Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sue and The Bureaucrats - An Excerpt

(No new news here, just another excerpt. Enjoy!)

"You have a bit of your father in your eyes son, the way you looked at me just now. Not the crazy mad kid that I have raised for all these years, I figger that comes from your ma. But the cold hardness of a man who has faced his fears and found himself stronger for it. You got that in you, you know?" Sue was not so sure he did, but not wanting to contradict the sheriff now, simply nodded."Alright, enough beating around the bush. I was following your pa one night just before you and your ma drifted into town, he had left the saloon early and headed for the hills. I think I was able to catch him unawares because I didn't follow him directly. I watched which direction he rode and made a guess as to where he would end up in the pine bluffs just north of town. He was taking the trail, which goes all the way around the bluff, so I just cut across and went straight up and over, cutting the distance in half. Even so it was a close thing. Had I come upon that clearing thirty seconds later, I would have just ran into a scary old man in the darkening evening." The sheriff took off his hat and rubbed his bald skull with a handkerchief. Sue was surprised to see beads of sweat forming all over the man's head. Once again he was impressed with the great weight of dread this man inspired in people."I rode over the top of that bluff and down into a wooded valley just off the trail. I tied my horse to a tree and set off on foot towards the trail, hoping that I would be able to see him as he passed so I could get an idea where he was headed. But then I saw a flash of light off to my left, and..." here, words seemed to fail him. He appeared to struggle with himself for a moment, then continued in a shaky voice, as if he disbelieved the words coming from his own mouth."Kid, I tell ya', that light was not like any light you have ever seen. It wasn't from a campfire, or a candle, or a lamp. I even traveled to the city once and saw some guy light one of them new 'lectric lights, and it was nothing like this. This was a cold white light that seemed to come from the sky, like a star was leaking light down on just this one spot. And in the spot where this light hit the ground stood your pa." He shook his head, but continued nonetheless, his eyes boring into Sue's with an intensity that excited and alarmed him in equal measure."He was standing in that light, and talking to someone, just like I am talking to you right now. Then he reached out his hand and made a little gesture, and the light was gone. I was so dumbstruck by what I had just seen that I must of made some kind of a noise, and his head snapped around and found me hiding in the brush at the edge of the clearing. At first, he looked mad, and I figgered that my time on this earth had reached its logical conclusion. I thought of reaching for my gun, but my arms wouldn't move. After a second, he smiled, that grim humorless smile of his, and waved me over to him. Just like I couldn't draw my gun, I couldn't resist his invitation. I walked over there, and he laughed, and held out his hand as if to shake it. I was still too scared to move, so I didn't shake his hand. Then he spoke to me." The sheriff shook his head, and a nervous laugh escaped him. "Just like we were old pals and I hadn't seen him just talking to a strange light from the stars. Asked me how my family was doing. What do you think of that?" Sue shook his head, not quite sure what to think. The sheriff continued: "I couldn't really answer any of his questions, just sat there like a fool with my mouth hanging open, and then, out of nowhere he asked me if I ever met an alien before. I wasn't even sure what that word meant, and I told him so. He laughed again, and asked me if I had ever met anyone from another planet. I was still pretty perplexed, so he pointed to the sky, and said 'from the stars, up there. you ever meet someone from the stars before?' Well, to tell the truth, I still had no idea what he was talking about, and I guess he could tell that by looking at me. He laughed again at my confusion, and then he reached out and clapped his hand on my shoulder. 