Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Now, the Excerpt

NOTE: Now that I'm closing in on the pitch, I've got to consider the excerpt. Here's what I'm thinking:

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Doleful Creatures

The beavers scattered to their ponds when the hawk flew low. “You put up a good fight, brother magpie,” she said as she dropped him unharmed on a tussock of grass. “Hold no malice, for I bear none towards you.” She flew off as the crows cawed thanks.

Jarrod rolled into a black and white feathered ball on the windblown grass as Magda and Chylus landed with thumps nearby. The rest of the murder lodged in the nearby trees and fell silent.

From the ponds and lodges, from atop the dams and from the rushes, faces appeared. Some, old and young, scanned the sky, watching for the hawk which had flown out of sight. Others, young and old, peered at the three birds nearby, out of curiosity, not fear.

With a slop of water an old beaver dropped from the dam into the pond, swam towards the shore near where the crows stood watch over their immobile friend.

Other beavers followed silently, swimming through the water, lumbering over the grass, parting the reeds and scrambling up the muddy banks to glide like weasels towards the waiting birds.

They stopped in a semicircle, some on their bellies, others on their hind legs as the ground underneath them bubbled and squelched as the last of the water dribbled from their fur.

Magda and Chylus stood at attention, their wings folded, their beaks open.

Jarrod slowly coiled into a tighter ball, moaning so quietly he could scarce be heard over the squelch of the earth beneath the beavers’ feet.

“We welcome you here, brothers from the air –“

“Oh, they’re pretty,” said a young one to another, interrupting the old beaver’s speech of welcome. “Look at their feathers. All black, but you can see green, and purple, and blue as they move. How do you do that?”

The old beaver coughed, rubbed his nose. So hard to find dignity when there were young ones about.

Chylus and Magda ruffled their breast feathers and bowed their open beaks to the earth in a crows’ equivalent of a blush.

“And what’s wrong with that one? Oh! He’s got white spots on him! Is he sick?”

Two young beavers leaped to Jarrod’s side, nuzzled him.

“Oh, he’s breathing. And listen to that heart beating!” the young ones said. “He’s alive. And oh! His black feathers do the same colorful tricks!” With gentle paws they stroked the feathers, chasing their iridescent colors along spine and shaft.

Jarrod’s breathing eased. His heartbeat slowed.

“Did you rescue him from the hawk?” the young ones asked the crows. “We saw him in her claws! That was very brave!”

“Oh,” Jarrod shouted, startling the two beavers who bolted behind their elders. “If only that hawk had killed me!” he shouted into the ground.

Jarrod unfurled himself, wobbled, righted himself and stood to face the beavers. Chylus and Magda hopped closer to his sides. The beavers watched, jaws agape, eyes bulging, waiting for the magpie to continue his moaning.

“You have before you,” he said to the crowd of animals in a voice pitched high and crackling, “one who murdered your ancestors.”

The sun began to lift its eyelids above the lip of the canyon. In the middle distance meadowlarks sang.

The two young beavers snaked slowly from behind the others, stepping warily towards the three birds.

“You, a murderer?” one asked.

“Yes,” Jarrod said.

He told them the tale.

The beavers wept.

The excerpt in full can be found here.

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