A New Beginning

Since I started this blog, I would say it has been pretty scattered. Sometimes I write about politics, sometimes about my personal life, sometimes I just post book reviews.  Honestly, I must admit, I have put a lot of strange stuff up here that doesn’t make a lot of cohesive sense.  But I have some resolutions this year: I am going back to school. I am going to be on time for things.  And I am going to focus on putting something on this blog every week.  With all I have going on in my life, it’s all I can manage most of the time to hit my writing goal every day, let alone write a blog on top of that. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to post excerpts from whatever I’m working on already.  This week, yesterday, to be more precise, I decided to start editing my second novel, which at this point is tentatively entitled ‘Blue.’ So I am going to post the first chapter.  I hope you enjoy!

 

 

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

 

-T.S Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Corey Gunn waited until the ruckus from the back of the trailer died down. Her heart still ached with betrayal. On her bedside table, the digital clock read 3:34.  No light seeped in around the sheet she had hung over her window.  In the darkness, she threw off her blanket and put her booted feet down on the pile of laundry that covered her bedroom floor.  Corey clicked on the lamp beside her bed.  She dumped the school books out of her backpack and shoved in a few changes of clothes, some clean socks, some underwear.  She had a twenty stashed in the bottom drawer of her dresser, and she jammed that into her clunky combat boot.  As an afterthought she grabbed a threadbare stuffed rabbit, hesitated a moment, and flung it into the bag, compressing it as she zipped the whole thing closed.

            Corey eased her bedroom door open.  The lamplight behind her cast a yellow cone into the hall, revealing that Donovan’s jeans were a crumpled pile on the floor.  Furious, Corey kicked at them.  As they flew several feet down the hall and flopped back down on the carpet like a boneless animal, she was struck with sudden inspiration. Corey picked the jeans up and dug through the pockets.  There was a wallet in one and a plastic baggie of coke in another.  Corey opened the wallet, took two hundred dollars from it, then pocketed the drugs, too.   She knew from experience drugs could buy a way in the world just as well as money.

            She banged her shin against the coffee table on the way through the living room and bit her tongue to keep quiet.   One hand drifted up to land on the doorknob.  Corey looked over her shoulder to see if anyone had heard her, but no one stirred in the gloom beyond.  She slowly turned the lock on the knob.  She flinched when it clicked and looked wildly around, but she was still alone.  Corey slid through the open door, shutting the screen quietly behind her.  She eased her way down the rickety steps of her porch, then ran when she hit the sidewalk.

            From the middle of Azalea Lane, Corey turned to look at her home one last time.  The roof sagged as if some tired giant had once used it for a bench.  The paint was flaking. In the darkness the cracked windows were like dead eyes.  Inside, Corey’s mother and her dealer slept off last night’s party, and neither of them had any idea they would never see her again.  For a brief moment, Corey was nearly overcome with tears.  What would happen to Corey’s mother when she was left alone with no one to care for her? 

            He’s going to wake up, Corey’s mind warned.  You’d better go.

            She started to walk again.  The morning was cold yet.  Corey pulled her hands up into the sleeves of her skull-and-crossbones patterned hoodie, jamming her thumbs through two little holes she had cut near the wrists.   She hurried onto the next block, telling herself she was rushing for warmth.  How was she going to stay warm tomorrow night?  The night after?   Her foot hesitated between one step and the next.  She was really doing this.  She was really leaving home.  

            Corey thought, if you stay that man will come back.  She kept walking.

            Sometimes, on those nights when she had not been able to fight Donovan off, she had lain in her bed, looking up at her ceiling while he grunted above her, and she had thought, what must the ocean be like?  She had never seen it in real life.  In movies it looked so vast and green.  The people on beaches always looked golden, slender, and ethereal, like angels who had left their wings at home.  They were not at all like the people in her world.  Corey’s mother’s skin was wrinkled and pockmarked.  Her hair was coarse and thin, like the bristles in a brush.    Donovan had crooked, jagged teeth and a cruel laugh.   She hated them.  Something quiet in her heart demurred, and Corey was forced to rethink: she loved her mother.  But Corey hated how she could not heal her.

            The bus station was three miles away; by the time Corey reached it her legs were burning with exertion.  She expected, any moment, for her mother to roll up in their piece-of-shit Toyota.  Mom would jump out of the car before it stopped moving, tears running down her face.  She would hug Corey, tight, and say that she was sorry; she was kicking Donovan out and they were going to find a way to heal their broken family.  But mom did not appear and Corey kept walking.  The bus station was a low, cement building with a picture of a racing dog in blue above the door.  Corey went inside.  It was warm.  A bearded man in a heavy coat slept on a plastic bench with his legs curled under him.   The florescent lights leeched his color, leaving him corpse-pale.  Corey examined him for a moment before approaching the ticket counter.  When he mumbled something and rolled over, she moved away. 

