal position, making it difficult for the midwife to clean the mess off him. His head was encased in wet, black hair; his arms and legs were sticky bent twigs; his buttocks was practically nonexistent and his sexual appendages were still tucked part way inside him and had to be coaxed out with finger filled plastic gloves. Shudda, his mother, was clearly disappointed--not because he was a boy, or because he'd come too soon or even because he was ugly, but because he was. He was proof that God was mocking her. At first Aris held his breath and clenched his purple fists and shook. Joshua said he didn't look like much except that maybe somebody had sat on his face. Gram said that was a site better than Joshua looked when he was born. Papi stayed away because he said he'd had enough of that kind of stuff and Shudda, who would have liked to stay away too, but couldn't, said nothing because she was busy delivering the afterbirth. Aris stopped shaking, stiffened himself out and let loose with a thin, wheezy tantrum which changed the color of his face from blue to scarlet. After some time he learned to hug his bottle and fill his belly, which made him feel good. And his face changed to a pinkish white and he became less shriveled and he began to grow. He did not grow robustly or with delightful speed but slowly with a sort of plodding determination which was never quite fast enough to catch up to where he was supposed to be. And he was not a fussy eater either, but would settle for having a full belly regardless of what it was full of--which was about how his mind grew too. From the start he had a knack for learning things. He learned that Gram was his mother and that she had a smell to her which was sharp and made him turn his nose away and that she had hard bones which stuck into his bones. She also fed him and rocked him and washed him in cold water and later, when he got under Shudda's feet, Gram picked him up and called him an angel and told him stories out of a book (like the story of Pinnochio, which was his favorite) and sometimes she called Shudda a bitch. He learned that Papi, who was his grandfather and who told better stories out of his head, was his friend, but when he was four and a half he had to unlearn this because Papi stopped being his friend. He learned that his Uncle Joshua was his father and had sugar in his leg and drank beer and smelled good and he learned to watch out for black widow spiders, which Joshua said ate little boys, especially ones with big noses. He knew how to pull the tails off salamanders and use them as rat bait and how to catch roaches with bread crumbs and sticky paper and feed them to the salamanders without tails. He knew the kitchen smelled like Gram and he could remember the day that Papi turned funny. By the time he was five and a half, he knew that there were `gators in the pond and they could come out of the water if they wanted and eat you. He knew that there was a big city called St. Petersburg where rich folks drove big silver cars and lay in the sun which made them turn wrinkled and old and Joshua was going to take him there some day. And that God kept a book where He wrote down everything you owed him and Gram said Joshua's page in the book was just about filled up. When he was almost seven he found out why he had a big nose and that he should be in school already, and wasn't and that Shudda worked in a grocery store stacking canned goods for Budd Butts and his wife Lila, who were old, and Joshua made orange juice and that's where he went every day in the back of a pickup truck and that's how you meet girls. He also found out that God had done something to Max, but he didn't know who Max was, and he found out that he, Aris was a lousy mistake. He didn't know he was a mistake at first because no one had mentioned it. He knew that he was a bastard because Shudda had told him. But then she'd told Joshua he was a bastard too, sothat didn't seem too important. He found out he was a mistake by eavesdropping. "He was just one lousy mistake," he heard Shudda say, "just one lousy mistake and I end up stacking canned goods." Aris was sitting in the hallway outside the kitchen door. He wasn't really listening to what Shudda and Gram were saying. He was just sitting there waiting for Joshua to come home and wondering if his big toe and the one next to it were supposed to have a hole between them and wondering where his other toe would go if he had six like Joshua said Eddy Weitzel did. Aris was always wondering about something and when he heard Shudda say what she did, he forgot his toes and wondered who was a lousy mistake, so he moved closer to the door. "You made your bed..." Gram said. "I wouldn't expect no understandin' from you," Shudda said. "What's to understand," Gram said, "that trick's so old, I shouldn't wonder if Eve didn't pull it on Adam after they got kicked out of Paradise." "Well I didn't have no Paradise to get kicked out of, did I? Just this hole and God wouldn't have wished this on a roach." "Which may be a good way of describing yourself, I suppose," Gramsaid in her quiet voice. Then Shudda let go. "No mother you've ever been," she yelled."You never wanted me in the first place did you? You wanted a God damned boy--couldn't wait to get me out--hard as nails you were with me--and Papi too. You turned —uhim˜ into a cabbage." "Watch your tongue!" "`Course I didn't expect no sympathy from you. I suppose you never made no mistakes." "Oh sure I did. I made plenty," Gram said, "but I wasn't never dumb enough to make the whopper you did." "Aris wasn't —umy˜ mistake," Shudda yelled. "How was I supposed to know things wouldn't turn out like they were supposed to?" "If you're smart, my girl," Gram said, not raising her voice at all, "you don't count on things happening until they've actually happened." "Well you're right there. How the hell could I have counted on what Max did?" "You just got too smart for your own good," Gram said. "You planned and schemed and worked it all out, then the whole thing cracked wide open and left you standing there with your face hanging out." Aris could hear the heels of Shudda's