Author: U.L. Harper
Genre: literary fiction
Langley, sick of his suburban life and sick of watching the man who raised him wither from the relentlessly ugly clutches of Alzheimer's, moves to Long Beach with the hopes of finding more. What he finds is a group of poets with a message, a message they want to get out.
When Langley moves to Long Beach he instantly finds himself in a new world of poetry and graffiti. A world that is in the throws of destruction and in the need of revolution. Langley is forced to make the decision; does he stay in this new world with its collapsible revolution, or does he attempt to endure a life marred in the memory of his death mother and in the current state of his Grandfather.
The Flesh Statue follows Langley on this search for answers and along the way introduces us to an array of characters from the eratic Cinci who is trying to escape a troubled past, to Bert, a man who is willing to fight and burn for his ideals, to Latrail, a young woman taking on the role which Langley should himself be filling
"Your grandfather left us a while ago, when the disease took over his mind. Then again... If he was here this whole time, did he want to be here? He'd move-on, on his own time. He'd leave us when he wanted. Couldn't keep him against his will, if I knew him any."
To Langley, how this situation summed itself up seemed all too close to what he remembered from some class discussion he had on the sacred cow. The cow was sacred mostly because of all it could offer society—dairy products and such. The bull on the other hand, which was basically only good for mating, well, they let it die because they didn’t need so many of them. To his Grandma, Grandpa had served his use with the world or maybe just served his use to her, and because she couldn't watch his useless carcass wither in an expensive hospital, she let what was no longer useful just die. She didn't kill it. She let him starve and become weak so he'd "move on" a little faster, at his own choice, perhaps.
"You know what I feel?" she said, finally taking a glance at Langley. "I feel free." She took a deep breath. "That's why you should go to college. You'll find some teacher that'll ask you good questions, like what freedom is. My philosophy teacher asked me that. What is freedom, he asked. That whole class was over my head, fifty some odd years later, I can answer that question out of experience."
This caught his ear. He could save himself about fifty years of thinking if he just listened now. Langley tried to yawn as to clear his ears as much as possible.
"Everything certain already happened to me,” she said. “You know what I think freedom is? Having no expectations. I don't have a goal in front of me, and it's scary. I have a lot of life in me." She was ready to cry again. "Too much life."
"You're young for your age. That's what I think."
"Too much time to do too much by myself."
"I'm about twenty and I feel like I'm almost out of time. Here you are at, how old are you?"
"Freedom is having nothing to grasp on to,” she said. “Having no basis for anything, having no point and no reason. No reason at all. None," she waved her hand at him. "None."
"In the end, we'll all be free, then?"
"Everybody will be free if they live long enough to have nothing to look forward to. I hope that's not what all this really is, come to find out." Then she stood and casually stepped towards the door. She said, "Are you fine to make your own meal tonight?"
"Grandma," he said. "Grandpa’s not dead is he?"
"Make some for Latrail. We're expecting her. I'm going to ride the bus somewhere."
"What do you mean ride the bus?"
"I need to be away from here for a little while. I'll be back." She left the room, not looking back. "And Langley," she said from the dining room, "don't walk Grandpa."
For quite some time Langley sat there peeling his eyes at Grandpa, indecisive on whether this man was dead or not. Surely no one could stay in one place for that long, alive. Then again, he didn't check for a pulse. Grandpa’s chest wasn't going up and down like it would if he were breathing, something people did when they were alive. Langley couldn't gather the motivation to leave the room. Something, he couldn't tell what, kept him there. In this time, he didn't think too much about the outside world. He wondered how Grandpa’s skin felt. How he slouched in the wheelchair—was he weighted differently?
Gravity pulled Grandpa towards the floor, the grave, as he inched lower in his wheelchair, kind of sinking per minute. Grandma had cleaned the dead man before sitting him there, like a flesh statue. When it finally settled in that his Grandpa was dead, Langley's back went stiff. He remembered tiny pieces of memory. Not whole moments.
There was the time having the flu and Grandpa telling him that people used to die of the flu. Its full name was Influenza. Learning to drive a car. Being made fun of because of his car. He and Latrail playing with each other when they were young enough for him to push her on her chest and there not being any breasts there. Langley being bashful at Grandpa saying Langley had a crush on Latrail.
A car pulling up in the driveway shook him from his memories. He didn't bother to see who it was. A moment later, the door rattled with a knock. If Latrail had been dropped off by her mom she could let herself in.
Sometimes Grandpa pretended he was on the air at the radio station and acted like Langley was a guest on his show. As a guest on the show, a young Langley confessed to wanting to be a professional basketball player. In reality, he didn't like the sport all that much. Then again, he couldn't think of another job he might want to do. That, and Grandpa, back when he had a healthy pot belly and not a sagging one, loved sports, and Langley didn't want to let him down. Besides, Langley loved going to the Dodger games, especially when Grandpa would suddenly decide that they had to go, "pronto". Grandpa might not have wanted to go if he knew he didn't like sports too much to begin with. The fact was that Langley had been so well pampered his whole life—now he knew this—that he thought his grandparents would always be there to take care of him. Not true. Not true at all.
Grandpa was a starved bull.
About the AuthorU.L. Harper is an author at heart but works with children in the Long Beach area. California. He has fun. Tetherball rules. Think of the phrase, “I would rather starve than feel better than this.” It’s a sentence into his thought process. If you would like to learn more about the author, you can visit his website at: www.ulharper.com
Book excerpt was provided by Rebecca of Pump Up Your Book and was used with permission.