Garn Press Chapters: “Black Inked Pearl” By Ruth Finnegan
Garn Press Chapters – a new series from Garn Press. Featured in this post, Chapter 30-32 of Black Inked Pearl, which is available in paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBooks.
‘Cheery ’bye ’bye, give ’er my love when you find ’er.’
Ruth Finnegan’s novel is a tour de force in which she turns our understandings of language upside down and inside out, while simultaneously challenging our assumptions about ourselves and those we love, and our ideas about the divine. Tracy Slowiak, in her Readers’ Favorite review published on Amazon writes:
The narrative in Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan is delivered in a stream-of-consciousness style that makes every new event seem to be happening in a vivid dream and puts the reader inside Kate’s journey. While the story itself takes place on so many levels and in so many different environs that it almost defies description, the most important epic landscape in this visionary work exists in the topography of Kate’s heart and mind. Ultimately, Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest is an extended metaphor centered around the object lesson that human beings cannot define themselves in terms of others. Kate’s journey teaches us that we must explore our own internal landscape to find a sense of self worth that is not dependent upon whether or not we find love with another person.
Here are Chapters 30, 31 and 32 – The Agony, Action in Heaven, and Feminine Ways – a tantalizing introduction to Black Inked Pearl, which we at Garn Press are sure will make you want to read the book.
Her dog first, yes that tenderest heart. Next all her loving-loved in heaven, thronging the throne, clamoring, shouting, calling her name.
All of Kate’s loving ones came, and her fans, admirers. Homer with trailing lyres and garlands, accolades to see his plagiarist, what greater praise to Greeks for a cantor, poeta imitandissimus. And Job, to catch good suffering quotes to pass to all (they weren’t about to grasp them were they now, those sun-glassed giggly girls, back row of lecture room. But old Job never stopped his trying, remind you …?). And the Bard – look to those laurels Homer and green Milton and King David, all.
‘Where is she?’
And her teachers and tutors. Even Her-Excellenceness-mother hen, the Nun (people don’t change in heaven I’d have you know), came running – running! Mothernun!! Holding Kate’s golden lines aloft, and in her other, leftes, hand, half hidden, knee-thin black stockings (too much prayer!) all set for darn. (No darners in heaven then, all still below in the you-know-where, darning and damning and durning bad as ever).
Then they all looked enquiringly to God (so bless him).
And all the beings of paradise roused from night’s slumb’ring, all the created beings of now and then and time to-come. The mightiest gathering all the years of heaven (they go back long way as I can vouch for personally, if you doubt it, ask St Columb, ooh sorry, he’s sleeping in Iona, peaceful sleep-place, dreams of sheepskin, song and anger there).
They stopped at once. In silence like you’ve never heard. Stopped wittering and withering and jittering (or bugging or bagging. Or was it beetling?).
They all looked at God. Accusingly.
He looked straight back.
They all looked, even more accusingly, glared at th’ unpenitent self-portantising high fig-ure, The Self-Elect. (He deserved their looking don’t you think? – what Kate ever saw in him …! Well anyway she did, her choice and none of your bl**dy business. Free will don’t you know, makes the world go round for blood is thick and wa-ater thin, in for a penny …).
‘Enough!’ God shook his head. Shook disbelievingly. But the trumpets believed all right, prided themselves on being before the game, always, the first to haiku or to haka, there in th’ forefront of the troop, brazen each which the way, unhearing taunts and slings of … (well all that). The orange drum that cared only that much for anything, for all the tragedies and comedies of all of life (music outpaces evryfing, dunnit?).
They set up mighty discords, did indeed they did indeed, to raise the roof (if there are any rooves in heaven, who knows ’bout that?), a great huge din, an out-of-tune black blasphemy – in heaven! (But freelance musicians and rock stars, you know, don’t you, they’re uncontrollable …). Clamour and clang to raise the … the skies. Or saints from labors-resting-place.
So everyone jumped, even the man. Him. He had been busy instructing them. (He! To them!!), instructing them in the matter of his tolerating (note gerund, grammar is all Miss K, but anyway she was the one he had to forget!) tolerating harmony but really preferring contrapuntal (surely in heaven that’d be the right top one hundred chart whatever his inner preference …), occasional discord to keep it fresh of course (play all ways, that’s always best). But this …
He turned reproachfully to God (sure he agreed? ). God looked right back. Reproachfully, at him.
