Book Excerpt

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SOUL EYES

By
Wayne L. Wilson


Book Excerpt

  Ever since Olisa was a child, Joseph Carpenter has feared that the world would one day find out what he has always known about his daughter – that she has been blessed with very special gifts. His anxieties are realized on a fateful July the 4th. An incident occurs at Venice Beach, California that catapults Olisa to an unwanted fame.

In this book excerpt, Joseph storms out of the house after vehemently denouncing a family decision that he feels may not only exploit his daughter’s God-given talents, but potentially endanger her life.  
 

   Somebody shouted my name or maybe everyone did, but I was out of there.  My tennis shoes squished the pavement as I sprinted down the walk streets toward the beach.  Houses on both sides seemed to cave in on me, so I ran faster.

   I crossed Abbott Kinney Blvd. after coming off the walk streets and cut up to Venice Boulevard, heading west till I reached Dell Ave.  I abruptly turned left and ran up the small rolling hills to the canals. I looked around me at the radically changed landscape.  Instead of streets, there were waterways intentionally built by Abbott Kinney like the canals of Venice, Italy, but on a much smaller scale.  Pausing to catch my breath, I opened a gate to a place next to the canals that we called "duck park."  The sounds of quacking greeted me from the occupants as they paraded around.  A couple evaded me and splashed into the water. 

   When Olisa was a little girl, I'd often take her to duck park so she could play on the swings and playground slide.  Then we'd walk down the canals and feed the ducks. 
   
   Tonight the park was completely empty.
   
   The humid air didn't help my wheezing as I sat down on one of the swings, struggling to regain my breath.  My T-shirt was soaked with sticky perspiration.  In the darkness I watched the interplay of protean shapes and shadows created by the glimmering house lights bordering the park.  Except, one of the shadows rose up like a great leviathan.  The huge shadowy figure stood ominously in the park on a small raised bridge, looking down at the ducks who clustered around his feet. 

   The man's face was smothered in darkness, but the top of his head glistened like a polar ice cap.  A trumpet hung limply in his hand until he raised it majestically to his lips.
The most beautiful and melodic music I have ever heard flowed out of his instrument.  His body rhythmically swayed as he cultivated sounds from that horn like he was drilling for oil.  Man, it was sweet...so sweet. 

   His unique style defied categorization.  I had never heard anyone play like that in my life! 
He bent, shaped, and transformed the notes before they even came out of the trumpet's bell, which bloomed as bright as a giant sunflower.  There was a special timbre in his playing that could be described at best as almost otherworldly.  Every note from his horn proceeded to take on a life of its own; a living breathing wave of intense, unwavering emotions.  I was experiencing the melisma of a virtuoso who breathed a lifetime into each musical note.

   He wore black shades, a black tie, and a dark single-breasted suit with a white-collar shirt like many of the hipsters when I was growing up.  He was an anachronism, but his music was timeless.  Mesmerized, I sat motionless in the swing, eyes closed, and ears sopping up every musical note.  The soothing ballad momentarily washed away my anxiety.  I felt honored to be the only audience privy to this cat.  By the time he finished his song there were tears crowding my eyes.  

"Hey, bro, that was just 'mad,' whatever it is, you've got it."

   "You think so?"  he intoned in a profound and mellifluous basso.  He tilted his head in my direction and seemed pleased with my assessment.  He blew a few extra notes, and even these made my skin crawl.  Every duck in the area seemed intent on cuddling around his feet.  They were incredibly calm, some even asleep.

"Yeah, no question," I said dreamily.

"Thank you.  It was for you."

"For me?  You mean you knew I was listening?"

"Someone is always listening."

"Yeah, okay..."
"Do you mind if I join you?" he asked politely.

"Oh, no, not at all." 


   What else was I going to say.  I watched as he walked down from the small bridge.  The ducks lethargically parted just enough to allow space for him to walk through.  The lone streetlight in the park wrapped its light around his body, forming a dark shadow whose outline radiated energy.  I didn't have to stand up to see that although I am six feet tall, he dwarfed me by about a foot.  His massive shoulders stretched across his body like the topography of the Grand Canyon.

   However, for a man with such an intimidating bulk, there was a gentleness in his body language that took precedence over his physical demeanor.  But as he approached me, I did notice how he casually sized me up and there was an intensity behind those shades that made me appreciate his concealed eyes.
He sat down on a bench next to the swing I was sitting on.  That's when I had a chance to truly study him. 