sandals clacking against the kitchen floor as she began to pace. He glanced down the hallway to the dining room and listened with his other ear to make sure Joshua hadn't come home yet. "I couldn't have known that I'd get left holding the bag," Shudda said. "'Shouldn't be calling your own son a bag." The clacking stopped. "Well, could I have known what would happen, right on the last minute when everything was set?"Shudda's voice was getting high. "Could I? Could I have known that?" Aris pressed his ear hard against the door. "Anyway, if anything cracked wide open," Shudda said, "it was Max's head and it must have been a big disappointment to God to find out there was nothin' inside there but air." "God forgive you, Shudda Ball for talking that way of the dead." Aris wondered about Max and he wondered if Shudda meant that God had done it--cracked Max's head open. Sometimes Shudda said things that weren't so, like the time she said men had their kidney's in their brains and all the garbage got filtered out right there in their heads and it came running straight out of their mouths. Joshua said that wasn't so and Joshua should know being a man--which Shudda also said wasn't so. She said Joshua was a walking penis. Actually Aris had been wondering about Joshua lately. He knew that Joshua was Shudda's brother, which Gram said was so. And if Shudda was his mother (which everyone else said was so) then Joshua would have to be his uncle, which led him to wonder if you could have two mothers. As he sat in his bare feet with his bare ear against the kitchen door listening to Shudda and Gram talk about cracked heads and God and lousy mistakes, Aris knew that he knew one thing for sure. He knew that Joshua was ten feet tall, maybe even more, so Joshua would tell him all that and maybe tell him too, if God cracked Max's head and why he was a lousy mistake. "I told you, it wasn't —u my˜ mistake," Shudda was saying. "Well whose, pray tell, was it then?" "His." "Whose, God's?" Gram said. "No, not God's, Max's. Although come to think of it God probably had a hand in it too." "Blasphemy. That's blasphemy, my girl," Gram said--and that's when Joshua grabbed him from behind. Joshua was ten feet tall, at least that, maybe more even. That's why Aris didn't complain, not one word, when Joshua came up behind him and picked him up by the seat of the pants and the scruff of his neck and swung him into the air so that his ear banged into the kitchen doorjamb. Aris knew better than to mess around with Joshua, so he just clammed up. Joshua carried him off outside, right through the kitchen with Gram and Shudda stopping their yelling and watching. And Joshua set him down on the dead branch of the kumquat tree and Aris sat there with his feet dangling, hanging onto the dead wood with his hands and staying mum because he wasn't sure yet if Joshua was really mad. Joshua could get mad like a bull sometimes and he could roar sol oud the ground would shake and anyone standing on it would shake too. But then sometimes his roaring would turn into laughter and that meant he wasn't really mad and Aris could attack him then and swing on his arm and even kick him in the belly if he got half a chance. But if Joshua didn't start to laugh, then that was trouble and he might start to throwing things about and asmashing them into little pieces. And although Joshua had never thrown Aris about or smashed him into pieces, Aris knew that he could if he wanted, so he never took any chances until he knew for sure if Joshua was mad or not. "What d'you go listening at doors for?" Aris kept his mouth closed. "You got a big nose for a little kid, you know that?" Nothing Joshua grinned, his big white teeth appearing suddenly in the middle of his dark face. "Someday you're gonna hear something you'd wish you hadn't." He swung his foot out at Joshua, missing on purpose. Joshua yanked Aris' foot and pulled him off the branch, breaking Aris' fall by grabbing him under his armpits and then dumping him on the ground amongst the rotting kumquats. There were ants swarming in and out of the orange pulp, tiny red ants, and then he saw two great black carpenter ants with hairy antennas. Joshua was laughing. Aris bounced up and led with his fists. His face became redder as his fists swished through air and when Joshua held him off at arms length, Aris began to dance about wildly and swing with his bare feet. Joshua gave him a light shove and Aris was back among the rotting kumquats and the ants. He gave up. Usually Aris kept it up for a long time or at least until he got one kick or punch in, but this time he gave up. He lay back, not even beat, and just looked up through the branches and the leaves and made monsters from the patterns they made against the sky.
Excerpted from "The Saving of Aris" by NovaMelia. Copyright © 0 by NovaMelia. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile



NovaMelia was born in England and came to America (on a Greek boat named Neptunia) when she was 17 years old. She landed in Hoboken, New Jersey, and spent a brief time on Ellis Island before finally entering the USA. Later she attended the University of Pittsburg where she studied Creative Writing and Psychology. While living in Pennsylvania she became a licensed private pilot and also co-authored a science fiction novel, “Lucifer State.” After graduating from Pitt, she moved with her husband, George, to Massachusetts where she worked as a substitute teacher and began to pursue her hobbies of writing and painting in Oils. She now is a self taught artist working primarily on portraits. Since leaving Massachusetts NovaMelia has lived in several other states, including Connecticut , California, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennesee and Florida . While living in Florida, she did freelance writing, raised aquarium fish for the local pet store, bred Siamese cats and grew orchids. She also did much of the research and writing for “The Saving of Aris.” Along with her husband, George NovaMelia is now settled in Tucson, Arizona and still spends her time writing and painting.

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