I have a story in my book Pieces Like Pottery—”The Gravesite: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery”—in which I experimented with a number of different literary devices. More and more readers have begun to notice one of the devices more regularly.
In addition to breaking the story up into ten sections, each of which follows one of the themes from the fifth sorrowful mystery, each section in the story also has a song that is paired with it. Yes, you read that right. I paired a song with each section. Like a fine wine paired with a good meal, the song’s lyrics are intended not only to add another layer of meaning to the words, but can also be listened along with that section of the story.
While more and more readers have been picking up on this, it’s certainly not an easy task for the casual reader, especially not one reading the print version of the book. I’ve promised to do this for quite awhile, so here you go. In ten parts, here is “The Gravesite: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery” paired with each song. Enjoy!
(For those of you that might be interested in how this section ties into the fifth sorrowful mystery, the fifth sorrowful mystery is The Crucifixion and the “spiritual fruit” is the Pardoning of Injuries. Part 6 reflects Jesus’ words, “I thirst.”)
The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery
Lisa and Mike began checking the site regularly. Since Chris’ apparent death, they had found themselves drifting away from each other. They found that the blog was the only thing that kept them connected, and they found they both dealt with sorrow completely different from the other. Mike focused his pain and sadness into his work. He wanted to remember his son and push on each day with the fervor that Chris would. He loved the gift the new blog posts brought him, but he didn’t believe for a moment that his son might not be dead. Lisa, though, had a much harder time. She fixated on a number of different conspiracy theories—the other American boy murdered Chris, or the other boy didn’t mean to but still caused it, or the Thai government caused it and covered a mistake of one of their own, or, one she seemed to become more fond of with each passing day, Chris wasn’t actually dead. Lisa never spoke these out loud at first, but over time she began to voice them.
At one point, Lisa asked her husband point blank, “Do you think Chris is still alive?”
Mike sighed; the pain of such an idea frustrated him. He wanted to move on, not to forget Chris, but to keep living. “No, honey. Chris died.”
“Yea…” Lisa said as her voice trailed off. She stared across the kitchen table not looking at Mike, not looking at anything at all. She stared into nothing. “It’s odd they never found his body though, right? It makes you think maybe he really isn’t dead.”
“No, Lisa. It doesn’t make me think that at all.”
“Well, why not? Not even a little bit? It’s possible that Chris is still alive. Maybe it’s a small possibility, but it’s possible.”
“No, it’s not,” Mike said matter-of-factly. He wasn’t responding coldly to his wife; he simply struggled to even entertain the idea. “He’s not alive, Lisa. He’s not mysteriously missing but still posting on his small blog somewhere. Why in the world would he do that? I know finding his body would bring some sort of closure, but we don’t need closure through seeing his body. We have the memories of Chris, the laughter he brought us, the frustration he caused always challenging common perceptions, the excitement he gave us. We’ll always have that from our son, and the peace of knowing that he was our son. We raised him. But he’s gone, Lisa.”
“Well I still have hope, however small it may be. I don’t get how you can let him go so quickly.”
“I haven’t let him go. I lay awake at night with an empty hole left in my life, in my soul. But I don’t want to forget the rest of my life. I want to put the pain I feel into each day. I’m trying to keep living, but I haven’t forgotten.”
“It feels like you might have. I wish I could live my life, but I just can’t. I carried him for nine months, gave birth to him, breastfed him, loved him. I simply can’t move on, especially if there’s a chance he might still be alive.”
“I love him too, but there’s not a chance he’s still alive. It pains me to say it, but there’s not.”
“Think what you want. There’s a chance.” Lisa’s voice was distant now. “Why do you think there’s been two more blogs? It makes no sense.”
These words trailed off looking for a home but drifting through the air without finding one. She slowly slipped from her chair and went to the computer in the next room. She found herself reading and re-reading Chris’ old posts every day. Lisa longed for another connection with him. She wanted a new post to be there. She was granted that gift when the webpage loaded. See, Lisa thought to herself, there’s a chance.
“I can see straight down your crooked teeth. You feel so dumb, mouth open large. You’ve got exactly what I’m drinking for.”
He came out of nowhere and stunned me. A short statured Indian man popped out of a small alleyway the other day. He looked ragged, tired, hot. “Watah,” he exclaimed.
“Whoa. Excuse me?” I responded, surprised as much by the fact that he was speaking to me in English on the streets of Thailand as I was by his quick approach. The majority of the English I’ve spoken over the last few weeks has been either in my head or with a lot of gestures and pointing. I’ve heard even less spoken to me.
“Can I have some of your watah?” he clarified in very good English.