   And, this might sound like a strange comment coming from a heterosexual man, but it's the truth.  He was one of the most magnificent creatures I have ever seen.  An artist's fantasy.  His sculpted face looked like it had been constructed from the finest black marble.  Sharp angular cheekbones, high forehead, and a straight nose with wide nostrils flaring out in perfect symmetry.  There wasn't a line, blemish, or wrinkle marring his face.  It was so smooth and shiny that I imagined to touch it would be like grabbing a wet bar of soap.  His closely cropped white hair glistened.

   Self-consciously I asked, "So what are you doing out here?  Practicing for a gig?"
A half-smile parted his lips.  "No, what I'm doing is searching...searching for the one note that will transcend all the others.  A note that will be the epiphany for the greatest concert ever."

"Oh," was my intellectual response.

"Let me elaborate," he added.  "I just don't do what you refer to as 'gigs' anymore, though I still enjoy listening to the musicians of your time."

I thought, my time?  After awhile I said, "So what's a cat as great as you doing sitting out here at night playing a trumpet for free.  You ought to be in some club or concert hall somewhere, or something..."

He fiddled around with his trumpet keys for a second, looking as if he was composing a song in his mind.  "You're very kind...but I don't play for engagements.  I play for God."

"Oh."
"As a humble servant of God, I play for the world with all that I have because what it gives in return is greater than what you could ever imagine.  Am I making sense or are my ramblings causing your eyelids to close?"

"Oh no, I hear you..." I uttered, a little too defensively. 

   Brother man was different, but so were most musicians.  He enunciated each word as if it had to be factory tested before departing from his lips.  His deep, rumbling bass had a pure refined tone to it: slow, steady, thick, and just as powerful as molten lava.  And possibly just as incinerating when angered.  It was a worldly-wise voice.  You believed this man could be equally comfortable sitting with a beggar or a king.

"I must tell you, my friend, tonight seemed more inspiring than others. I felt compelled to play a tune to ease the pain of a troubled soul. Would that be you?"

He waited for my answer patiently, although I had the uneasy feeling his eyes were like burning coals behind those glasses.

"Yeah, partner, that's me. I'll tell you, man, before I heard you blowing that horn, I didn't know if I was coming or going. But, your music calmed me down. I don't feel so out of it now. I can think again."

"Good...good, that's what I want to hear." He seemed genuinely pleased as he cradled and stroked his trumpet.

"So why were you so distressed?"

I studied the ground. The directness of his question caught me off guard. The evening's events hurdled the levee and rushed me like a flood.

Sensing my discomfort, he leaned over and touched my shoulder with his hand, and my skin started tingling. Suddenly, a warm breeze washed over my body, and I was more relaxed than anyone ought to be at night in the park.

Someone playfully poked my shoulder, and I jumped out of the swing, shocked to find my grandfather Harry standing over me, a big glowing smile on his face. He grabbed me in a hearty bear hug, and I giggled like a little kid.

"Look out there, boy, what you doin' with that frown on your face? Tell Big Daddy what's wrong so he can fix you up."

I didn't hesitate because I trusted him more than anyone else in the world. He never laughed at me no matter how many ridiculous things I told him. No one cried harder at his funeral than I did years ago. I told him everything. Grandpa Harry gave me that knowing smile. "Boy, don't you worry about a thing. Everything's going to work out like a charm, trust me, you know I'm right."

   And then, Grandpa Harry, his body still roly-poly, lumbered away until he disappeared, leaving me with an enormous grin on my face.  I clung to my euphoria until the stranger dropped his hand from my shoulder. 
Then I shrank back into the real world, confronted by my own confused expression reflected in the man's black sunglasses.  Now I was sitting next to him on the park bench.  Flabbergasted, I had just poured my heart out to a complete stranger.  He held the horn to his lips, fingering the keys as if he were playing a silent tune.

"You are greatly anguished about your daughter's future, Joseph. Why? This is not a decision you have to wrestle with."

"I'm her father. Why can't I be a part of my daughter's decision making?"
"Your daughter is pursuing her life's calling; her destiny if you prefer. It is not your choice. This is something she must do. Some call it fate."

Like a pouty kid, I kicked sand with my foot. "Wait a minute. You know who I am now, who are you?
"I am a part of your past, your present, and your future. I am sometimes called the messenger...but I can see by your downcast expression that this explanation is unsatisfying. Who do you think I am?
My body involuntarily shook, because it dawned on me who he was. He was the man on the roof top over thirty years ago during the Watts riots, he was the man Gumbo and Laura spoke of, who helped Olisa escape from the beach, and he was the presence I had been feeling around me for so many years...

