Friday, December 29, 2006

What in Tarnation?

This story is for an assignment from Wordsmith's Unlimited. Read the original assignment HERE.

“What in tarnation?!”

Ennis stepped back out onto the porch to watch the UPS delivery van try to make its way back up the rutted gravel drive that led to his house up in the holler. The driver had just thrown the package up on the porch rather than navigate the sea of blue tick hounds and dead cars in the yard. Its wheels stuck and spun a few times in the mud but it finally made its way back to the main road.

He squatted down on his haunches and turned the red box around in his hands, then spit a stream of tobacco juice out into the bare dirt yard. It barely missed a game hen scratching for bugs in the dirt. He wondered how much he could get for the box at the pawnshop in Newport. He wondered if it were worth anything.

Probably not, he thought, since the damn thing wouldn’t open.

He stood and scuffed his worn boots on the weathered wood of the porch. He’d been expecting a delivery but this sure wasn’t the immersion heater he’s ordered for his still operation. And he sure as hell needed the damn thing since he was almost out of quart jars and needed to do another run.

“Ennis? What were that?”

He turned to see his woman standing there in her tattered housedress. Her hair was mussed from sleep, its brassy blond ends contrasting sharply to the blue-black roots next to her scalp. The left side of her face was creased with sleep lines and she hadn’t put her teeth in yet.

Wordlessly, he handed the red box to her.

“Awwww, this here’s right purty!” she crooned as she caressed the box. “Where’s it come from?”

Ennis let another stream of tobacco juice snake out into the yard.

“Think it h'ain’t s’posed to be here.” He said with his long gaze fixed toward Snowbird Mountain, etched against the Tennessee sky.

Later that day, in Charleston, SC, Mrs. Davies-Smythe, in her elegant home on the Battery, tearfully opened a package to find an odd piece of hardware, an immersion heater, instead of Mr. Davies-Smythe’s cremains.

“What in tarnation?!”


  1. Biff Spiffy said...
    Dang, that were enjoyable!

    I love the bookends you made of the title. I got a very good sense of the scene and people.

    Glad you're writing, innit fun?
    Marisol said...
    You were absolutely correct, it stands VERY well on its own!

    I enjoyed it thoroughly and can't wait to read more!

    the only daughter said...
    Aahh. A mis-delivery. Very amusing.
    Kingfisher said...
    This misfired: Quite a few loooong sentences at the beginning. While the descriptive elements were good, it needed change-ups with some short ones.

    This worked: "game hen scratching for bugs in the dirt." If the dialect didn't clue in the reader, this 'un shor 's hail did. And the ending. Is it wrong that I laughed out loud at a grieving widow?

    This was an unexpected treat. Thanks for joining us!
    Sea Hag said...
    I really, really enjoyed this! I liked that the little twist at the end wasn't attributed to some magical, mystical properties of the Mystery Box but a simple human snafu. I also got a kick out of someone waiting for Fed Ex to delivery parts for their still. Heh. Also some good imagery in here, it really established the setting for this story.
    Anonymous said...
    Very god job with the setting. Dialect can sometimes go overbard, but you balanced it well here.
    It did take a little time to get going. It was more a description of a homestead in appalachia than really a story about the box. But, it was a reat description... you really evoked folk in the mountains around here... right down to the black roots :)

    Nice ending too.

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