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Released this week by Brief Candlelight Publishing
All My Sins Remembered
It is now available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle e-book format.
Adam Stanley has been publishing poems and short stories for the last twenty years. Some of his credits include, The Old Red Kimono, The Prairie Schooner, and Chum. He is an amateur musician and music lover, and his works are often imbued with a musicality that he still retains from his days as a rock musician and a student of Classical piano. All My Sins Remembered is his first novel.
As a sample, here is the opening chapter
Everything I needed to know, I learned before I could read on my own. It’s during those moments when I am unsure of myself and afraid of the world, that I have always recalled my mother’s voice, and the landscape of those stories that some have mistakenly called fairy tales. Like those stories, the story of my life is deceptively simple–the same as everyone’s story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s only through the retelling of it that it becomes complicated and misunderstood. Because it isn’t the lack of apparent complications, or an outward appearance of simplicity that makes something simple, but the way we see it. How, without any knowledge of geometry or algebraic equations, one just instinctively knows that a circle is perfect. What had been the unassuming scribbling of a child, has been rewritten by memory’s incalculable distance, and set down in ornate, calligraphic letters, so as to be almost indecipherable by a weary mind that has been distracted by the superfluous pursuits of adulthood. So I see my story, probably not as it was, but as I remember it–or maybe how I want to remember it. It doesn’t matter. This time I am only a bystander watching from a safe distance, though I’m not really sure if any place is far enough away from your past to ever really be safe.
The past is a dangerous place.
Lately, I have been going there way too often–but there is nowhere else to go. Sometimes it seems like I will never make it back, because the distance between here and there is measured in years, rather than miles, and that’s always further away than any place on a map.
But if I squint, and look at it with my head tilted just the right way, I can see him; someone that I will be; someone that I once was. A kid who never grew up, an old man who has forgotten what it means to be young.
He is standing in front of a door.
He reaches for the doorknob, but it’s already open; it’s always open.
He enters the room; it’s the same room, every time. There are others, but he can’t see their faces. He has never seen them, but still he knows who they are. They have been there forever, and will be there long after all of this is over—no matter how many times it happens.
He sits down.
The projector clicks as it switches on.
The lights go out. Everyone is quiet.
He focuses intently on the screen.
This might be conjecture; this might be a dream, someone whispers from the darkness behind him. The film rattles unsteadily like an old roller-coaster as it tumbles from the reel and falls into place. At first, the images are nondescript, simple geometric shapes that dance on the screen like shadow puppets. But slowly, the indeterminable silhouettes sharpen into the distinct images of two people. Next, their hands, arms and the rest of their bodies come into focus. A girl, and a boy. They are face to face, as if playing a game of chess. They lean across the table, falling into each other, at once the same being, and then two, back and forth, as if on a seesaw. First he, then she, weighted down by the gravitational pull of reality. When one is there, the other is not, and vice versa. Again, they move closer to each other, almost reaching the same place, and they are once again pulled apart. But then, unable to resist, they surrender and curve into each others existence like two waves that crash into each other and then lapse back into the silence of the open sea. Then gradually, like a piece of paper that is torn in half a little at a time, they are pulled apart and two faces slowly materialize.
The girl, a pretty brunette whose beauty lies in the simplicity of her subtle, country smile, stares across the table. Her face, though slightly cherubic, and still only the face of a child, is old enough to reflect a life that has already seen its share of tragic experiences, whose effects are discernible by the tiny lines on her forehead and around her mouth, and by a passive inflexibility that veils her entire countenance, as if the nerves that allow one to express their facial emotions have been severed. But he doesn’t care about that, for it was her eyes that made him love her, and they are still as bright as the first time he saw them; unaffected by time or circumstance, somehow separate from the rest of her being, detached and incomprehensible like stars that are so faraway they can never be reached, yet close enough , so he is always able see himself so clearly in their light, as if he had never before glimpsed his own reflection. And there, inside those two tiny spaces, he found the whole world, and realized why he was alive; she was his reason for living, and had been since he was fifteen.
As the dimming light of the early June evening shines on her hair, it reveals soft stains of reds and blondes dispersed throughout the dark waves that dance and shimmer as she moves like sunlight on a swift, clear river.
A boy of nineteen, almost a man, sits across from her. His black hair is sleeked back with gel and shaved on the sides, the thin sideburns descending into a rounded, perpetually youthful face that is peppered with the light stubble of a beard, sparsely distributed across the pale, almost glowing cheeks like mud spatter. They stare at each other, oblivious to the implications of every action, ignorant to the importance of every move they make. This is the crucial point. Until now they have been children. Steam rises from the cup of coffee she grips so tightly that her knuckles have turned white. He reaches across the table for her hand. It is trembling, but not from the cold. She pulls away and grasps the cup of coffee, awkwardly. It is out-of-place in her hands, as often are the props of adulthood in the hands of the young.
“Do you care?” he asks. “Have you ever cared? For four years I have given you everything, even when I got nothing.” His lips are out of synch, the voice wavering and trembling. He watches her eyes for any sign of expression, any lapse in her stone facade that will give away her thoughts, but the silence hangs on her lips like icicles, as it always has, each time this scene is played.
None of it changes, but still he watches, every time hoping that this will be the one time that she says what he has waited for her to say, and everything after will be changed. Every replay seems like the last chance.
Both of them remain silent, though this is not the shy, exciting silence between two people who have just met. This silence is different. It is like a deafness. There are plenty of important things left to say, but not to each other. They can no longer hear each others voices. It is like the eerie stillness after a storm that hovers over the scattered debris of obliterated lives. Everything that could be said, has been said.
Like sound, not all silence is the same.
She turns to look out the window. There are rolling hills in the distance that stretch for miles in smooth undulations, gracefully swelling and receding. The cattle’s slow moos rise from the fields, mellow as bassoons, and the sun sinks, slowly, silvering the tip of a pine-covered mountain with its flickering, purple light as it sways and dances sinuously like a wind-blown candle flame.
“I know it’s not yours.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I am. I’m leaving with him, tonight. We’re going back to New Orleans,” she says. In this silence the tick of his wristwatch is loud as a sonic boom, every second that passes shakes the walls and the world begins to tremble. A dark figure lingers in the distance, waiting for her.
“How can you go with him, after what happened before?”
“I saved you from him once, I can’t do it again,” he says.
“You won’t have to.”
As the walls start to fall away, there is nothing left except the three of them. The sky, the ground and everything disappears, leaving them untouched, as if they are all that survives of the physical world. The figure motions for her. She floats across the nothingness, weightless, gracefully as a swan moving across the undisturbed water of a pond. She looks over her shoulder at him and takes his hand. Her eyes (the bluest eyes the boy has ever seen, beautiful and destructive, alluring like the dangerous, beguiling current of the clearest river), slowly emerge from the oblivion of this memory. They shine like the unending light from a bright, enduring singularity; the one star that lights this crumbling world, a perpetual explosion full of hope and light and all that is good and beautiful.
Then the silence is broken by the soundtrack, crackling and out-of-sync, skipping in places where it has been scratched. At first, only voices, sopranos and altos a capella, then suddenly, a bow is pulled slowly across the taut strings of a violin like a knife across the pale, soft flesh of an exposed throat. Violently, the elongated half-notes are wrenched from the tight-stretched strings like the ear-splitting screams of the dying. The voices crescendo and decrescendo, they hold the last note until they lapse into silence, and a single voice, (obscured by static and broken up like a broadcast that has hung for years among the clouds) raspy, and weak, as if it has been screaming forever, takes over as the story begins.
Here are a few more quotes from the book.