Who’d have thought joining google+ and becoming a member John Ward’s community WDG (Writers Discussion Group) would lead to another community of writers called Saturday Scenes? And that the weekly flash fiction exercises would lead to trying for a novel in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2013? I surprised myself and did it! 50,000 words in less than a minth. Who’d have thought, indeed. Then that lead to a blog, where I now post my Weekly Saturday serial. So, as the dominoes fall I am officially writing daily, something I have always wanted to do.
In Saturday Scenes we post publicly and talk about the scenes amongst ourselves in the private community seeking advise and encouragement from other writers. The scenes vary from a work in progress, to something you may have already published. They can be a scene from a short story, flash fiction, or novel you may be currently working on. They can even be something you had written long ago stuffed in the bottom drawer somewhere and dusted off to take another look at. Here is the rough draft of the opening to my work in progress, The Walking Bridge, I shared publicly was my first to post to Saturday Scenes. It from the novel I started from last years NaNoWriMo.
This scene sets up the time, tone, and up-coming tension for the book as seen through the main character, Ella’s, eyes. Her Native American roots are surfacing, coming into question as she sees herself being very different in appearance from everyone else she’s lived around all her life. As I said, this is rough and needs professional editing, but it will get there. Thanks for reading.
The Walking Bridge
by Ronda Reed
I know the exact moment in time my life changed. It was the year my two friends and I discovered the mysterious old walking bridge hidden deep within the dense wooded belly of the closed State Park: going nowhere, connecting nothing, never used except by the occasional wild animal. Yet there it was, waiting for us.
There were several words I could use to describe Mecado, the small southern town in Texas where I grew up. However, since the summer before my fourth grade school year, the word ‘predictable’ wasn’t one of them. Oh sure, it was still hot as Hades in the summers and, with certainty, you could rely on those dry seasons filling the air with such heat-exhausting brittleness, tumbleweeds crackled in protest as they blew across the roads. The dryness from blistering heat on a windy day felt like a beauty shop hairdryer hood turned to high and permanently positioned over your head and face, blasting away.
But just as easily, a really wet spring would come bringing fickle summer humidity so stifling that even after a freshly scrubbed bath, sweat resurfaced and dribbled lazily down your skin like beads of moisture on a glass of sweet tea. Swamp coolers offered no relief then, either.
New shoots on crops, fish, and bugs, were the only living things that didn’t complain about it, and you’d give your last dollar to buy a breeze. Rain filled the creeks and rivers near to bursting and the surrounding vegetation grew so thick it seemed to suck up all the air around you, inside of you. At those times, I wished for the dryness back just to breathe deeply again.
The grasshoppers and cicadas chirred their approval of the moisture, singing loudly during the day. I’d lay listening at night while crickets and seasonal frogs synchronized their praises, chirping and croaking, piercing through the stillness with an occasional hoot owl and distant train whistle. I did like how the rain transformed everything, though. In those clingy seasons, fields packed bluebonnets so closely together they appeared a solid ocean of royal lapis lazuli blue speckled with white tops waving at you like foam off water.
The weather, however, is not the unpredictability I’m talking about. My bored lackadaisical summers days were about to end. I just didn’t know it yet that summer of ’63. No more would there be days entertaining myself by mindless hula-hooping or kicking the can; or swinging in the middle of the tire swing on my belly until it was sore; or talking into the big box fan in Daddy’s garage just to hear the vibrated distortion of my voice; or chasing lizards and horned toads on our dirt road. I even played third base less and less with my older farm neighbor, Jimmy, and his passel of visiting cousins.
This change about to happen, involved someone I had yet to meet, will come to love and keep in my heart forever, and someone I’ve known all my life and will despise and hate the rest of my dying days. It was about to change for my only friend Brenda, too.
I was Brenda Davidson’s “summer friend”, classified as such by her mother with a pointed arched eyebrow glare directed at Brenda like they had previously had this talk in private before. Mrs. Davidson insisted she had her “school friends” during school, and “summer friends” after school was out for the year and to not confuse or mix the two. It was as clear as punch, at least to me anyway. I bristled, deciding I wasn’t ever going to feel comfortable and entirely fit in, being the only one for miles around with darker skin. Darker even in the summer.
However, if I were honest, they didn’t care much for Daddy and Mama either, and they’re white. A year after they moved here Brenda’s parents pitched a fit and the city officials passed an ordinance to make Daddy put up that tall tin fence around our scrapyard to keep it hidden from the highway, or else risk losing it. Daddy complied, reluctantly. He grumbled for two whole years after, but the fence did look nice. I told him so.
The Davidson’s, lived across the highway and down a ways from us. They paved their lane with pretty white gravel, each side flanked thickly with two long rows of dark green bushy cedar trees. It eventually lead to a circled dead-end in front of their brand new two-storied brick house. Daddy called it the Taj Mahal, on account they were rich and had oil money. They even got to name their own road, Derrick Lane.
