A Work in Progress

One of the cool things about beginning and maintaining this new blog is the opportunity it’s given me to dip back into the writing life. I’ve always loved writing but don’t practice the craft enough to where I feel safe or accurate in calling myself a “writer.” My ambitions are huge and are outweighed only by the excuses I make to avoid writing consistently. Perhaps you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about. Being here has put me back in the writer’s chair and I’m learning to enjoy the view.

Since this is a “living” memoir where I drudge up the past in light of the here and now, I went back into my writing folder and pulled out this little gem. It’s the beginning of a short story from about three years ago called “Molly’s Chamber” – it’s now become a work in progress, very loosely inspired by the Kings of Leon song by nearly the same title and, despite being so old, is lingering in its infancy. I need to change its long-neglected diaper, apply some fresh powder, and give it a bounce on my knee to see if it’ll perk up. Enjoy this, and please comment as you are led . . .

Molly’s Chamber

It came to be, just like the distant, big-city weatherman said it would: a lowering sky darkened the western border, chasing pencil-thin, evening shadows down the teeming boulevard; shiny sedans and mud-coated pickup trucks hastened passed in a rare unison of purpose, spurred by reluctant resignation; the lone traffic light swiveled back and forth as a brisk headwind hustled through town. Inevitability reared it’s hoaried head.

Molly still had six blocks to go and going came slow these days. Joints and muscles that cooperated gracefully just a few weeks prior had begun their annual protest against the cold, damp, looming of winter.

Molly didn’t catch the forecast. Television was for the lonely, she figured, so she never bought one. No radio or subscription to the weekly paper, either. She didn’t catch the news about either Kennedy, Armstrong and the moon, the Berlin Wall, Baby Jessica, 9/11. Didn’t catch it, she’d say, when the devil and his details crept up in conversations among the locals over the coffee, apple pie, and dice cups. The locals got a kick out of it: Say, Molly, did you catch the news about whatever; a chorus of Didn’t Catch It; then the joy of slapped knees, stifled laughter, and subtle grins.

Molly tucked a flapping golden curl under her scarf and leaned into her tottery cart, the day’s spoil jostling loudly over each crack along the walkway: Mildred’s maroon, suede overcoat from seven winters past; a Sears & Roebuck catalogue published in the Spring of 1973; a Fire King, pink luster gravy bowl and ladle set off the clearance rack at Wilson’s; a brass Columbia washboard with splintering, oak trim; three empty grape Nehi bottles, their screen-printed labels caked with granite pebbles and dirt; and a menagerie of assorted knickknacks salvaged from her favorite alleyway dumpsters. Nestled deep inside the pocket of her fading, lime-green slicker lay the catch of the day, a Hawaiian Barbie doll, her smile still bright, sporting a vivid, floral skirt and hot pink bikini top, it’s straps frayed and smutty. Given a gentle, steady hand, Molly knew Barbie would soon be right as rain.

Molly scuttled across the intersection of Taylor Street and Wilshire Avenue as a curtain of stinging rain shrouded the neighborhood. Lightning crashed overhead, spooking Andrew Byerly’s cocker spaniel into a yelping fit. He pawed at the screen door, begging for shelter from the pour.

Three doors down stood 631 Wilshire, a bygone, ugly stepsister of a home, out of place among the more stylish dwellings lining the avenue. While her younger neighbors spent sunny Saturday mornings trimming hedges, mowing grass, killing dandelions, pruning elaborately landscaped flower gardens crowded with roses, marigolds and daffodils, and occasionally dressing up already pristine exteriors with another fresh coat of neutered paint and cherry wood stain, Molly held down her squeaky porch swing, unmolested and smiling as the madness of it all passed by on the tails of quiet breezes.

When Molly and her late husband bought this plot of land with cash in 1945, there wasn’t another house in sight, so long as they didn’t stare east through the spiny leaves of the stand of acacia trees blocking the view of town. Harold found work selling farm implements in the spring and harvesting soybeans in the fall for Ollie Norgren who owned thirty-four acres just north of Spicerville. Several other odd jobs around the county filled in the remainder of the calendar. Every morning for seven newlywed years, Molly would lumber out of bed when the crack of dawn glowed through their linen bedroom draperies and fry cornmeal mush and fresh brown eggs. Then he got called up and met the business end of a bayonet on a blood-soaked hillside outside Seoul, Korea one dewy August morning. Harold Sjodal flew home, a hero in a flag-draped wooden box.

©2008 by tysdaddy

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