Monday, August 23, 2010

Razored Zen's First Guest Blogger

I'm not sure when I first happened upon Sarah Hina's blog, but I do remember being captivated by her poetry and by the sheer loveliness of her language. Sarah is, in my opinion, one of the most talented ‘pure’ writers I’ve yet met in the blogosphere. Sarah recently had her first novel published, Plum Blossoms in Paris, and I immediately snagged myself a copy. I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but it won’t be long, and I’ll review it when I’m finished. In the meantime, however, for the first time ever on Razored Zen, we have a guest blogger for the day. Please welcome…Sarah Hina, with “For Whom the Bell Tolls”!


His feet stepped over Point Zero, the origin of all measured distances in France.

He walked.

He walked past the chattering tourists and pigeons. He walked with his back straight and head tilted down, as if the layers of this isle’s history were an archaeological wind to tunnel through.

He walked through the entrance of Notre Dame, ignoring the saints and virgins, and found the stairway leading to the south bell tower.

He climbed.

He stepped over a rope line.

He climbed higher.

He stopped when he mounted the top of the stairs. When he saw what he came for. The lonely bass bell, sequestered from its four siblings in the north tower.

A man with a blue cape stood beside it.


I looked at the sweaty American and reached for my phone. Security was third on speed dial. And I had a luncheon to attend.

“Monsieur,” I said. “You are not permitted.”

I noticed his eyes. Leaden, like a soldier’s. Bearing the shadows of battles yet to be fought.

The cell phone stayed in my pocket.

“Are you the one?” he asked. “The keeper of the bells?”

I hesitated.

“Yes, I am Monsieur Fontaine, the chief sacristan,” I finally said.

The man stretched out a hand to lean on the bell. For support, I could see. Emmanuel did not budge. His clapper alone weighed 1,000 pounds. Gone were the days of striking hammers, and the romantic piffle of Quasimodo’s rope swinging. Everything ran to a computer’s atomic precision.

With my finger on the button.

“I need for you to ring this bell,” the man said.

I laughed.

“Monsieur, the bourdon is rarely rung by itself, except to mark the deaths of great and distinguished men, like a pope or archbishop. I am afraid you ask the impossible.” I cleared my throat. “And now you really must—”

“I know why it’s rung,” he said, more quietly. Urgently. “As you say. To mark the deaths of great people.”

I caught his subtle distinction and nearly reached for my phone again. This American seemed prepared to lecture me on his tour-book interpretation of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Well. If equality were his aim, then Death would sound constantly throughout the city. Even the tourist parts.

And I would never see lunch.

But instead of a speech, the man looked down at his feet.

So I did, too.

He did not wear shoes. Or, if he did, they were not visible beneath a pair of yellow hospital booties that were speckled red. The afternoon sun bathed their trauma in a soft, opal light.

Blood like wet paint.

“Monsieur,” I murmured, taking a step forward. “I am very—”

He waved me off.

“This . . . she . . . I didn’t know where to . . . ”


“I need to feel." He inhaled sharply. “That someone. Is listening. That someone. Acknowledges it.” He tried to smile at me, but his face could not suffer it.

“You know?”

I closed my eyes.

I was not a man who looked outside my own reality. Or cared to, in truth. But sometimes, when working the towers, it felt like the cathedral breathed. Like she sighed over the wingspan of her centuries. For all she had been forced to see. During these moments, the bells’ clanging could almost remind me of a bloodletting. An exorcism.

If one believed in such things.

I opened my eyes.


He walked down the stairs. Over the rope line.

And down again.

He walked from the cathedral, and past the tourists and pigeons, snapping up their photos and breadcrumbs.

He walked because he was afraid to stop. Afraid. He might never stop. The river was right there. A bridge above it.

A solitary note clanged.

Low. Solemn.


And again.

He stopped walking.

Everyone—tourists, Frenchmen, stone martyrs—offered him a drink from their silence. All listening, instead of talking. Feeling, instead of looking. Connected, for a brief reverberation, by the atomic weight of thirteen metric tons, swinging.

His feet had halted on Point Zero. The origin of all measured distance.

His back hunched.

He grieved.

