In keeping with the output, I figured I'd give you a glimpse of Traveling Tales that I've been working on since time out of mind. I handed this in for workshop a few years ago and had my arch-nemesis read it, BOTH to a wonky array of critiques.
Again, this is very beginning of my creative life (though new) and I'd have trouble giving up this piece, word-for-word. I have since added more, clipped more, and have a bit of a different take than I had previously. Even stuff here is making its way to the end, but maybe more on that later.
He knelt at the fireplace, however briefly, jittery in anticipation of the day—if not for the need to make pee before he wet himself. He poked absently at the snuggling fire coals with their white-ash night caps, transfixed by the glowering glowing warmth as they came to life, almost angry for being woken from their ember sleep. Struggling in the hearth, they sputtered and spit in their irritation, voicing their concern for the morning chill. Reds and yellows played across his face as he peered into the widening gyre of the hearth’s hellish depths. Throwing one final log into position kicked sparks up the chimney, winking towards finality as the wind sucked them outward into the early morning sky.
He took the stewpot from its fireplace hook, making his way through basement quarters to the garden to fill the pot from the rainwater gutterbucket. Like a ghost, he glided silently along the rows, crops tickling the tops of his feet with dew. He’d been out here mere hours ago, trying to go, staring up between the branches next to the tree where he marked his territory. He hadn’t done a thing, though, shaking his head as he shook the few little dribbles he’d managed to squeeze out. Back through the yard, eyes to the stars, a near-silent night offering up a near silent prayer to God up there. Barry waited for an answer, not really expecting to hear one. The stars twinkled and shone, heaven’s angels silently laughing at him in the multitude of the expansive night.
Barry Carlson thought about this as he made water. He was not a praying man. He paid his respects in church, silent saint amid the motions—sit down, stand up, kneel, ad nauseum—the repetition boring him, taking him farther from what he believed church could give him. He was tired of giving and sacrificing, and now he wanted a little back for his time and effort offered. He knew that wasn’t how it worked, and he believed, truly he did, but why in this wide world wasn’t there a place for him?
It had been a dry spring thus far, but there would be more than enough water to get his pappy along until harvest, should the caravan not be back by then. Stewpot filled to the brim, Barry hefted it and waddled back inside to replace it above the fire that had caught. What little heat it was making would be plenty to get the shower water hot. In the meantime, Barry would nap, if just for a little bit; knowing full well there was no chance that sleep could overtake him with such little time left to go, he lay down just the same, excitement veiling the threat of oversleep to keep him stranded in this town for another summer.
It wasn’t that he loathed the place, far from it. Truth be told, Barry loved Haven, and it had grown on him the way no other city in the county. Except…like a toenail gone rogue, the whole of Clint had been poking and prodding just below the surface of the skin. Like the infestation that it always proved itself to be, that pesky little bugger hurt like the dickens—and sent him home packing, limping back along the path.
But sleep he did, or so he believed, restless as it was. Caught between waking dreams and nightmares putting up another gruesome stand at the forefront of his mind, fireworks whistled and howled their incoherencies at he and his pappy, watching from the porch. The cacophony city-side lit up the sky and echoed down the Sus’kenny River Valley. It was a song Barry longed to hear, leaping from his sitting place and racing to the road, following in short bursts as each barrage of the spectacle reached the heavens. The farther he made it from the house, however, the more intermittent the display of lights became. He knew the road well, even in the dead of night, but now, as the dark assaulted his senses, enveloping him, crashing down around him and bringing him to his knees.
This is the exact moment in time which something on the horizon has been waiting, the formless and empty darkness chooses to release Barry from his kneeling posture. The glorious rays grasping at the treeline, inching above the mountaintops as the dawn pokes its head for what may very well be the first time ever. Barry tries to look upon the colors radiating from the corona, the crown of the sun bleeding out another victory, shouting from the rooftop across the morning sky. The brief testament that proved to be the fireworks’ finale stands in only for another beginning. The calamity which has ensued, awoken the light, and the tendrils of night dissipate as a silent fog from around the boy’s heart, and in a still, small voice weaving its way into his head
“Barry. Hey, Barry…” The voice of the big man upstairs shook the foundations in Barry’s bedroom, snatching him from dreams that proved to be as out of place as he was. Harsh sunlight coursed through the garden doorway, displacing Barry some two hours later than when he lay his head, patient, waiting. The clock chimed upon an ominous eight-fifteen, gears grinding as his brain pondered this, squinting in incomprehension. Calculations muddled his thoughts, making miscalculations, and then righting themselves with the realization he was going to be late.
Lack of sleep and the abruptness of his call to being awoken had left him with one big headache, pain making its good ol’ time from the base of his skull where it met bunching at the neck, up over the top of his head to his eyeballs. Along with this came the smells of breakfast, easing their way towards him, Barry’s stomach queased in emptiness of belly and the uncertainty of the day to come. He doffed his clothes, grabbed at the warm water waiting and streaked outside to the shower.
As water cascaded about him, Barry was glad for what little rest he managed. The haste of his lateness spurred him into action, making it farther in a shorter time than he would have made had he stayed awake, puttering around. The urgency the shower placed upon his shoulders also made him more than grateful for the last warm shower he might have in a while. Either way, it was over sooner than he had hoped, dragging his bucket and soap, dripping inside.
Barry got caught up in his pants, trying to maneuver two legs into one of the homespun wool slacks, falling to the floor. Yet in his fumblings, he located his missing moccasin that would prove invaluable for the trip; now he wouldn’t have to buy a new pair. Leather jerkin topped things off, bone buttons undone, knowing full well the heat of the morning would be coming on quick.