Today’s “something shiny” is a novel I started about four years ago. I didn’t get very far with it. In fact, what you see below is all there is. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued with this cast of characters and I’d like to finish their story sometime. I have only a vague idea of what it would be about…
Yellow maple leaves fluttered overhead as Ed Watts pulled his 1964 El Camino off Ohio 52. October, yet the summer heat would not relent, intensifying as the speedometer fell.
Rose sat beside him, Poem on her lap—the two glued together with sweat. They hadn’t stopped since Batesville, the Camp Isle sign arching overhead signifying the end of their six-day journey.
Finn Lively didn’t notice their arrival. He was pounding on bull hide with a stick, biting the corner of his mouth as he tried to fall into rhythm with the pow wow drums.
Tents edged the circular courtyard. Donna Lively sat under one, offering Tarot card readings. Under others, mediums conjured deceased spirits. Carefully crafted lies became Aunt Maude’s turquoise necklace, Billy’s favorite teddy bear, Grandpa Ira’s gold pocket watch. Evidence that the departed could still speak, or that con artists could still fool—sometimes even themselves.
The drums droned, masking the sound of bald tires against pock-marked pavement. Festival-goers commanded the road. Ed lifted his foot off the break, idled the El Camino forward, stopped again to let two gray-haired ladies pass.
Poem rested her hand on the door and looked out over the courtyard. A breeze tickled her arm. She watched the full-bellied, bare-skinned men dance in their feathered head-dresses, too young to wonder what pow wows and sweat lodges had to do with psychic readings and séances.
The Ohio Association of Spiritualists understood the monetary value of multi-culturalism, and they milked it for all it was worth. They also offered cheap rooms at the Violet Hotel, and a cafeteria across the way with lunches offered on Fridays and Saturdays. For all other meals, the gas stoves and double sinks were free to use.
The road turned to gravel and curved right under the shade of sturdy maples. A breeze billowed through the yellow canopy in waves. Leaves fluttered against leaves, saturating the pow wow drums in rustling applause.
They drove past Finn, still beating his drum. Limestone dust wafted against his back. He reached up and wiped his nose with his hand, adhering bits of dry foliage to his sweaty cheek. Poem watched the back of his hair part down the middle as the wind continued to blow. A piece rose up and wagged side to side like a finger, then fell to rest as the breeze died.
Ed turned left into the Violet Hotel’s parking lot, pulled into the only empty spot, and cut the engine. He leaned his head against the headrest and gazed at their new kitchen—a one story cinder block building with a green roof. Never painted, the stone aggregate had aged to a yellowish brown. The interior of the cafeteria was no cozier, but it would function.
Poem watched a bead of sweat roll down her father’s temple. It pooled in the crevice beside his eye, and then a slow blink sent it tumbling down his cheek.
“What are you doing,” Rose said.
He pulled his T-shirt up to his face, shrugged behind a shroud of sweaty cotton.
Rose sighed. She grabbed the door handle and tugged. Hinges creaked against the force of her elbow. “Up… Up!” She motioned to Poem with her free hand, her other resituating her tank top as she leaned into the door. Poem peeled herself from her mother’s bare legs and hopped to the gravel.
She walked to the back bumper, banging her fist against metal as she went, leaving dusty knuckle prints in her wake. The pow wow drums were silent now. Feathered men stood in clumps, scratching their backs, drinking from aluminum cans, laughing. The flag in front of the hotel snapped against the breeze, fluttered wildly for a moment, and then drooped like a scolded puppy.
The men in blue uniforms said Daddy could come home. To four-year-old ears, the word “deserter” held no negative connotation. It merely conjured images of vanilla ice cream and warm brownies. ”Gerald Ford” was just another brand of car. And “dishonorable discharge” meant moving south, going where the summers were hotter and the flag displayed three colors instead of two, a place Mommy and Daddy called “home”.
That’s all there is. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing more someday, although, it won’t be for awhile. This project is way down on my list.
Jessica E. Thomas graduated summa cum laude with Academic Honors in Writing from Ball State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science in English and a Minor in Creative Writing. She began her professional career in marketing at a large Indianapolis law firm. Since transitioning to Information Technology in 2001, she has worked in the pharmaceutical, student loan, and finance industries as a computer programmer, systems analyst, Web developer, and technical writer. She has authored two novels, three novellas, a poetry collection, a short story collection, and a children’s book.