"I believe you're an angel."


The only response was the rustling of duck wings milling around his feet.

   "Okay, so what is our fate, angel?  Are Grace and I just pawns in a bigger game?  We were just kids when Grace accidentally became pregnant the first time.  We didn't know how to be parents, especially to such a gifted child.  But we raised her in the best way we knew how.  And now you're basically telling us to butt out?"
"No.  I am encouraging you to be a part of her journey."

"So why were we chosen?"

   "Joseph, does human vanity lead you to believe you were chosen?  Did you choose the color of your skin?  Did you choose to be born in this country?  What is, has always been.  Olisa found life through you.  She could have been born in a Chinese village, but the essence of who she is would have still existed.  Always remember, her birth is as much a part of your path through life as it is part of her own path."

   I was having a hard time listening as stinging tears blistered my eyes.  I gripped the bridge of my nose with the tips of my forefinger and thumb.  "I don't know...to be honest, I've always been in awe of Olisa.  I've never felt worthy to have a child like her."
"Your worth is a value only you can determine, my brother.  It has been an inner struggle for you and the source of many of your conflicts."

"You mean like with Jonathan?"

   "Only you can answer that.  We may not always understand what is occurring at a given moment, but eventually time reveals all truths.  But I can tell you this, your son is playing his part, too.  He is doing what he must do on his own personal journey.  There are many directions, but only one exit, and sometimes it entails starting over again and again till we find it."

"I think I understand.  So why are you here?"
"I am here, Joseph, because I have been called."

"What do you mean?" My body shivered, but I was hardly cold.
"Your world may be about to turn in on itself. It is quickly becoming a planet that no longer values itself. It's a world bent on self-destruction. Your daughter may be its last hope." 

Not a muscle on my body moved.
"My daughter? Olisa? Olisa is a single person, how can she..." 

"Shhhh..." he said, holding a finger to his lips. "I only know who she is and that she will save all of you from yourselves. Your eyes widen with fear, but fear is your worst enemy, Joseph Carpenter. Trust is your friend. Just be there. Olisa will need you." 

"My wife once said the same thing."

"You are fortunate to have married such a wise woman."

   The comment brought a smile to my stricken face despite the foreboding words I heard earlier.  He stood up and we shook hands, his engulfing mine.  And, once again, I experienced that snugly warm feeling.  I watched him slowly saunter away into the night.  Before he was completely out of my sight, he turned.  And from that distance the voice I heard should have been a yell, but it traveled to me as a whisper,  "Always remember, Joseph, nothing is impossible."

   He placed the trumpet to his lips and shockingly, the street lamp's glass casing imploded, shattering into millions of pieces and fluttering dreamlike to the ground.  The isolated light bulb hovered unnaturally in the air like a tiny yellow moon.  And then, slowly, effortlessly, I saw those same pieces ascend from the cement and reform anew enshrouding the glass bulb.  It now shined with a light more brilliant than before.
And the horn player disappeared so swiftly, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.

   I went back and rocked in the swing, alone, once again until my solitude was broken by the unexpected crunch of footsteps on gravel.  It made me catapult from the swing.  The ducks arose from their stupor, briskly flapping their wings and quaking incessantly as they scattered, hopping and waddling toward the canals.  Splash after splash filled the night air as battalions of ducks skittered across the water.  

"Daddy?"
"Olisa, is that you?"
"It's me.  Are you all right?"
"Yeah, kid, I'm fine."

"I had a feeling you might be here."
"Then come over here and give your pitiful old man a hug!"


   The reflections from the house lights made the dark, murky waters of the canal sparkle as we strolled alongside of it hand in hand, just like the old days.

 

End of Book Excerpt


Soul Eyes - Order Book



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A spiritual "walkabout" of the soul

The impossibility of the plot.
I'll just say that sterotypes occur for a reason, and "impossible" is only considered until it happens.

An excellent piece of fiction. This is an outstanding, amazing book, thoughtful, articulately written, filled with inspiration, wisdom, and depth. 

It is independent of your spiritual/religious learnings.

It's not hard to find God in desperation, and God in desperation is not exactly God of the bible. Maybe the message is that though God at times seems cruel, ultimately God is love. Both sentiments are true.

The book is 375 pages, I would have loved 750. I hope to read many more by Mr. Wilson BEFORE forced retirement.

He managed to keep me from even thinking about putting the book down. His book lingered with me...


October 12, 2007
By Brenda Fellman


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