Friday, May 04, 2007

Here is a start of a short story I am working on. I am having some trouble working on it in Virgina, because it is set in rural Pennsylvania. I need to study the accents a little bit. Maybe I'll hang out at the Buck with my lap top to record some country talk! Just kidding.

At any given time, each of Edward’s activities reminded whoever happened to see him of a sort of chaos or kind of disorder, but, with the help of his cunning attitude, the boy could distract his audience with his disgusting charm. In this way, he often got through school with excellent grades not because he knew the material, but because he would walk up to the teacher’s desk with his head low and his chest caving in to his stomach during a test. He took up this posture not to fool the teacher, but to just git some help in school. He would pose a question, maybe “Ma’am, I don’t get what you mean. I just don’t see what you’re sayin’,” or maybe “did we do this in class? Cause I just am not rememberin’ this, ma’am.” Which ever, he made a point to draw out the “ma’am” in a smooth, buttery way. The teacher could not resist. It was not his cuteness or his charm that worked, but his pure ugliness and ignorance. Still, the teacher always explained the question in a new way until he lifted his head up and down like a pendulum, showing that oh, now he got it. The bones in his face stuck out in a mature way, like he was an old man rather than a nine year old boy, and he always wore untied sneakers, muddy jeans, and his favorite cowboy shirt.

“You ain’t just sitting on that couch there doin’ nothing, now boy,” shouted his mother. His mother, who most people called Jude but who formally went by Mrs. Neiderstal though she never had been married and Neiderstal was her last name all her life, said this to him often, and then she went upstairs and slammed her door and didn’t come down the rest of the night. She smelled like cigarettes, ‘cause she smoked ‘em a lot, and they stuck on her clothes like flies stick on the cows in summer. Her breath smelled like it too, kind of dusty and wooden, and not too pleasant.

He hung around more with his grandpa and brother than he did his mom or aunt. They built things by their blood and sweat, big things like fences and chicken coops. They bailed hay in the summer, plowed fields, and did real man’s work. Duty, honor, and America, that’s what they believed in. Paul, Edwards’ brother, was a big dumb guy who never got passed the 8th grade in school. Grandpap was real smart though, one of the smartest in town, but he just stayed his eyes to the land and never wanted any real office power or anything.

Grandpap’s house was a big, white thing. It glowed with a tan gleam in the sun, since it wasn’t warshed down often, but it sure held a lot of people and stood firm through all the winter storms. All the family memories stayed in that house, on the shelves, in the basement, on the chairs, and in the bedrooms. They said the house been in the family for years and years, long as they had the land, too. They kitchen said everything best. You’d walk into the house and immediately you were in the kitchen. Didn’t even need to go through no extra doors or nothing. The kitchen said it best as soon as you entered, with a big, navy blue sign with “Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often” painted on it in cursive letters. This country type d├ęcor been in the Neiderstal house as long as Edward could remember, even since he were a little kid. Edward still a little kid though, but he don’t think so since just this year he started going through bodily changes. Oh, on the left wall over the sink, a sign said “Because of the Brave”. They were real Americans and weren’t afraid to show it. At different times of the year, Paul searched through the brown, card board boxes in the basement and picked out the proper seasonal greeting. Right now, since it was spring and no real national like holidays were around the corner, the country decor above the antique clock was the “Bless This Home” one. They were real good Christians too, and went to church every Sunday morning.

“Don’t you go getting’ redd up now, boy, ‘member there is responsibility after responsibility that come with being a man. I’ll beat your bottom now if you be bad,” warned Grandpap. Grandpap was always saying funny things. Once, when Paul and Edward were out in the woods cutting through briers and jaggers to clear a path, Grandpap just spit out something like “know what you gun be doin when yunz my age if yunz don work now? Gon be sitting in a home like Jude and be doin nothing but smoking your life away, smoking it away like the woods in the summer in a fire, which don’t happen much but you just got to prevent it. Anymore, people don know how to respect people who be smoking and smoking, but in my day they sure did.” He said all this with out looking up from knocking over jaggers on the path, and when he spoke it sounded like he had marbles rolling around between his tongue and his cheeks. But the words were still sharp and stayed with Edward.

Edward lived in his mothers house, which stood right beside his grandpap’s house, and was made of brick. It was much smaller than his grandpap’s house, and didn’t have country signs all through it with saying’s painted on them. Edward thought it a pretty nice house.

Edward was sitting in the yard playing with his dog when he saw the Conway’s car speed by on the narrow back road. He didn’t change his position, but kept sitting in the yard playing with his dog. The dog was a little mutt named Dossy, with brown and white spots all a long her back. She was rather ugly herself. One nasty tooth stuck out of her mouth at all times, so she looked like she was constantly growling. As Edward looked down at Dossy and noticed her ugliness and the brown clumps of dirt stuck in her fur, it occurred to him that he didn’t like her much any more. He didn’t know why this struck him so suddenly, or why it didn’t come to him until now. But she was old, ugly, and dirty. The Conway’s dog, though, she just had a litter of puppies a few weeks ago. They forbid Edward to see the puppies, since last time he pet one he dropped it out of his lap. He said sorry over and over, but it seemed that the Conway’s had no heart for a poor, ugly boy like Edward. They would not be swayed like the teachers at the Elementary school. They knew what was there’s, and how to keep it whole and unbroken by keeping Edward away.

“You stupid piece of shit! You stupid stupid boy!” Jude screamed from inside the little brick house. Edward did not know what she was screaming about, or if he did anything, but he did know that when she sounded like that it was best he left. So he picked up old Dossy and started wobbling down the pot hole covered road towards the Conway’s house. Dossy didn’t like the bumping around that happened when Edward walked quickly, and she started giving him little bites on the fleshy part of his arm. He dropped her and started running down the road, towards the Conway’s. He knew to go to the first room in the barn. The door slid open easily, the mother dog stood up to see who’s there, and the little puppies looked all cute lying in some hay. He sat down on the ground with them, and fingered their soft fir gently, selfishly. He picked one up, choosing randomly, and held its face to his so he could smell the sweet puppy breath. Pulling it to his chest, he lifted up his oversized t-shirt and stuffed the little animal between the shirt and his body. It felt warm and good, and he felt alive when the animal breathed in and out against him.

Mrs. Conway took care of the puppies. At this stage in their development, taking care of them meant playing with them and making sure they were still alive. Their mother did the feeding still with her milk, so they had not yet moved on to eating dog food.


mespeicher said...

I do know this story, don't I? Agreed, you need to work on the accents. You've picked some southern ones up and mixed them in. Donegal is Donegal, just ask Dad.

Can you work a bit on developing "Edwards" methods of manipulation? I can't tell if people feel sorry for him because he's not smart, or if he's sneaky and pretends he's stupid. It's vague on that issue. But the dog, the mom, the descriptions of the houses are all pretty interesting, especially the signs.

mespeicher said...

Oh, and because I'm trying to critique I forgot to add that I really like this story. Very entertaining, just like the boy!