Monday, September 27, 2010

Excerpt: Swimming With Wings by Lee Libro

Hello! It's a new week with some great things here at Fiction for Dessert. Today, I'm posting an excerpt from Lee Libro's artfully written Swimming With Wings.

What do a 20th century light healer who can raise the dead, an eccentric, would-be dubutant teen and a wandering gypsy have in common? A story of human brotherhood released only through the colliding dogmas surrounding their shared tragedy from long ago.

Lark Jennison is a free thinker and imagines she has wings! Set in the 1970's in a small southern town laced with folk mysticism, faith healings and the evangelistic zeal of the era, Swimming with Wings is her coming of age story. Orphaned, seventeen-year-old Lark and her brother are the last generation of the illustrious Jennison lumber family, and her uncanny ability to read a person, along with her eccentric ways as a budding artist, shine a spotlight of scrutiny upon her. When she falls for Peter Roma, a river gypsy from Summerville, she finds in him an equal, but is soon disturbingly set on a collision course with his fanaticism.

The drowning accident that had killed their fathers remains a mystery, a harbinger of ill feelings between the Romas and the Jennisons. Is Peter Roma, a scammer, a real gypsy or Lark's personal savior? To protect her, Lark's older brother sends her to art school in Maine, the home state of their mother's family. Uninvited, Peter follows but eventually considers their relationship a danger to their souls. His grandfather had been a mystical light healer and heralded the rising tide of a new age; however, Peter's "being saved" interpretation of this leads him into a cult and a world of corruption. The question then becomes who will save who?

Sound intriguing? I'll say! And now for a taste of Lee's novel . . .

Chapter 23

Corinth, Georgia

On a cool November day, the grandfather clock in the front hall chimed out a melody and then struck four times. In a small bedroom chamber just steps from the top of the stairs, a small boy’s flaxen hair clung like wet cotton to his shiny forehead. His breathing was rapid and his crimson complexion betrayed a fatal heat.

The floor of the room was made of wide pine planks, some eighteen inches wide. The walls featured wainscoting with a plain edge, and the upper portion was painted in creamy white, the bareness of which seemed to provoke a chilled silence.

A young Negro woman sat on watch in a corner of the room.

“Yu-la… Ooo-la Mayo,” the little boy murmured. The words came out thick and slow.

Eula Mel sprang from her stool and came to the little boy’s side.

“I’m here, Glovie. I’m here.” She placed a damp washcloth across his forehead. Her eyes widened as she smoothed her slim, dark hands along either side of his swollen neck. She swallowed and looked toward the window and saw a clay ribbon of empty driveway leading through the trees in front of the house.

“Don’t worry, Glovie, everythin’s gonna be fine,” she comforted him with a song in her voice.

The door to his room creaked open and Chloe Jennison came into the room holding a handkerchief to her face. Her eyes were rimmed in red and glistened as she gazed down at her son.

“They need to get here soon, Mel.”

“Mr. Roma’ll sure know what to do, M’am. Just cuz’ Miss Mel don’t have the answer this time, you still gotta keep faith. I’ve seen ‘em work wonders.”
Chloe pressed the cloth to her young boy’s head then held his small hand in hers.

“The fever’s gone deep, Ma’m. It’s in his brain, but Mr. Roma, he’ll pull it out.” She looked under the bed to see if the kitchen knife was still there… to “cut” the pain.

Glover closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. His mother continued to press a cool cloth to his head and then to his cheeks and neck.

“I can’t believe Dr. Morrison said there’s nothing more we can do. I just won’t believe it, Mel. Meningitis doesn’t have to mean…” Her voice cracked.

“You’re right, Miss Chloe. There’s always a way.”

From outside came the definitive sound of a car door closing. Eula Mel dashed to the window and saw two men emerge from Mr. Jennison’s Ford.

“He’s here now, Miss Chloe. And in good time.”

Chloe greeted her husband and Salvatore Roma at the top of the stairs and escorted them to her son’s room.

Salvatore nodded his head in greeting to Eula Mel as he entered the room. Beneath a dark set of eyebrows and a mop of thick black hair, speckled with strands of gray, his brown eyes and tawny face glowed as if he’d just come in from a day in the sun.

“So good you come, Mr. Sal,” said Eula Mel.

“Course I come. I not think this as choice.”

Chloe noted the thick Italian accent despite his twenty years in America. She took his tweed jacket and draped it over a chair in the corner and then offered him a cold drink.

“No, Ma’m. Thank you, but I must to work right away,” he said, looking at the boy’s rosy face.

He pulled his suspenders back off of his shoulders and let them drape to his knees as he quietly assessed the boy’s condition.

“What can be done?” Mr. Jennison asked.

“I not ask, my friends. I just do.” Salvatore Roma softly smiled at them and then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. With arms raised out and open before him as if inviting an embrace, he rotated in a full circle slowly sweeping the periphery of the room with outstretched fingers. “Laaaa─oooaauuuu-oommm—yaaoou─unummm,” he hummed low and deep.

The Jennisons and Eula Mel watched silently as the man then turned to the little boy and waved his arms across his small body. His hands danced in the air above the boy’s bed expertly tracing an invisible path of swerves and lines from head to toe. He seemed to tug at certain points in the air and wave away at others as if manipulating solid objects.

He began to perspire and took a moment to roll up his sleeves before he recommenced waving his hands above the space where the boy lay, at times bringing his hands within a quarter inch of his face, but never touching. He lingered for a great while over the boy’s head continuing to move his hands in the same fashion and a soft green light barely detectable began to grow from the palms of his hands. He muttered unrecognizable syllables as if speaking in a foreign language. Eula Mel bowed her head and prayed in silence. The Jennisons looked on with eyebrows raised, forming half moons of hope over their eyes.

Salvatore continued his mystical work on the boy. Eula Mel and Chloe periodically left the room and returned with cool washcloths. Mr. Jennison paced the floor.
After nearly an hour, Salvatore Roma stopped. “I am done.” He declared.

Chloe ran to her son’s bedside and saw immediately that his color had returned. She touched the sides of his neck and saw that his glands had retracted to their normal size.

Glover Jennison opened his eyes and looked up at everyone standing over him. The grandfather clock downstairs chimed and the little boy asked, “When’s dinner?” as if he had never been sleeping on the brink of death. The adults laughed in relief.

Downstairs in the center hall, as Mr. Jennison prepared to drive Salvatore Roma back to Summerville, he reached for his hand, and then suddenly overcome with joy, he threw his arms about the man’s chest. “This is a miracle,” he said through restrained tears.

Salvatore put a hand on the man’s back. “No, sir, it is just light and it’s here for everyone.”

Mr. Jennison composed himself and stood back from the man and pulled out his wallet.

“How much do I owe you?” he asked.

Salvatore waved his hand back and forth. “There is no need for payment, Mr. Jennison. My gift is just that… a gift. It is a gift. This I pass to you as one human to another.”

“Certainly you can accept some form of payment,” Jennison insisted.

“No sir, no sir.” He shook his head.

Jennison was vexed. “A trade then, perhaps?”

“No, sir.” Salvatore nodded his head gently once again and smiled at the man.

“When you need anything, Mr. Roma, just ask.”

Salvatore smiled and said, “Call me Sal. I not ask for anything in return, Mr. Jennison.”

Mr. Jennison took a deep breath as if to relinquish any further effort.

“Well then, shall we go?”

Salvatore’s gaze floated to a mouse in a mousetrap behind the stairs.

“Do you mind?” he asked Mr. Jennison.

Bewildered, the gentleman shook his head no and then he watched with curiosity as Salvatore removed the dead mouse from the trap.

“I no like to see the meek treated so,” he said.

He cupped the dead mouse in his hands and moved toward the front door. Mr. Jennison opened the door for him and they stepped out on to the veranda. Then in absolute amazement, Mr. Jennison watched as Salvatore bent down to the ground and opened his palms to release a perfectly animated mouse. With not a scratch on him or a hobble in his step, the mouse scurried off to the bushes.

Lee Libro is a visual artist and writer. Elements of fantasy, myth and Jungian symbols are often interwoven themes in her art and fiction. Her influences include Alice Hoffman, Flannery O'Connor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anne Tyler, Eudora Welty, Salvador Dali, Alex Grey, religious studies and new age principles, all media relating to metaphysics and the paranormal...and on a different note, the movie "Gone With the Wind." She lives in Florida with her husband, children and two dogs.

To find out how you can purchase Swimming With Wings in paperback or Kindle version, click HERE

For more information on Lee and her first novel, visit Swimming With

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