Then the great saved elected one – how generous, gracious he then was – I tell you true (I don’t think!) – turned to bring Kate into the conversation, she’d wish to agree with him. He knew she really preferred to harmonize, her rude crude food-for-fools ears and compliant, oh good thing, persona, but now she’d reached here, with her entwined-following-his-self she would of course, and after him, he’d get her signed up with the other old uninstructed dears (he was Grade VIII and more of course).
Even little Meg-pup came up looking for her, bit late she was but what would y’ expect of runt of the brood, the laggard. ‘Meg-pup’ – haven’t heard of her? Not seen the gleam in Holly’s eye and sideways look from eyelash under her two eye (that one made all the difference, as well she knew – oh shy of course but long experi-ence), that sideways look at God ’s indolent Alsatian Dog? (Heaven’s of the future not just past you know. Ev’n Kate – well ’nough said, that’s another story dears, right song sheet please!).
The trees bowed stately heads, whispered her name, the sycamore wings drew a ‘K’ in flight, the scorpion cracked out her Morse name with his sting, and eagles called their nestlings with their yellow eyes. Oh no oh no they were always blue his eyes, blue as the sea at dusk, the sky at dawn, how kind he was, had she not know his divine nature since the start. (Teenage? – He was age-old, Adam, universe, but she was far too young, oh then too young, too young by the sea).
Who understood? Not Kate who sat there in the dust. Not angels or saints or archangels. Not God the keeper and recorder of all fate.
She saw, no not-saw, felt him turn, her love, her love who never would forget. Oblivious. Forgetting, he the unforgetting.
Mindfulness now just for God. And for the song.
Then she felt his puzzlement – her pain, turned her to look, one glance no more.
‘She’s here, just here, a step behind, one just behind (of course) me, close, oh coming straight, just look’ – she heard the discord in his voice – ‘coming just here, look, here to plainsong glee, (likes harmony, she’s alright really), I’m teaching her counterpoint you know, just rudiments: you need to be sep-ar-ate and wait for it. And then it’s …’
He had to go on talking at that point, anything else not to be borne. Best cover it with breves and semibreves, oh yes and triplets and those lovely ornamentationiments, and change of time and 11/8 … no sorry choirs hate that, he meant 4/4, good marching time for heaven’s hosts … and … and … ’nd … ’d …
He’d lost his audience, he could tell. Maybe his confidence as well. Something perhaps for harmony after all – united same-time pair, chords brought as one … same time, same place. She had some ideas, yes hadn’t he always said it? Well anyway – just coming, c-om-ing, Kate.
Wasn’t she? Wasn’t she?
Well, she wasn’t.
What had they done with her? They. Someone else, it was bound to be, not him. Put it right! Instanter!
Right now not him not him. And …
Where was Kate? Kate!! KATE!!!
She was not.
Not not, oh not. Not nott-ing notting still. In the dust.
Knotted in the dust.
She does not see his agony, heart-rent for his abandonment, his frantic guilt, his wild insistence. No passion, passage, passi-on passionate cross to equal his.
He would go back. And …
WHERE IS SHE?
He would return to earth, hows’ever hard the road, how perilous the way, how rocky the path, his heart. Persev-erance for severance sake. For his abandonment. Leave heaven’s delights – what woe, what sin, what fall – to sojourn, seek, on the earth below.
But no! Hark now to God’s Decree:
For those who go back, the deserters, silver by handfuls or what else, there is no return. None. Once entered in The Great Record Book of Heaven (St Peter nodded and jangled his keys) THERE IS NO RETURN. No second chance. Dwell forever with the sinners, the goats (oh the wild goats on the hills …), the forever lost. Have you not seen the frescos, paintings of the damned? Know that it was I, your God, who guided artists’ hands, sent them to earth? Who gave to man the holy writ of that Divide ’twixt Live and Dead, b’tween Lost and Saved.
The Right Hand and the Left Hand and the Great Signatories of Heaven and Hell have signed it, calling witnesses, before my Throne and Power.
So Was it in the Beginning and Is Now and Ever Shall Be, Amen.
And all heaven echoed the words. And the angels crossed themselves devoutly (Columba wasn’t listening – oh well).
‘Go if you must. And be condemn-ed evermore never to see my face again. Or your mother’s too.’