'Sherriff, I think you may be the first man I have met on this planet who has had the guts to even try to figure out who or what I was, let alone follow me off into the darkness. I want to tell you a few things, and it is important that you try to remember them word for word, since you ain't gonna understand most of what I gotta say. Pretty soon I am gonna disappear. Shortly after that, a lady and her boy are gonna show up in town looking for me. When they do, I want you to make sure that they stay in this town. When that boy becomes a man, he is going to be a lot different from his peers, and he will need a little nudge in the right direction. I need you to give him that nudge. Bring him to this spot, and give him this guitar. If he is the person I think he will be, the rest will come natural to him. Can you remember all of that?' he asked me, and I stood there with my mouth gaping open until he laughed again, and slapped me on the back. 'I knew you could. I guess there is no reason for me to stick around here. You remember what I told you and make sure that boy gets here when he is ready. Don't bring him too soon, or too late. I think you are the kind of man that understands what I am trying to say. Have a good evening!' he smiled friendly-like at me, and then walked back to the center of the clearing. He pulled something small and silvery out of his pocket, and poked at it with his finger a few times. Then the light came back, shining right out of the sky just like before. He turned around, tipped his hat at me, and then dissapeared." sue stared at the Sheriff, trying to guess the meaning of his words. Was he putting him on? Of all the folks in town, only the Sheriff had never ridiculed him for his station in life, for his name, or for the strange things he did or said. Was he finally joining them in creating some hugely extravagant joke to ridicule him? Yet watching the play of emotion across this hard frontier lawman's face he didn't think so. This was a hard man, one of the hardest he had ever known, and yet he was scared to the core at the memeories he had just spilled. Not scared for his life, not scared for his soul, but scared like a person who just realizes how small they are in the grand scheme of things. The way a man will feel who has been raised in a city when he is first confronted with the wide openness of the prairies, or a towering rock tower in the desert. The feeling a man gets looking down from a great height. It is not fear of death, it is fear of the unknown, fear that forces exist in this universe much greater and more powerful than anything our pitiful intellect can imagine. As Sue pondered this, another thought entered his mind. While the fear in the eyes of this man he had known for so long was strange and discomfitting, none of the things he had told him in themselves caused him any fear at all. Quite the opposite in fact, as he pondered the thought of people who came from the stars, or who called down starlight from the night sky and then disappeared into it, he felt a twinge of familiarity, as of a forgotten dream suddenly remembered. Excitement rose in him as he realized that this crappy town, and the hundreds like it that he had wandered through with his mother were as small and insignificant as he had always thought them to be. Suddenly the universe had promise, and the future held hope. Suddenly he was on his feet. "Let's go! Take me there now!" The sheriff nodded, as if this was exactly what he had expected. Tossing back the rest of the whiskey in his glass, he pushed back from the desk and stood up. "Alright son, let's go and see what it is your pa left for you."
© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Monday, November 5, 2007

Who would play Sue?

(Photo is Christian Bale in "3:10 to Yuma" )

If I was casting actors to portray my characters, I would have to choose Christian Bale to portray Sue. Mostly because his character in "Batman Begins" has pretty much the same attitude at least when the movie opens and he is in prison in Asia. He fights because he is pretty much pissed off at the world, and being as pissed as he is, he is pretty good at fighting.
Of course, nowhere in my novel does Sue get training from a secretive Ninja master to polish his skills. Instead he stumbles on an interdimensional trip across the universe in pursuit of his father who "gave him that awful name." (Who of course, would be portrayed by Johnny Cash, were he alive to do so!)
Here is another small excerpt. Presented sans explanation.

