In January I published a post* about my angst revisiting a manuscript I finished in 1986. After reading, editing and still polishing, here’s an excerpt introducing the main characters.
The Chevy pulled in front of the Glory General Store/Post Office. A few other cars squeezed in the store front’s cindered lot, promised a long wait at the counter. The raccoon was perched in his cage today. April tumbled out of the back seat and almost mashed her Barbie Doll scrambling onto the porch. Across the street at the gas station a man paid for his gas and watched as the young couple went in the store. He slowly drove his car away from the pumps and parked in front of the bar. Then he swung his tall frame from behind the steering wheel and with long strides crossed the highway to the general store.
Matt Bender the owner, was at the counter ringing up a customer and waved to the young couple. While Sam walked back to the post office boxes, Beth grabbed a small canvas basket and strolled down the side aisle. Oh shit she whispered. I left my list on the kitchen table!
Outside April clicked her tongue coaxing the raccoon, “Benny—Benny come back. You didn’t eat your lettuce!” She crawled toward the cage then noticed the man’s trouser legs. Her eyes traveled up the black pants until she felt a pinch at the back of her neck. She sat back on her heels, staring up at the man who was taller than her father. “Hi.”
The man handed the Barbie Doll to her. “Is this yours? Looks like a piece of the dress is ripped.”
“Uh-huh. Thank you.” Her mouth remained open and she felt her face warming. It upset her to see the doll’s dress torn. Only a few days ago the doll was a present for her seventh birthday
The man’s knees cracked when he stooped to her level. “What’s your name, little girl?”
Inside Beth stood in line rummaging through the basket rechecking in her mind the forgotten list. Sam came up behind her completely absorbed in his latest issue of “High Times”. She asked him if he’d picked up April’s hamster food.
Outside the man reached in the pocket of his black cashmere sweater and said, “Look at this … have you ever seen anything like this before?”
Inside Sam was devouring words on the magazine’s page.
“Sam”. Impatiently she shook his arm. “The bag – did you get the hamster food?”
His eyes dragged from the page and he half answered, “Yeah, I know”, and his eyes dropped down again.
Beth rolled her eyes skyward and pushed the basket into Sam’s belly. “Save my place” She huffed toward the back of the store, her lower jaw rigid and her boot heels stomping on the wooden floor.
On the porch April watched the dangling and shiny metal thing swinging back and forth in the man’s hand.
“Well”, began the man, “I’ll trade you…You can have this little chain and coin. Oh…that button is loose—I’ll take that.”
Beth returned to the counter, and greeted Matt as she slid the bag on the counter.
“Hi ya”, he turned to Sam “If you keep reading under these lousy lights your eyes’ll fall out.” Matt was over forty with a thick shock of salt and pepper hair. His ruddy complexion and firm build came from early years working on a ranch and his brief career as a professional rodeo man. A bad shoulder ended his days as a bull rider.
Sam closed the magazine. “Hey how’s business?”
“Place is like a mad house. I’m thinkin’ everybody on the mountain’s in town today.”
Sam gazed out the store window and scanned the lot across the street. In front of the bar, he noticed a tall man just getting into his car. Geez, he thought, that guy’s taller than me. Out loud he joked, “They all must be at the bar practicing for Memorial Day weekend.”
Matt laughed. “Yeah—just three weeks to go. Hah! They better get it right! Now the real blow-out here is the Fourth. You’ll enjoy it. The Glory bar on the Fourth is the place to be. Hey, where’s the little veterinarian?
Driving home Sam briefly chatted the article he’d read in the magazine. Beth casually flipped the pages, listening and nodding at times responding with a “Yeah”, or “Uh-huh.”
April quiet in the back seat, tapped her toes together, clutching her doll in one hand while her other hand, balled in a fist rested on the bag of hamster food. The shiny metal disc clutched in her hand felt warm on her skin. She hung on her father’s words waiting for the right time to speak. ”Mommy.”
“In a minute honey.”
She liked hearing her daddy’s voice, so alive. But she was impatient. “Mommy, I have—“
Beth turned her head and said in a firm yet gentle tone, “In a minute.”
April dropped her head and rested the Barbie Doll in her lap, fingering the features of its face. Why can’t I ever say something? I have something to show them. Well…I promised not to…So …
It was a silent drive the rest of the way to the A-frame. Beth fanned the pages of the magazine, suddenly uncomfortable. First the late start. The forgotten shopping list and on top of that she noticed a button was missing on April’s sweater. Before leaving the house that morning, it was hanging by a thread. She had made a mental note to fasten it when they returned home. She blew air through her lips, upset with herself for not pulling it all the way off and slipping it in her jeans’ pocket. Wouldn’t it be nice for April to have at least one sweater with no missing buttons? That smart ass Ben Franklin was right.
While her mother silently cursed the eccentric and brilliant psychic statesman, April clicked her toes together and thought that tall man was very nice.
*The link to previous post: