Stephen D. Lalonde

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Word Painting

Posted on January 28, 2023 at 1:55 PM

Luscious, rich, honey-sweet words dripping down the page. Sometimes I get so busy telling the story, I forget to paint it as well. I have chosen a few excerpts from my books as examples of my efforts to ‘paint’ the story.



Laughing children in dusty clothes chased each other among the people, animals and carts. The smell of smoke and sizzling lamb, the colorful arrangements of olives, figs and grapes, and the fish cooking over beds of red-hot coals all flooded his senses. He had olives, cheese and dried fish wrapped in a cloth tied to his waist and a small wineskin hung from his shoulder. He bowed his head to avoid eye contact with the men trying to get his attention, as they waved their goods high in the air and called out to him and the other travelers.


When he moved into the shrine, the smoke from the torches and the altar was so thick it was hard to breathe without coughing and there was a smell like burning hair in the darkened room. The walls of the temple, blackened with soot, seemed to radiate the awesome power of the place. There on the tripod sat the Pythia, chewing on laurel leaves. A steamy vapor rose from a crack in the ground directly under the tripod. He had heard how the vapor helped move the Pythia into her ecstatic state. She did not look like what he was expecting. Even in the dark room he could see that she was not magnificent in her appearance. She was small, and even through the smoke he could see her wrinkled face and hands. In a different place she would seem to be just another older woman. But here, she was to be respected and treated with great reverence. 


He was Nubian, black-skinned and strong from years of work and the challenges of the journey with Sinon to Colchis at the end of the Black Sea. Mentu kept his hair very short and chose to shave his beard. There were many small scars on his cheeks and chin from the early days of learning to use a bronze razor to scrape his face. 


There were those in this city with strange head coverings and exotic and colorful clothes. Some had thick golden chains around their necks and some had golden earrings with sparkling stones embedded in the rich metal. Smoke wafted among the booths that had foods on display including some that Mentu had never seen before. Every step moved them through smells that were either delicious or shockingly foul. Even in Colchis they had not found such a flood of the senses.


When next I struggled to open my eyes, two girls, not yet women, were dragging me out of the smoldering ashes of the hut. Their wide- open eyes were dripping terror as they kept darting glances to be sure none of the attackers were returning. They dragged me beyond the village to some bushes and fell to the ground. Tears rained from their faces as they whispered to each other and kept peeking back at what was left of the village that had been their home. They saw only flames and smoke and bodies of slain parents. The children were all gone, taken to be slaves, tied together in the cart pulled by the village ox.


Anissi felt a rage boiling up inside her that made her abandon her usual caution. She turned to Duwana and Amaros. They both froze as they met her gaze with their eyes so wide that the whites stood out like beacons. Anissi was beginning to tremble and her face was distorted by rage. She unclamped her jaw long enough to hiss to them, “He is one of the men who destroyed our village.” She glanced over her shoulder and turned back to them slowly as she took an arrow, fitted it to the bowstring and added, “He is the one who stabbed me...” and as she turned to look again, “and he will pay for that now with his life.” 

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