Sue was about halfway through the bottle of whiskey when Mama Lisa and her girls came in. Residents of the local house of ill repute, they were on the prowl for customers and they quickly fanned out through the bar. One perky redhead fixed her interest on the scowling young man drinking intently near the doors."Hey there, care to buy a girl a drink?" she flounced down on a chair and latched on to one of Sue's arms. He looked sideways at her, his impaired brain working out a response. He decided to be surly, and instead of responding, slid his glass in front of her and sloshed some whiskey in it. Undeterred by the unfriendly response, she giggled, a high pitched laugh that rippled throughout the bar. "What kind of a girl do you think I am? I don't drink whiskey, at least not this early!" She snuggled up against him, and spoke quietly in his ear. "How about a nice glass of wine? Wine always makes me feel friendly..." she left the implication hanging there in the air, hoping this young boy was not already too far gone to catch her meaning."Don't seem as though you need much help in that area." Sue snapped, reaching across and recovering his glass. He tipped it back and drained it in a gulp and did his level best to ignore her. She decided to take another tack."I don't remember seeing you around here before, what's your name?" she trilled at him, one hand twirling his hair idly. Sue started at this question, and quickly checked to see if she was trying to make a joke. Apparently deciding she wasn't, he answered with the same surly tone."I don't have a name." The girl's eyebrows raised in curiosity, and she decided to pursue this line of questioning further."Aww come on cowboy. Everybody has a name. What does your Mama call you?" now more interested in this apparent mystery than in her pseudo romance she had pulled back slightly and was looking intently into Sue's face. However at the mention of his mother, Sue's face darkened even further, and he decided he had had enough of this game."Never mind my mama. I think you need to find someone else to harass." he snapped and scooping up his glass and bottle disentangled himself and moved away to another table. The girl, being a professional could tell when a man was not interested in what she was selling, and instead of wasting her time trying to change his mind she moved on to more fertile pastures. Two miners just off shift at the local gold mine were competing for the attentions of another of Mama Lisa's girls at a nearby table and she determined to help them resolve the conflict by offering herself as a consolation to the loser. One of the miners was immediately more than happy to abandon the battle and turned to the redhead."Decided you want a real man tonight instead of a boy?" The miner laughed, wrapping one arm around her shoulders and pulling her close against him."He didn't really seem to be in the mood for company tonight." she shrugged. Then added "and he wasn't too sure what his name was. Poor little guy..." she giggled and snuggled up closer to the miner. The other man at the table laughed out loud and said in a voice purposely loud enough to carry to the other table."I know why he's so shy about his name. I would be too if I had his name..." and then leaning towards Sue's table to ensure that he caught the next few words, "...or should I say 'her' name?" he guffawed at his clever humor, and the two girls, well trained by Mama Lisa tittered out of habit although they didn't really get the joke. Sue, on the other hand knew exactly what the man was getting at, and felt that familiar rage rising in his chest, felt his face and neck turning red."I hear tell his daddy was a big man, but when he was born he couldn't stand that his little boy was such a girly little thing, so he named him Sue and then left town before he had to face the shame of having thrown such a disappointing little whelp." the miner was on a roll now, and the girls were still giggling uncertainly, although they had begun to sense that this conversation was quickly passing from harmless fun into something dangerous and ugly."Aww, forget about him. How about that drink you were going to buy us? Let me go get a bottle of wine for us all to share." the redhead tried vainly to redirect the conversation, adding her trademark lamely "wine always makes me feel friendly, if you know what I mean..." she pushed herself up against the miner, hoping that her advances would distract him from his apparent aim of picking a fight."Besides, he's just a kid. I don't care what his name is. Let's go back to my place and have that wine." Her attempts were futile. The miner had seen the reaction his words had caused in Sue, and had decided that it would be good fun to release some energy by pounding on this apparently soused teenager for a little while."Yea, its a good thing you didn't take him back to your place Sally, you might have been embarrassed when he asked to try on some of your frilly things. I hear she likes that kind of..." the miner's insult was interrupted by a whiskey bottle at high velocity that impacted his head directly between his eyes. It shattered and splattered all four occupants of the table with shattered glass and whiskey. The girls screamed and instinctively deserted the table and made a beeline