Thursday, September 27, 2007

Friday Snipets 12

[Update; had to change the title as this was supposed to be the 12th Friday Snippet. I'm just now preparing the 13th. This message is in case this edit causes this post to appear in an RSS or blog reader and confuse someone expecting the latest snippet.]

Last week Cassie returned with a fighting-mad fifteen-year-old Briana handcuffed in the back seat of her patrol car. In part three she had left Briana's infant Brandy with Faye after finding her hanging on Beulah gate. Next week we'll return to that evening to see Briana and Brandy settle in with Faye.

Two weeks ago Faye, Julia and Wilma were awaiting the search party for five-year-old Briana who had last been seen swinging on Beulah gate with her rag doll, Dollbaby. The ladies had found the doll hanging on the gate as they returned home that evening.

The ladies were joined in their wait by a number of new characters and some readers expressed confusion. Since all five of those new characters are back this week, and five more are going to be added, I thought I should present a roster:

Faye and Julia are twin sisters.
Wilma is Faye's sister-in-law, (twin to Inny, who we met in part 4)
Jerrica and Troll are college students working on a documentary
Mae Bea Morgan makes rag dolls for a living and is mother to Fancy who is mother to Briana
Cassie is Fancy's best friend and at the time the two fifteen-year-olds are a singing duo called 'The Rag Dolls' with local celebrity; they were the subject of the documentary.
Lawson 'Brick' Travis volunteers with the local Search and Rescue. Training volunteers and search dogs is his specialty. He brought with him two of his trainees and their trainee dogs:
Jason and Snoopy
Brandon and Snow
(And yes I counted the dogs as two of the five. They have names and are most definitely characters in this story)

OK, I hope that helps. One of these days I will get around to making a linked list of the parts to this story and the first one, Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities. Meanwhile it is not too much of a hassle to locate them with the Friday Snippet label.

Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes


Faye was watching through the windshield of Jerrica’s van that night. They are jouncing down the rutted road towards the house, keeping pace with the searchers on foot to either side of them. Troll is standing beside her, head and arms protruding through the open sun-roof. His camera’s bright light creates a migrating pocket of illumination to put the sun to shame.

A dozen paces ahead of them two boys in black shirts and jeans held the taut leashes of dogs. The dogs meandered along the left side of the road. The river side. There was a collective intake of breath in the van when Snow, the white Husky, led his master, Brandon Abelard into the thicket. And a collective sigh when all he did was circle a beech tree and return. Brick Travis’s German Shepherd, Snoopy--being handled tonight by Jason, Brick’s young brother-in-law--also took the detour around the beech but stopped to put his paws as far up the slick trunk as he could reach and sniff hard at the sky before abandoning it.

"We are following the dogs who were given the scent off Dollbaby. So far, despite a couple of forays into the bushes, they continue to follow this road. And we hope little Briana did so herself, rather than wandering into the woods where it would be rough going for little feet and getting lost in the bewildering maze of brush a near certainty for a city-bred five-year-old." Jerrica is speaking a running commentary into the mike mounted on the dash as she maneuvers the van around an especially tight curve.

"The river is about six yards just to the left of that spruce." Faye said.

"No need to borrow trouble Sister." Julia said, but she pressed her face to the window beside her as the spruce glided by.

"There is a path leading down to the bank just ahead." Wilma said. "Should we inform Mr. Travis?"

"Brick knows this river like his own back yard." Julia said.

"Because after all it is." Mae Bea muttered, her mouth so close to the window her words fogged it and she raised an arm to wipe it off with her sleeve.

Julia turned to cast a sharp look on her. "You got something against Mr. Travis?" She asked.

"Mr. Travisty we called him. Even in high school he was a stuffed shirt."

"Well that stuffed shirt has the skills to find your granddaughter."

"That might make him smart but it don’t make him nice."

"Good thing he doesn’t need your blessing to do his duty."

"Never was much of anything he needed." She started back from the window as a face floated by outside.

Jerrica slowed the van as Brick laid a hand on her window-well. "Stop on the bend just ahead and aim your lights down the bank for the boys." He stepped onto the running-board and motioned Jerrica to advance.

"Sure thing Mr. Travis." Jerrica said. "Are the dogs onto something?"

"Might be. They left the road." he paused and cocked an ear. "But they’re not excited so--don’t get your…"

"Hopes up?" Jerrica finished for him. "’Hope, that thing with feathers that perches in the soul.’ Miss Emily had such a way with words don’t you think?"

"I wouldn’t know Miss Holmes. I just know the ways of these woods…and of five-year-olds. The combination does not offer much reason for…" He glanced towards the back of the van where Cassie and Mae Bea embraced a trembling Fancy.

"Hope." Jerrica supplied again. "Hope may fly in the face of reason Mr. Travis, but it needs no reason to fly. Hope, like faith and love, is its own reason."

Brick Travis shrugged. "Well, if you ladies depend on such things, now might be a good time to try prayer. As long as you can do so while shining that light down on my boys."