I looked down and noticed the Nalgene bottle hanging from a carabiner on my backpack. “Sure, I guess so.”
So I shared with him some water. He opened his hands out to me, as if suggesting I pour the water into his cupped fingers. I insisted he drink directly from the bottle. There’s something about traveling and living in dingy hostels that changes your disposition to grimy strangers, I guess. I’ve found that people are more willing to assist with someone else’s homeless people. For some reason, the man struggling on the street in your own hometown is easy to ignore, but find a man on the street halfway across the world, and we all become bleeding hearts. I found myself reacting the same way. Maybe I assume the homeless man in my own city has been afforded the same opportunities and options in life that I’ve had, but I don’t know what the man in a foreign land has been afforded. I’m not sure what it is. It’s a silly way to think, whatever it is, but I digress. Back to the man on the street in Thailand.
The man drank the smallest sip of my water, to which I encouraged him to drink more. He clearly needed it more than I. After a long gulp, he looked into my eyes and frowned. I patiently waited for him to say “Thank you,” but he didn’t speak a word. Finally, surprised that my supposed kindness was not being recognized or appreciated, I shrugged and said, “You’re welcome.”
I saw a smile creep across his face. He looked up at the sky, then to the ground at his feet, then directly into my eyes again and said in his Indian accent, “For what? For sharing with me what you have plenty and I have none? I’ll notify the authorities to throw you a parade.”
Once again, I stared at the man in amazement. It seems that’s all this man caused me to do—be stunned. He popped out of nowhere and startled me. He acted as if I would pour water into his fingers. He took the smallest sip possible for his first drink. Then after drinking nearly half the bottle, he mocked my desire for thanks. I was stunned. He didn’t say another word to me. He nodded politely and turned back down the alley. I stood for a moment unable to move. What just happened? I slowly walked away pondering the encounter in disbelief. It’s stuck with me since. I can’t seem to shake it for some reason. I would typically chalk the encounter up to him being rude and disgruntled. He wasn’t though. He was polite and unfailing. I, on the other hand, was startled and entitled. And, at that point, out of water.
Lisa smiled at the screen. “See,” she mumbled again to Mike, knowing full well that he couldn’t hear her.
Maybe it was the timing of the post, right after the argument with Mike about whether there was a chance Chris could still be alive. Maybe it was her inability to accept what everyone else was telling her. Whatever it was, Lisa became fixated on the possibility of Chris still being alive.
She began by calling the local police. An officer was sent to the house of the frantic woman explaining how her dead son might still be alive. The kind officer took notes about the death of their son in Thailand, but it was clear he’d drawn the short straw among all the officers down at the station. Lisa didn’t seem to notice, though, and pointed out blog post after blog post.
“I’m not saying he’s clearly alive,” Lisa acknowledged. “I’m just saying it’s a little odd isn’t it?”
“Maybe his account was hacked, ma’am,” the officer responded kindly. “Or maybe Chris has friends that wrote with him, and they are still writing. Maybe it’s their way of coping.”
“Chris would never let anyone write for him. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe he’s kidnapped somewhere, but still has access to the blog.”
The officer nodded politely, wanting to point out that if her son was kidnapped but still posting blogs, it would probably make more sense for him to be posting messages of distress or cries for help. He opted to keep it to himself, realizing that reason had left this discussion long ago.
At one point, Mike looked at the officer as if to say, “Thanks for humoring us.” Lisa caught the glance and felt completely betrayed.
“Thanks a lot,” Lisa said and marched off upstairs. Both Mike and the officer stared at each other briefly, unclear what words should be exchanged next. After the pause, they exchanged niceties and shook hands.
“Tell your wife we’ll be in touch if anything comes up.”
“Thanks so much for your time,” Mike replied as he closed the door behind the police officer.
Check out Part 7 of “The Gravesite.”
Night Marry You (Lyrics)
Right Away, Great Captain!
Darling you have yet to hold me close
During the war, with your heart
I can see strait down your crooked teeth
You feel so dumb, mouth open large
You’ve got exactly what I’m drinking for
Darling you can bet to see my ghost
Up on the wall watching you eat
Yeah its true i dream about you two
Grinding my mouth losing my teeth
You are exactly what a night-mares for.
I’ll night marry you.
Skipper i can barely swab the deck,
Slipping around on fishes bones
Commonly i write more than i speak about our love with sticks and stones
I’ve seen you cast away this cast before
And your casting spells again
Doctor I’ve got bandages and bloods
Places underneath my minute gun
Finally the funeral unique
To all my sins, there all long long
They are exactly what this crying is for
They are exactly what this dying is for
You are exactly what I’m dying for
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