Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I mentioned some time ago that I wanted to do something in the way of a story cycle for February. Over the past month or so, I 've been concentrating on rewrites and editing for the most part. Basically, it was time for me to review how I was using language. Also, since I'm plotting a series of novels, I wanted to build some discipline and stamina--the big serial stories I've written for you in the past were for that. I'm bored with that now. Time to shake things up.

This month, I want to step back and return to flash fiction--stories under 1000 words. I'll be offering one of these stories every day for the month of February. Each story will be preceded by a journal entry of some sort to prevent scraping--so those of you on the RSS feed are going to actually need to come here to read the story. They will be roughs, since this is one of my improvisational writing experiments. I will be recycling bits of prose I wrote as far back as 2003, but will be using them in new fiction. I wrote the first one today, and I haven't a clue what I'll write tomorrow.

Here we go...

The Quart

Maurice lived down a gravel road where worn clapboard houses lurched on hillsides and wormy chestnut barns teetered defiantly on columns of river stones stacked like bread loaves. Gamecocks swaggered in the road, looking for a fight, while mules stood, hipbones aslant, long ears twitching flies. The pin-neat gardens, tilled by the same mules, contrasted against the collections of old cars, junk tractors and dead washing machines standing sentinel, told a story of priorities different from life elsewhere.

In his sixties, the hard toll of hill life traced the craggy lines of his face. A big man, still handsome despite all his ravines and creases, he wore Liberty over-alls, new looking and stiff. He married once, it didn't work out but he still brought her firewood and ate Sunday supper with her.

Mrs. Cheavers moved to the mountain from town, a widow woman, plump as a hen, drawing Maurice's eye. He took her a quart of his best shine, left it at her doorstep then stepped back into the wood to watch. She came out, picked it up and held it up to the light. It flashed in the sun, magnifying the dust motes in the air. Maurice watched as she screwed open the top of the Mason jar, short fat fingers struggling.

She placed the jar on the porch rail and leaned down to sniff the contents. Maurice saw her nose wrinkle. She glanced around, furtive like a mouse to cheese, and took a sip, bringing the wide mouth of the jar to her pursed one. Mrs. Cheavers closed the lid to the jar and took it back inside the house with her.

Maurice came back two days later with a load of wood and a plain brown bag. His overalls were clean over his flannel shirt, buttoned up to his neck. Mrs. Cheavers came to the door, surprised and pleased, and watched as Maurice stacked the wood.

He handed the brown sack to her, saying, "I done brought you this. I make it. Won't hurt you none."

Mrs. Cheavers' dimples sank like ant lion traps in fleshy cheeks when she said, "Liquor never passed my lips, but I reckon I can make cordial with it."

Maurice showed tobacco-stained teeth in a wide, slow grin when she invited him inside.


  1. Buffy said...
    Every day, you say?

    You shame me.
    Rosie said...
    Oh, Buffy--there will be some clunkers, I'm sure. But this sort of challenge really gets me going on new material.

    Are you submitting yet? You are so past the publishable stage. If you are workshopping online anywhere, please let me know. I'd love to read one of your short stories all the way through.

    That Haitian cookie thing really triggered me. Yikes, what an image--they do that where I'm from, but only during pregnancy.

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