            The woman behind the counter was overweight.  She had attempted to cover her pimples with a thick layer of cake make-up which had become shiny in the unflattering light.  A scratched piece of Plexiglas with a hole near the bottom shielded her from the room. Above her, a sign with blue letters on a white backdrop gave a list of bus schedules.  Corey examined it quickly to find a bus leaving for the west coast soon.  One left at 4:45 a.m. to Santa Lucia.  Corey remembered the city’s name from a soap opera about the beach and decided instantly she’d make her new home there.  Corey approached the woman behind the plastic screen, and she reluctantly looked up from her magazine.

            “Excuse me,” Corey said, as politely as she could.  “I’d like to buy a bus ticket.”   

            The woman frowned.  “How old are you?”

            “Eighteen,” Corey promptly lied.  “I want a one way ticket to Santa Lucia.  How much is that?”

            The woman turned to her aging computer, sighing.  “One fifteen ninety-six.”

            Corey swallowed and reached into the pocket of her skirt for Donovan’s money.  She hadn’t realized how quickly she would spend it all. She’d had the idea she’d spend a few nights in a hotel while she looked for a job.  She passed the two crumpled bills through the slot, and the woman handed her a ticket made of stiff paper along with her change.  “Hold onto that.  You’ll need it for your transfers.”

            “Thanks,” Corey said.  The woman went back to reading without answering her. 

            Corey sat down in a stiff, plastic chair, placing her backpack on the seat next to her.  Other than Corey and the ticket woman, the man in the parka was the only other person in the bus station.  He continued to sleep on the bench.  Corey let her mind wander.  She half expected Donovan to burst through the door and drag her home, but he never appeared.  At 4:30 exactly the woman behind the plastic screen leaned close to her microphone and said, “Now boarding the four forty-five to Santa Lucia.”

            Corey grabbed her bag as she stood.  Her stomach was suddenly loopy with nerves, but she swallowed and made her way to the back door.   The bearded man stirred himself and followed her.  A bus driver with laugh lines and kindly eyes tore Corey’s ticket at a perforated edge and she climbed aboard. 

            The few people who were already onboard were mostly asleep.  Corey found a window seat with no one adjoining and sat down.  She looked out at the darkened parking lot and the back of the bus station.  She did not ever intend to come back here.  No one was stopping her.  She was on a bus, bound for Santa Lucia and the ocean, and no one had come to drag her home.

            I can’t believe this is really happening, Corey thought dizzily.  She wasn’t sure whether she should be happy or sad.      

            The man with the beard ambled onto the bus.  He was extraordinarily tall, and his legs below his puffy jacket were so thin he looked like a dandelion.  He seated himself across the aisle from Corey and tried to stretch out.  It wasn’t very effective.  His legs still looked uncomfortably bent.

            “What are you looking at, kid?”  He asked, gruffly.  Corey quickly averted her eyes without answering. With a jerk, the bus moved.  Corey held her backpack tightly to her chest and looked out the window.

            The town she lived in was small and poor.  The houses were mostly ramshackle and the parks were overgrown.   Corey watched the fast-food joints roll past her, and her throat stung with sudden tears.  She remembered playing in that park on the edge of town, swinging her body across the monkey bars while her mother, young, then, and pretty, laughed and clapped.    The town was so small they were through it in less than half an hour.  Corey watched the sign that said COME BACK SOON!  through the bus’s back window so long it faded from view.

            For a long time, Midwestern America streamed past the windows of the bus.  It was late fall, and the fields that stretched out around her fed only faded brown plants.  A herd of cattle stood near a fence, broad backs forming a wall against an incoming storm. 

            In two days I’ll be on the beach, Corey thought, trying to calm herself with remembered television images of blue water and palm trees.  She imagined what sand must feel like on the bottom of bare feet, warm and yielding.  And then, unexpectedly, she slipped into sleep. 

            Corey woke with a start to find the bearded man with a hand on her shoulder and a concerned look on his face.  Corey recoiled from his touch in horror at the same time she realized he was oddly handsome behind his shaggy beard.  He looked to be in his early thirties.  His nose was straight and his eyes were a clear hazel.  He drew his hand back quickly, realizing he had frightened her. 

            “Hey, kid,” he said, sounding concerned.  “You okay?  You were talking in your sleep.”

            Corey rubbed at her face, trying to clear the mist from behind her eyes.  “I’m fine,” she said, wondering what she might have said to evoke that look of pity.   “Why don’t you mind your own business?”

            The man gave her a look that said he would like to glare at her but couldn’t find the heart.  “We’ve stopped,” he explained.   “We’re at Mickey D’s.  Do you have any money for food?  I’ll get you something to eat if you want.”

