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Serpent Blog - All You Have To Do Is Believe

Serpent Blog

All You Have To Do Is Believe 
(More from The Serpent Box Letters)

January 16, 2002
Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco

Andrew,

I had a small breakthrough yesterday. Perhaps it was not too small. We shall see what happens today. But I knew it was important because I wrote a sentence that tipped the story, as if on a fulcrum, and I swear to you I got chills, and my throat tightened and I had to stop for a moment to collect myself. Now, maybe it isnít as big of a deal as all that. Perhaps it is even a dead end. But what happened was this:

I am writing now a scene that takes place as the now twenty-year-old John Cross (since renamed Tobias) has brought Charles Flint and Jacob up to Slaughter Mountain (In the previous chapter, John Cross was re-introduced, he came to Jacobís aid after he was seriously bitten by a snake and came close to death (Jacob survived, but by his own accord, through his own inner strength). During their journey back up to the mountain, and the church there, John Cross tells them all that has happened since Charles Flint departed ten years earlier. He had been taken in by the Bowsky Brothers, and he was indoctrinated into their church, where he became a young preacher. But when he was only fourteen, both Ray and Esau Bowsky died suddenly, a week apart, as a result of their dealings with poison and snakes. As Esau lay dying, he made John Cross promise to go on as the preacher of the Slaughter Mountain church, and he told them about a dream that both he and his twin had on the same night Ė in fact, it was the night before Charles Flint showed up and destroyed the African voodoo-box. In that dream, they foresaw their own deaths, and they also saw that a child should take their place, that a boy would come who would not only lead their congregation, but all Holiness congregations, uniting the disparate backwoods churches. Both John Cross and indeed myself, believed that he, John Cross, was that boy. For several days, after having written this scene in long-hand, it never occurred to me that it was not John they had seen in their dream, but Jacob. And when this happened, when I was re-working the scene and re-thinking the dream, I was struggling with a single line of dialog, spoken by John Cross, and as I often do, I speak it aloud and try to get into character. For I become these people while writing them. I am them, I feel everything they feel, and in that moment, I did not think about the dream, I knew it, as if it was told to me, and I spoke the line aloud. And I knew it was true. It was truer than true. It was one of those rare moments when one says to oneself ĎThis is why I write.í

* * *


So, you struggle and you struggle. You wander lost and groggy. The hours of darkness are many, you cannot count on the imminent rise of a sun. Gravity does not apply here, its rhythms are not circadian, but cicadian. You dig into the ground and gestate and God only knows when the time will come, when the light will pour back in. So you work. You keep the faith. You have faith because thatís all there is, itís your only possession. You donít think, you know. That is faith. Knowing. You know the work will find itself, that if you yourself are worthy, it will take form. And all you have to do to be worthy is, believe.

Iíve spent too much time on this damn letter and as you can see, I am not writing. So I will now stand and refill my coffee, and make the transition from meandering to prose. Be well.

VLC


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