At that the son’s heart trembled. but his will held firm. Hard as a scorpion’s shell, tougher than a nutmeg’s rind, an eagle’s talons, stronger than the mightiest breaker of Atlantic waves, than shrieking wind – his mind, no falter. He would find her.
She had not counted the cost. So nor would he.
Action in heaven
Problem. Quandary! Not to put too fine a point on it – Chaos! Like before the Crea … God’s decrees could not be thwarted. Never. Never in the whole history of the universe. Had he not decreed In the Beginning? His Word. Obeyed. And his decrees were never … oh!
Where had he got it wrong in his creating? Just that one freewill freewheel freefall stitch among all the good knit, stocking stitch too, black-writ lines.
And now – look what had befall’n! No one picking up the stitch, er, ball (stitch was for girls. Girlies you know. Women). Nothing in the Rules about that. Even Pete no good (great on constitutions and suchlike, but it was past the time for that … how could it be …?).
For thus are men when institutions fail, when it comes to them, to individuals stripped of imperial clothes. A-driften on a sign-less sea – no one paying them heed, or due obeisance. Or setting up the chair at table head, to bring them coffee and whiteboards. Women better, multitasking, no pride either.
God was … STUCK!
It was not meant to be like this. Nobody to tell him what to do or, er, who to delegate things to.
He looked around. Where were his team? Nuns. Angels. Saintesses. And His own Woman, why else had he ascended her up here? But she just smiled and looked away (and pondered with great joy in her heart no doubt to see him caught in his own petard. Or lanyard. Or something).
What could happen next? Let us peep and see … a wisp of a garment flutter between a crag and a hard place.
It was God. Pacing among his sheep in the green fields, a fit place for indecision (er, wise decision-making), mounting to look down from the purple hills, pondering his will.
Challenges are good for inspiration the nuns told Kate those years ago (another life), walking the bridle path by the stream, commune the waters, never the same advice the second time but good for thinking. (But didn’t it come round the same each year that same imposs impasse impassing passi-oning Eastertide?).
He needed her help did he not? (What, hers?)
He went to the Queen of Heaven (best call her that, her right side best …). No need to speak, she just gave him ‘that look’.
So he gathered up his robe (he’d have his own back in time, tell her she hadn’t spotted that invisible tear in you-know-where, he’d show her and complain. Not mended then! Women!!). He donned the high judge cap he knew became him well, showed well his tangled strangled locks (hair to you and I – grammar please! Well really, men!).
‘Go then my Son,’ proclaimed he in his most sonor-ponorous tones he’d had some aeons to perfect (fortunate!). ‘My blessing go with you. It is as it has been in the beginning, as I have willed it from the founding of the world. For you. And for mankind. Remember, mark it well in time of greatest need, despairs, crossed desperation, and you’re at your “Father forgotten me?” I did not forget, I did not “send” you, you went yourself. Insisted on it!’
And he bent his gaze upon the earth, his generous, feeling, fine, all-knowing, eyes. But did he really know all that of mortal, carnal love? There he must rely on his son – so best to let him visit earth, keep Dad up-to-date a little, mustn’t sully hands with all that stuff, with what the prang-y younger ’uns, er, generation, called the ‘real thing’.
So he stood up for a Solemn Proclamation, annulling the previous decree (St Peter consulted the Constitution, yes, it was OK, vide sub-section 5.1.23 in appendix 105, sorry Appendix 105).
All heaven grew still to heed his words. The mothers hushed their babes and flowers held their breath in growing. The moon alone refused to stay her motion there for what would happen to the tides – just like a male not to think of that!
Harken ye theologians, ye self-styled philosophers from old, interpreters of bibles, priests and rabbis, imams gurus too, and all ye prophets of the past, oh ye of little discernment yet. How could an all-knowing Father send his Son to earth, to danger him? For the greatest love in all the universe could any father do it? Could he bring woe and pain on his own child?
No, no, I tell you, turn away ye from your ignorance and harken to My Truth. He, He who loved the world, the dear race of men, verily he chose it for himself, the light, the truth, the way. He chose it to show them, to be saved, to live for ever here. And – when he insisted – I did not prevent, in love did not prevent, but loved him more, but did not ‘send’ him.
Thus I declare to you My Covenant ‘The New’ All The Ages, sacred bond, slim scintillating bow of love, and, er, sacrifice, the Shimmer-Rainbow prophesied of ancient days, chain between God and Man.