--- the end ---

Synopsis for Plum Blossoms in Paris:

Post-grad neuroscience student Daisy Lockhart has never been short on brains, but after her longtime boyfriend dumps her through e-mail, she is short on dreams. Alone for the first time in six years, Daisy allows herself to finally be an individual instead of half of a couple. On a mission towards self-discovery, new adventures, and healing her wounded soul, Daisy travels to Paris. Upon her arrival, she meets Mathieu, a mysterious intellectual with a carefree spirit, and Daisy begins to experience the passion and the fulfillment she craves. Daisy's tense battle between possible love and her newly found freedom forces her to decide what she really wants.


David Cranmer said...

I have a copy of Plum Blossoms in Paris as well and am looking forward to the read. Sarah is a top talent for sure.

Terrific post today.

Sarah Hina said...

Very appreciated, Charles. I didn't know I was your first guest blogger, so I'm doubly honored.

Thank you for your lovely words. I've always been grateful to have such a fine writer as a reader of my work.

David - that goes for you, too. :)

Ron Scheer said...

I love the clarity of the writing and the intensity underlying the surface calm. We tend to get a lot of the opposite these days - lots of surface, little clarity, no calm...

Charles Gramlich said...

David, yep.

Sarah, you're welcome.

Ron scheer, Sarah always has a lot going on behind the scenes in her work.

Shauna Roberts said...

Beautiful story about the bell. Thank you for sharing it, Sara, and thank you, Charles, for having her at your blog.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, makes me want to hurry and get to her book.

Cloudia, "yo" from down south!

Heff said...

Tryin' somethin' new, eh ?

Travis Cody said...

That was a wonderful story. Thanks so much for the introduction.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Hina said...

I appreciate everyone's wonderful comments here. Thanks again.

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, trying to stay hip and fresh. Or is all that old slang?

Travis Cody, definitely.

Sarah Hina, thanks for sharing with us. I hope we'll have a few more comments.

laughingwolf said...

like you, was captivated by sarah's writing the first time i read her work on one of jason evans' contests

grats on getting her as a guest, charles

sarah, superb writing... as always

jodi said...

Charles, very nice and a nice break from sci-fi heh?

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, appreciate the visit, man.

Jodi, indeed.

Michelle's Spell said...

Great guest blogger! Loved the writing, Sarah. I'm glad to be introduced to the writing.

Steve Malley said...

Holy smokes, Sarah, Charles wasn't kidding: you really can write!!!

That was wonderful. Thank you... :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, Steve, see, see! told ya! :)

Tyhitia Green said...

Love the writing. :-D I've seen you for years around the blogosphere. :-D Time flies.

Charles, wonderful guest.

And yes, "hip" and "fresh" are old slang words. LOL. ;-)

eric1313 said...

Now that is one carefully crafted story. How measured and precise... And as a reader, you feel the weight of the stranger's grief, though it's ever a secret, locked within his own tower, behind his own rope boundaries, above the reach of the crowd.

Downright inspiring! :)

Great stuff, i'm floored.

Unknown said...

Excellent writing. Now I have to go buy Plum Blossoms in Paris. This blog is not good on the pocketbook.

j said...

I think I felt the toll of the bell. This was just wonderful.

Charles Gramlich said...

Demon Hunter, well I'm kind of old and slangy myself. :)

eric1313, She does it right.

Carole, I know I've spent more money on books since I've started this blog than in the years before. Can't seem to help it.

jennifer, yes, definitely good stuff.

Sarah Hina said...

Wow! I'm incredibly gratified by all your comments and enthusiasm. This story was a little painful to write, but I'm glad I pushed on through. Paris--and especially Notre Dame--has been a consistent source of inspiration to me over the years.

This has been a wonderful stop on my blog tour. All my thanks to my wonderful host, Charles, and to all of you who stopped by and wished me well. It means a lot.

Bernita said...

"being captivated by her poetry and the sheer loveliness of her language."
Oh yes. Me too.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sarah, glad you got some comments.

Bernita, indeed.

RRN said...

today is a great day. i not only learned about a writer i was not familiar with but i also was blown away by her powerful ability.


Erik Donald France said...

Very cool, indeed . . .

Charles Gramlich said...

RRN, she's superb

Erik, glad you enjoyed.