for the doorway. This wasn't the first bar brawl they had encountered, and they knew that once drunk men started swinging, it was no place for a lady, even if she was a working lady.To his credit, the miner took the whiskey bottle to the head rather well. He was of course stunned, and the alcohol and blood dripping into his eyes stiung and blinded him but nonetheless, he had the presence of mind to grab the edge of the table and fling it up in front of him as he rolled out of his chair onto the floor. This unthinking reaction served to save him from Sue's follow up attack as the chair he had been sitting on impacted the table where the miner had been split seconds before. The miner scrabbled at his face trying to regain his vision while rolling away from the table and trying to get to his feet. For a split second he remembered the rest of the story that had been related to him about this kid named Sue, the part that warned that he was a powder keg when provoked. But more pressing matters than reccolections of ignored warnings were at hand. He had regained his feet just in time to meet Sue's flailing attack. Fists windmilling and feet kicking wildly he waded in to the miner to exact vengeance for the earlier insults. However in his blind anger, he forgot the miner's companion who had rolled to the side and recovered much more quickly. As Sue flailed at his partner, he picked up a chair and swung it at Sue's back. Fortunately for Sue, the swing was badly aimed and timed and he had bent to aim an uppercut as the chair struck. Still, it knocked Sue off his feet and the miner quickly followed his surprise attack with an attempt to plant both of his hobnailed boots in the middle of Sue's chest. Sue rolled out from under his attack and lashed up and scored a hit on the man's groin with one foot. He groaned and hunched over, giving Sue an open attack on his face, which he took immediate advantage of, windmilling both feet in a lashing attack on the man's face. One kick landed squarely on his jaw and broke the bone with a soft crunch. He collapsed uncouscious to the floor. Sue struggled to his feet, only to be met immediately with a flying tackle by the first miner. He was driven to the plank floor and his breath was knocked from his lungs. Feeling his advantage, the miner's hands found Sue's throat and he quickly got a grip and began squeezing. Sue panicked, feeling consciousness quickly slipping away and his hands scrabbled at the iron grip of the miner while his feet tried to inflict damage where they could. The miner had too much of an advantage however, and black spots began appearing in his vision and his flailings weakened until blackness overtook him.
© 2008 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaNoWriMo2007 - Day One

Why a picture of The Man In Black? Where have you been? Look back a few days to see where the inspiration for this story comes from...
NaNoWriMo started last night. Midnight Halloween eve. I even stayed up to be there and start typing at the first possible minute. This turned out to be a horrible mistake. I should have left the house at least, whether or not someone was agreeing to meet me there. Sitting home on the couch watching the Halloween episode of MASH where Norm from Cheers gets a pool ball stuck in his mouth was not exactly the inspiration I needed to get started. Add to that the fact that I was insanely tired and somewhat let down about NaNo so far this year and I get waking up this morning to fear and loathing.
Perhaps the year two curse that I managed to avoid last year was not gone, just biding its time. Here it is, one year late but no less potent for its tardiness. Nonetheless, here is the first few paragraphs that I managed to hammer out before giving up and going to sleep at 1:30 AM.

He was big and bent, gray and old yet the tall stranger with a scar down one cheek and one glass eye stood out among the frontier villagers like a god among men. All of the men deferred to him, and the women tittered and giggled at anything he said, or didn't say. By and large, he was silent, simply observing the work around him with a wry grin. Nobody was sure exactly who he was and where he was from, although there were some whispers that he was a wealthy merchant from far away San Francisco. So far in his time in this small frontier town he had done nothing but sit all day in the saloon playing poker, smoking cigarettes and sipping whiskey. Although he had a canny way with the cards, nobody could say whether he won more than he lost; only that he was obviously not a greenhorn and obviously not hurting for money. What everyone agreed upon, although nobody actually would have voiced was that he was terribly frightening. Even the local toughs who were wont to harass anyone new in town until they had proved either unentertaining or dangerous had given him a wide berth, even tipping their hats politely as he passed. There was a solemn coldness about him that gave no doubt but that whatever the townspeople or life in general could throw at him he could handle, and most likely had done so before. He carried no guns or any other weapons that were easily apparent, and truly needed none. His freezing glare alone was generally sufficient to make any man have sudden thoughts of his own mortality.