Deer Creek Road, or FM 167, is the name of the one I lived on. I don’t know who got to name ours. It’s a farm-to-market brownish red caliche-packed road off the highway on the west side to Brenda’s east side. There are several farms on our road, scattered randomly left and right. And even though Daddy fussed about the Davidson’s, I liked our road best. It was friendlier and always had more going on.
He’d say, under his breath, “The Davidson’s moved outchere just to keep their damn taxes low, instead akeepin’ with their own kind. It woulda suited me just fine if they’da kept on a goin’ due south down the highway and drove straight on into the gulf when they ran outta road.”
Daddy’s repeated litany varied a little each time he spouted it. Such as “Let’em drive their fancy station wagon right on through Galveston and ferry on a slow boat to China.” He could always make me laugh at his odd sayings, but truth be told, I was just glad to have someone to play with, even as a “summer friend”.
I hadn’t been adopted yet when Daddy built our small a-frame house and shed out back. That happened about fifteen years ago, he told me. The shed later became Mama’s beauty shop when I started school. She also took Avon orders, selling make-up, lotions, bubble bath, and perfume to customers as well. I grew up smelling the odd mixture of hairspray, dyes, nail polish, perfumes and perms. Mama always gave me the dark foundation Avon samples to play make-up with, since no one in town had complexion as dark as mine. I got to play with the tiny sample lipsticks, too.
I remember once looking down at the large ugly pink misshapen scar on the inside of my arm. It’s such a mottled pink and light brown tightness of skin positioned on the inside of my elbow the size of a softball. I asked Mama if the make-up would make my scar look better, too. She knelt down, took me in her arms, kissed my scar and said, “Mercy, my dear sweet baby girl, this make-up does not make you or anyone prettier. It’s just cream. You are beautiful and your skin has been kissed by the sun on the outside.” Rolling my brown arms over, she added, “Your beauty on the inside shines so brightly, no one sees the scar. No make-up can touch how pretty you already are, darlin’.”
The beauty shop walls were painted a pastel pink with black and white linoleum square tiles on the floor like a giant checkers board. It proudly boasted one swiveling chair, one hooded hairdryer chair, one washing station, and two customer chairs for waiting, all in pink vinyl. A black table loaded with magazines and Avon catalogues and a kidney-shaped ashtray separated the customer chairs. I played on the swivel chair when there were no customers. And when I got older, I helped washing the combs and curlers for a fifty cent allowance every Saturday.
Soon after that, Daddy turned his big barn into a garage for his business, an auto mechanics shop. We pretty much had people coming and going all the time to either get their vehicles or hair fixed, and sometimes both. We also had one big field used only for crops, sometimes cotton, sometimes nothing. Daddy grudgingly farmed, hired cotton pickers, and harvested. I knew his true passion was working on and fixing up cars and trucks. Anything with a motor really.
Growing bored with the beauty shop, I started hanging out in the garage with Daddy the older I got. I’d fetch and hand him tools. I can still hear his muffled voice from under a car hood, shouting over the drone of the fan and the greasy white transistor radio blaring. “Midget,” that’s what he called me sometimes instead of Mercedes, on account I wasn’t grown up and was more like an MG Midget, even though I was tall for my age, “it’s your first job that pays the bills, and your second one that gets you ahead in life. Remember that.”
Even my after-school routine changed that year. Getting my homework done as well as feeding, watering, and caring for the chickens and pets would become mundane rituals I hurried through. I did them in such a flutter of urgency, I nearly always stumbled or cut myself, or made a multitude of homework mistakes in my haste to head out the back door to plunder the thick woods south of our property line.
You see, that was the year Carolyn Rose, or “Carly”, as I came to know her, moved in down the road. Her parents bought the old vacant Hutchins’ place that lay past our farm, on past Jimmy’s farm about another mile or so. They turned onto our road rattling and clanking, tires crunching rocks, in a rust-speckled truck of indeterminable color, make, and model trailing a brown dust cloud.
There were squawking sounds and white chicken-feathery fluff blowing like snow over the tall wooden sides of the flatbed in back. The truck was pulling an even rustier trailer piled high with upside down furniture. In bad need of shocks, the truck bounced something awful, and at first, I thought there were only two adults in there until I saw a head in the middle pop up during an off bounce, like a rebound bounce on the trampoline at Dawn’s house. They looked like The Beverly Hillbillies pulling still a third smaller trailer behind the second. It was a clamoring caboose full of unhappy bleating goats.
They made a curious odd procession, to say the least. Dawn and I sat on our bicycle seats, balancing with one leg down on the dirt driveway, arms hanging loosely over our handlebars staring in complete wonder. We could only squint against the evening sun and dirt, waiting for the dust to settle. I’m pretty sure my mouth was wide open as I stared at them slowly driving past us. An arm lazily lifted from hanging out of the truck window in single finger greeting. The man driving the truck had skin darker than mine.