All heaven fell silent at His Prophecy, were shocked. They had never heard such words, such deep interpreting before. Archangels flinched at changing everything. Lucifer poised a leap – ‘a coup d’état! a coup d’état!’, he shouted top of voice, ‘à moi! à moi!’
Michael reached for his sword, St George for his tame dragon (domestic all the time you know), Gabriel his trumpet. ‘What use is that?’ muttered the new recruit. But Gabriel and the all rest knew that of things in heaven and earth and hell and ’mong the beasts, music is the king.
And to prove him right – what better witness is than song – the whole of heaven stood up as one, the toddlers too, and raised celestial voices in their praise.
Now thank we God’s new text
and his great words of joy
whose greatest Son goes forth
e’en to himself destroy
To seek for his beloved
and mankind’s greatest good
through dust and cross and passion
to save us, by his blood.
They were trying to sing the Kruger setting I think, ‘Now d’we thank us all our God? – all at once (Ouch!). All right in German, but somehow it had turned chorale – for if music is beloved ’mong arts, so is Johann Sebastian Bach the chief of all musician makers, sweet and passionate music, the loved of God. How else could the Words of God reach though the great eternal universe?
So thus it was accomplish-ed.
The mother hid her smile.
She knew it was not Love of Human-ness or Sacrifice, or Love of Man – Woman more like, and the love would be for one of earth’s daughters whom he had probably sedu … adored. She knew all about such things, quite right that a son should have his choice among all the mortal, er, maidens, she could tell by the droop of his eyelid that it was more serious than most.
Anyway she knew it was not for – well not just for – the saving of the world that he went. A youth he was, and youths must sow their tares and seek for adventure. He was a young man still, untried, needed a gap year there, or three, and wings (and look at the one he did not name? Who knows – she was not one for interfering, things must run their course).
She only said, ‘Give children wings as well as roots dear Lord’ and turned away to hide a little, very little, tear (in Heaven all sorrow and crying done away with there you know, God forbids it).
Then up she spoke, the Queen of Heaven.
‘A parable.’ (For why should men have the monopoly on that?).
‘A song-sheet for the next campaign.’ (Not yet, when she’d gathered evidence and pants brigade).
‘A parable. Shut up and listen now you all.’ (Honestly, that family of hers! Better wheedle, she could do that fine).
‘Harken ye, ye hosts of heaven, and ye, great Master thou.’ (Good words on such occasions!).
‘Thou of the Ivory Carven Phoenix Peacock’s Eagle-Throne.’ (These birds!),
‘Great King of Wisdom’s Might, and All of Time, oh hear ye now the Word of The Lord. Harken to that great parable wrought by God.’ (Well she had to say that …).
‘I tell you of a box hedge …’ (No not vine rows, d’you think God’s writ runs just in Italy and Palestine you xenophobes?).
‘A box hedge was once planted in a man’s garden and flourished for the birds of the air and the sparrows and the fliers of entangled kite strings.’
‘The hedge grew strong and enduring, it was green, it did not fade. It defied the rain and the drought. It did not fail. But even in God’s rain … (always salutary to bring that in – just a little inflection of the head, oh yes she knew her men she did!) even in God’s great (genuflecting) reign it could not grow of itself. Verily verily it needed the hands of the keeper of that garden to tend it day and evening.’
‘And the keeper came to tend it, nights and mornings all, he came to tend and to, er, yes of course, offer up his own small prayer to Lord God of All.’
God bowed his head graciously and smiled at the Queen, not noticing (why should he?) his son’s impatience to get on with it and his, ‘There he goes again …’
‘But I say to you my children, verily verily I say unto you, that the hedge would be of little worth if it had not also had – an opening. A way out.’ (Were they listening?).
‘Wings,’ she added in case they hadn’t got the point.
So all the little girls looked smug and extremely pious and mentally checked through their best party frocks, while the boys winked at their mothers and twinkled mischievously at their dads who looked the other way.
St Peter looked doubtful but decided to go with the flow and put a good godly … (yes that’s what he said – and, as you well know, that’s what all the, er, hmm, did too) a god-fearing face on it and made sure all upheld the old traditi-on and didn’t see it was new (or was it the other way round? Bit of muddle there. Sorry and all).