Nobody had invited him to the barn-raising, but he showed up nonetheless. He seemed to be amused by the activities going on around him, but with no apparent desire to join in. Normally, anyone who showed up at a barn-raising event was expected to work as hard as everyone else before joining in the festivities afterwards, but Elijah Graves seemed to be the exception to that rule. He watched the men as they worked together to raise the four walls of the barn, watched as they fastened the roof joists in place, watched as they cleaned up and prepared for the pot luck supper. Only then did he move from his place to get a plate of food and return to his seat.
Charity Austin was in a foul mood to begin with, and had no expectation that an evening surrounded by local townsfolk would improve it.
"Mother, I really do not feel well. Might I go home and go to bed early?" she asked plaintively, averting her eyes.
"Charity, we have discussed this. It would not be proper for a young lady of your status to be traipsing through town at this time of night all alone. You will be patient and leave when your father and I are ready to go."
Her mother answered her request without even glancing at her. Her eyes were full of her husband, sitting on a rocking chair next to the mayor and sharing a laugh at something the man had said. Charity breathed a deep sigh, and resigned herself to her fate. Her father was pushing hard to be selected to the town council when the next position came open, and her dislike of these primitive frontier gatherings was nothing but an obstacle to such aspirations. The lump in her stomach only got heavier when she spotted the group of girls standing behind the plank tables serving food to the townsfolk. The were all chatting gaily with each other, looking sideways at a group of young men who also did their best to pretend that they young women did not exist. Charity quickly looked away before any of them made eye contact with her. The last thing she needed was another confrontation with them like last week. Her mother seemed to be oblivious to her status among the girls in town, and was constantly pushing her to be more sociable.
"Dear, isn't that little Jenny Cushman over there?" Her mother indicated the apparent leader of the group of girls; a stunning petite blond with piercing blue eyes and a laugh that had apparently captivated any man within hearing distance.
"Yes mother, that is the girl who embarrassed me in front of the entire school last week." Charity replied bitterly, refusing to look in the direction indicating. Her mother either ignored the remark or didn't care.
"You should go see if you can help her with the serving. She seems like such a sweet thing. Perhaps you two could become friends?" Her mother asked pointedly.
Charity was under no such illusion, either as to the possibility of befriending the mayor's daughter, or the reasoning behind her mother's question.
"Mother, she made me look like a fool in front of the entire school last week. Don't you remember the note that Miss Johnson sent home about it? After you suggested that I ask to be her study partner, she gave me the wrong book to read and when I stood to read lines from it I found out that this book was nearly pornographic! I thought that the teacher was going to have a heart attack!" Charity could still feel the heat of the stares of her classmates as she stammered through an apology to the class for what Jenny had insisted had been a practical joke that Charity had tried to get her to participate in.
"Yes dear, but that wasn't her fault. You really should get to know her better." She grasped Charity's shoulder and pushed her gently in that direction. "Go ahead. I am sure she would welcome your help."
"Mother, I will not!" Charity hissed, trying to keep her voice low. "That girl is a snake!"
"Charity Austin! I cannot believe the words that I am hearing coming from your mouth." Her mother's wide eyes expressed her apparent shock. "Then we shall go speak to her together. And you can apologize to her for being so uncharitable."
Rising to her feet, Mother grabbed Charity's hand with an iron grip and set off towards the serving tables. Charity resisted, but her mother was unstoppable when she had her mind set, and she certainly did not want to attract any further attention to herself by causing a scene.
Elijah Graves was beginning to bore of this party. It had definitely been interesting to see the primitive building techniques used to construct the agricultural structure earlier in the day, but as soon as the social activities began his interest began waning. He had finished the food on his plate and was finishing a very satisfying after dinner cigarette. The hard cider that had been served with his meal was just beginning to give him that mellow, relaxed feeling that he so enjoyed and he didn’t want to waste it on these strange, petty people and their confusing social antics. He handed his plate to a passing girl who blushed and nearly dropped her load of dirty dishes by trying to execute an extravagant curtsy with her hands full. Standing up, he wandered off towards town, barely acknowledging any of the people he passed with a slight nod of his gray head.
© 2007 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved