Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Novel Post

Oma at work

Your whole novel is right inside your computer. You just have to be able to hit the keys in the right order. Lately I feel like I'm squeezing words out of rocks. (Dee says that means my writing is solid.) I've got about 170 pages so far. Here's a little sample:

Jack and Big Red

An excerpt from

Son of a Gun

Marty Halverson

Greenville was a two-day ride through sage and Indian paintbrush. Jack reversed his bandanna and pulled it above his nose to cut the trail dust, and settled down to the long day’s grind. The coolness of night had gone completely from the desert, and sunlight began to bite his skin.

After collecting his wages from Luke Gollaher, he’d strapped his possibles sack and bedroll on Big Red, and set off before dawn. At noon he threw off for an hour, eating cold bacon and bread by the wet seep of a spring.

“Red, what would Mama think of us now?” Jack always talked to his horse when they were far from civilization. She listened well, and seemed to bounce back the responses he was hoping for.

“She’d have me hell-bound for killing a man. I’ve done most of God’s sins. Heck, after Indian Joe I’ve prob’ly done ‘em all. But here I sit, as fresh and fit as a boy could be. No devils with little pitchforks after us, far as I can tell. Maybe Mama was wrong about God caring about all that.” Heat crowded around him, and the soil glittered between its patches of rock and dried bunchgrass. “Or maybe God just don’t care much about me.”

To the west the desert looked smoky with dark, dry clouds; to the east the near-by buttes baked, barren and arid. Twice riders appeared in the far distance, stirring up vague spirals of dust. In the middle of the afternoon a band of antelope scudded down a sterile draw and crossed the trail with the speed of gusty wind, racing into the desert. Four piled cattle skulls marked the turning to Greenville. At dusk of that long day Jack came to a shallow crossing of the Brazos that lay half-hidden in the junipers.

After a supper of bacon and canned tomatoes, he settled back to smoke away the last of the day’s light. The stars were shining out of a black sky and the night wind turned quite cold. Wilderness winds and coyotes were calling out of the near hills. Jack’s thoughts ran freely and odd, and a little sad.

Pressed in by the dark a man’s mind gets close to his mortal questions. It wasn’t often that Jack thought of his mother, but he remembered her telling him that large, fragrant, white flowers bloomed on the triangle cactus at night, closing up by morning. He was like that; the stars and moon brought out a tender side in him that also disappeared when the hot sun beat down.

“You miss your mama, Red?” he asked the horse. “She was a pretty one, just like mine was.” The mare only laid full on the ground every other day, and then for just a little while, but tonight Jack had his head propped on her belly. “You think they’re together up there, ridin’ Hank amongst them heavenly clouds?” Big Red snorted and Jack caressed her muzzle.

“Don’t think I could ever love anybody like I did that boy. He put such stock in me . . . shoot . . .” he muttered as he stirred the fire. “I’m getting maudlin, Red.”

Loneliness touched his nerves and got in his bones. “Here I’m talkin’ to a horse!” He took off his boots and stuck them on two sticks to dry out. “Tomorrow I’m lookin’ for a different kind of pony-tail,” he told his only friend.

Jack made good use of the next day’s travel time. Every movement in the purple squaw-weed gave him a target. When a lizard scurried among the black-eyed Susans, he pulled his .45 and sent it flying. At midmorning, he ate some beans, then set the empty can on a tree stump and knocked it off with one bullet. Later, when a diamondback slithered in the scrub brush, Jack’s left finger pulled the trigger. Six shots divided the snake into pre-cut chunks for lunch.

His fast draw seemed to be inborn, but he made the most of it by practicing. He couldn’t remember a time he wasn’t shooting snakes or squirrels, blue jays or black crows. It got so he even let them play his game. If a bird wasn’t flying, he kicked up some leaves to scare it off the branch and into the air before he brought it down. He shot without hesitation, with the intent to kill. Aiming his dark blue Colt was akin to pointing a forefinger.

“First off in town, we need us some bullets,” Jack told Red. “Then one of us is takin’ a bath.” Farms and ranches were getting closer together, promising civilization within the hour.


~Write a novel, one excruciating word at a time. (By the end you'll start getting the hang of it.)


Raejean said...

I can't wait to read the rest! As for the homework, I'd be happy to finish a story to start off with :)

Diane said...

I had to take a minute and get a drink of water before I could write a comment - this passage made me feel hot and parched.

Only one question - you say he pulled the trigger with his left thumb. (Third paragraph from the end.) Is he shooting his gun backward? Do you mean he cocked the hammer with his thumb? Or, am I confused (a strong possibility)?

Good job! I can't wait to read the rest.

Travelin'Oma said...

Thanks Diane! (I changed it.) These are the details that I can't see anymore. Ideally a book should be set aside for at least a month so you can read it with fresh eyes.

kenju said...

Excellent. The trouble is, you know how to find those letters in your computer - and I don't!!

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

Wonderful. And as for the homework, um, I uh... yeah. Maybe someday.

Keep up the good work!

Christie said...

More! More! More! That is fantastic. I can totally picture Jack in that scene. Well done, Omes.