So his Father gave him His blessing and sent him on his way, telling him to call on His name at the last. He would not abandon him (well, if he behaved himself and didn’t have too many thieves or dancing girls with him when he got to Heaven).
Then he made ready. He took his scrip and one torn cloak, refusing all the food and clothes his mother brought, accepting only one ragged hat against the hard sun (his mother looked disapproving, but didn’t really mind, it was only the principle of it). For was he not taking his right hand’s craft and his strong left arm, his pride, his might, his very self that he would never never be without, not in all the years of God’s creation, the vastest realms of space? Always they would be with him. Yes, his very self. And he would not fail, not while his right hand held his cunning, the left arm all his secret strength.
He took his sandals too, still were they broke (for who in heaven had thought to mend them?), the curiously fashioned staff wrought by his dear stand-in father Joe whom he adored – what a worksmith and model he had proved to be despite all the gibes about, well about, well you know (Nazareth small-town gossips and all that – Ssssh!).
So off he went, head u-up – for they were watching him – back stiff, a little tense. No one noticed but his mother (of course).
And Gabby (Archangel Gabriel to you) twigged that his freelance singer – well he wasn’t that bad really – was doing a runner, AWOL if it was the army but no military order allowed in heaven or so I hear (hard to believe, that is). Well anyway it wasn’t for another gig, no honest, and he wasn’t taking the clapped-out van or stolen drum kit either.
Well. Well then Gabby swallowed hard and woke up his pop band to play farewell (not everyone sobbed to see him go I fear – there’s a bit of pro-jealousy even in heaven you know. Just a bit).
‘There is imitation, model, and suggestion, to the very archangels, if we but knew their history,’ Gabby said, and he flourished his fine polished bacchanalian trumpet, then propped it carefully against the parapet (shake spit out first, archangel angel! Ugh!) to run to get him on the right road (stogefundle the thought, please, with crossed notes and bars, all right?).
And so the son was now prepar-ed for the road, staying just to touch his little lamb, the special-loved (didn’t see Holly’s little yearning eyes, she’d’ve gone along with him just for Kate and anyway liked walkies, there’d be smells again. But no!).
He farewelled with great gentleness, ‘Dear lamb, she’ll love you when she comes.’
Lucifer whispered secretly in his ear that it wasn’t so bad.
And Gabby ran fast (a bit late but a trumpeter first has to knock the spit out again!) to show him the postern gate that God didn’t know about (and that Gabby had found handy afore now, so that he could creep out uncounted by the bureaucrats – we won’t ask why!).
That way – never mind God’s ruling (Saint Peter’s more like, Gabby was a cynic, a rock star, and there was no love lost betwixt those two. But wait, even in heaven can Love ever be ‘lost’?) – that way the self-styled ‘Seeker’ would avoid the Golden Gate on the way out, and then sneak back in again when he had found, er, er, whatever-it-was he was seeking (a girl? He knew all about that, easy, she’ll leap, leap, straight into his arms of course, no sweat).
‘Harder going down,’ Gabby warned him. ‘I know it well – don’t ask! Pick your way, you’ll be fine. Good luckee now!’
Huge smile with buffet on the back that nearly set him afloat before he’d even launched.
‘No no! No blessing, who do you take me for? Just arrivederci in paradiso.’
He’s waited an eternity to say that one. Learnt in his little grade school, and just right for now.
Then, ‘Cheery ’bye ’bye, give ’er my love when you find ’er.’
If he found her …
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-16-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-17-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-18-6
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo eBooks
“A delightfully dreamlike, mystical tale of epic scope, spiritually and erotically charged, and rich in cultural and linguistic play…” Mike Hanne, Founder of the Comparative Literature programme at the University of Auckland. Author of The Power of the Story: Fiction and Political Change
“A long entrancing tale, often touching on the threshold of poetry … a magnificent riddle conjured up by a magical storyteller.” Itala Vivan, University of Milan
“Immensely enjoyed. VERY interesting, takes you into another world. Not just a love story, a spiritual message.” Reverend Jan Beer, St Faith’s, The Parish Church of Lee-on-the-Solent
“A highly unusual story filled with literary and biblical illusions and new words.” Joyce Irene Whalley, Author of The Art of Calligraphy and A History of Children’s Book Illustration. Previously Keeper, Victoria and Albert Museum, London