"You may depend on it, Mr. Travis." Faye said.

"I depend on my dogs and my boys. I trained them well." He slapped the door. "Here is fine. The dogs led them down between that boulder and that larch. There is a path just below there that leads to a beach several yards up stream but there is a drop-off the other side of the path. The river is about ten feet below and at that spot is deep between the boulders. And fast."

"You have a way with words yourself, Mr. Travis." Jerrica set the parking brake as Troll levered himself up through the sunroof and leapt to the ground to train camera and light on the van as the women got out.

"Words are for stating the facts, Miss Holmes." Brick held the door for Jerrica.

"Facts can be colored by expectations, Mr. Travis." Faye came around the front of the van and gazed into the blackness beyond the headlights' range where the sound of water grappling with rock could be heard. "And expectations are based on experience. We grant that you have plenty of experience in these matters. But so do we and our experience colors the facts a different shade. No more nor less valid than yours."

Brick listened respectfully but shook his head. "I’ve seen too many of these go bad."

"Yes. And I’m willing to wager you’ve seen as many go right. But right now you are choosing to remember the one and not the other. Stay open to the possibilities Mr. Travis or life will become tedious beyond despair." She reached out and patted his hand.

"Since duty requires me to be prepared for anything, I shall try to remember your advice mam." Brick’s smile could not disguise his doubts.

"Duty requires hope, else it has no purpose." Faye said. "Only the hope that our efforts might make a difference has the power to motivate."

A sudden chorus of howls, boys and dogs, rescued Brick from Faye and he trotted down the trail towards it followed by Troll and led as though tethered by the globe of light that bounced and bobbled among the branches and brambles. The light snagged on a four-way tug of war between boys and dogs over an object so small that when it was finally held aloft by a triumphant Jason it was all but engulfed by his fist.

"Brick!" Jason called. "Look what Snoopy found! In the roots of that hazelnut tree."

"Snow found it first." Brandon said. "But I’ve trained him not to disturb the evidence."

The women, led by Faye caught up with the men just in time to see displayed on Jason’s outstretched palm, muddy laces dangling, a child’s shoe. twin to the ones that Dollbaby wore. All eyes riveted on the shoe and it seemed the very night held its breath. And then as though born of the sudden breeze that surged about them, a voice--part song, part sob:

"Oh don’t you remember a long time ago,
There were two little babes, their names I don’t know.
They wandered away one bright summers day
And were lost in the woods, I heard people say."

Snow and Snoopy broke the spell shoe and song had cast on them. With anxious whines and assertive woofs, they circled the Hazelnut tree whose roots had clutched the shoe. As Troll aimed the camera and light at them, Snoopy stood on his hind legs clawing at the bark with his front paws while Snow repeatedly lunged for the lowest branch about six feet above his head. And almost made it too, as the tree did not stand straight but arched over the narrow foot-path, its upper limbs--leaf and fruit laden--reaching out over the river.

As the boys rushed to calm their charges, Troll panned the camera with a slow caress of light up the trunk, illuminating an intricate weave of branches, twigs and leaves until it located the source of the song and the object of their longing. The child hung from the tree, a branch about the thickness of a baby’s arm hooked through her overall strap. Her feet pendulate about twenty feet above the water, the single shoe glowing against the black beyond the light.

7 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  9/28/2007 5:29 AM  

THanks for the roster.

I particularly liked the exchange in this snippet between Julia and May Bea about Brick Travis, you give the impression there's more to it than that. ^_^

Joely Sue Burkhart 9/28/2007 5:43 AM  

Oh, wow, you such a way with these little hooks and reveals! Great snippet.

Gabriele Campbell 9/28/2007 2:03 PM  

So Troll is a name. I thought it was a troll when he first appeared. Your world, or rather, some of the characters, are surreal enough for a troll to join them. :)

It's so Briana to run around in the woods and climb trees.

Julia Phillips Smith 9/28/2007 8:01 PM  

I've dropped by your Friday Snippet for the first time, and I got a character wrap-up and everything. Tense scene - I wasn't sure by the end of it whether the child was still alive or not as she was found dangling. Interesting character dynamics, as well.

Bri 9/29/2007 10:39 AM  

Nice - I love the Mr. Travisty character. Very nice - I feel like there's probably more there than you're telling us. Makes him most interesting. :)

Anonymous,  9/29/2007 5:00 PM  

I liked Brick's character. He was honestly giving his thoughts and feelings---not tactful at all, but honest. I think Faye responded to him very well.

IanT 9/30/2007 7:40 AM  


I really liked the final pan of the camera - a great way to do the reveal.

I'm not sure whether a number of frantic/worried people would spend their time discussing word meanings and philosophy rather than searching; but that may be the quirkiness of the characters that you're showing us.

The very last sentence (involving pendulate) doesn't quite make sense, because pendulate is the infinitive. It goes like oscillate , so maybe you wanted 'Her feet pendulated?'. Although I think you can use it as an adverb too - 'her feet hung pendulate', but I'm not sure on that one...

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