            Corey pulled her body even further away from him, glaring suspiciously.  “I don’t need your goddamn help,” she spat.  She imagined what a strange man on a bus would want from her.  She could picture nothing innocent.

            “Whatever,” he muttered.  The tall man unfolded himself and strode down the aisle, hunching to avoid hitting his head on the aluminum roof. 

Most of the other passengers had disembarked as well, to stretch their legs or buy food.   Corey looked out the window at the restaurant.  It was twilight already, with purple dusk bruising the horizon.   Corey could smell French fries wafting in through the open door to the bus, and her stomach rumbled.  She didn’t have much money left, but a girl had to eat.  She threw the bag that contained her entire life over her shoulder and followed after the bearded stork man.  

Corey bought her food and settled down alone at a booth.  On the other side of the room, a mother sat with her two young children.  The mother was mousy-haired and wore glasses.  “Eat your apples or you can’t have your toy,” she directed.  The little boy, about four, turned to his mother and opened his mouth as wide as he could, displaying his chewed-up food.  “Eww,” the mother said.  “Stop that right now, Jackson.  I’m serious.”  The baby girl in the plastic high chair laughed with the abandon of the very young.

In Corey’s head, Donovan’s hand slid under her skirt while his other hand clamped over her mouth.  He whispered Stop screaming.   You know you like it. You’re a whore just like your mother.  Corey looked quickly away from the little family and sucked soda through a straw.   She checked her watch.  The bus driver had promised them forty-five minutes to eat.  Corey had been watching the young woman feed her babies for forty-seven minutes.  She stood quickly, dumping her trash into a nearby receptacle and sliding the tray in on top of the others.

It was fully dark outside. Apparently last night’s horrified lack of sleep had finally caught up with her.  Corey looked wildly around for the bus and saw it was still there.  She hurried toward it, but something stopped her.  Coming from the other side of the restaurant, a wave of someone else’s fear and pain struck her.  Her steps faltered.  A grunt and a pained cry drifted through the dusk.    

“Faggot,” a man’s voice spat.  Corey heard a thud and another grunt.  The noise was coming from the back of the McDonald’s, near the industrial sized trash cans.  Corey glanced at the bus, worried it would leave her, and then darted around the corner of the building. 

There, in the puddle of light cast by a street lamp, the bearded man in the parka lay on the asphalt with his hands protecting his head.   Two men stood over him, kicking his ribs with big work boots.  Their faces contorted with hatred.  The larger man had a glittering knife in his right hand, and the blade was smeared dark with some fluid.  In the yellow light it looked like motor oil.  Corey knew it was not.

“Hey!”  Corey shouted, voice shrill with fear.   Both men looked up. Their expressions reminded Corey of small children caught with stolen candy.  “Get the fuck away from him!  I’m calling the cops!”

Both men fled as if Corey had suddenly produced the cops from her pockets, and she ran to the wounded man with her heart in her throat.  A shining puddle spread out on the black top below him, soaking into his jeans.  Corey knelt and pushed him over onto his back.  “Come on, mister, where does it hurt?”

“Can’t…breathe,” wheezed the man. Corey heard whistling from his chest as his punctured lung struggled to fill.  His long legs pumped up and down, kicking gravel.  “Call…doctor…”

His face was full of fear and pain.   Blood pumped onto his stupidly fluffy coat in time with his heart.  “There’s no time,” Corey told him.  “I’m sorry, but this is really going to hurt.”

She grabbed the tear in the coat and pulled with all of her strength.  It ripped, scattering fluff, and suddenly Corey could see a deep, gaping wound.  She stretched her fingers down, in, pushing them into the gory hole.  The man screamed.  Corey closed her eyes and reached down, down into her center. She found a well of bright light there, like a star shining at the bottom of an empty well.  She reached into that light and it poured out of her, down her arm, into the shrieking, writhing creature on the ground in front of her.  His flesh knit itself back together.   His side spit out her fingers, and suddenly the flesh below Corey’s bloody hand was whole.

For a moment they both just looked at each other, too exhausted to speak.   The pain in the man’s eyes faded to surprised wonder.  Corey only looked at him.  Soon, there would be some exclamation of horror, and he would recoil.  Her knees felt wobbly and her heart felt empty.  She could not find the strength to run away from him.

“Who are you?”  The bearded man wondered, pushing himself up onto his elbows.

“Corey Gunn,” Corey replied warily.

Corey heard a footstep and turned.  The bus driver looked down at them with horror.  “Is that…is that blood?”

“Yes,” Corey told him.  “Could you call 911?”

 

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2 Comments »

  1. lmdavid54 Said:

    Okay, girlfriend, you are going to have to tell me how you managed to make your page look like this and mine looks like stale underwear…

    • mljohn Said:

      I went to my dashboard, then I went over to appearance on the left-hand side and down to background. It will let you load a picture from there. Let me know if I can help you any further.


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