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

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