Thursday, March 06, 2008

Friday Snippets 34

Beach on the Oregon coast.
Photo credit: Eugene Davis, my Father-in-law.

The following is a flash-fiction piece I wrote for a blog sponsored contest that never happened due to too few submissions. I chose the Reggie character from last week's Making Determinations, a story I'd conceived over twenty years ago and continues to haunt me. I knew I couldn't tell the whole story inside 1000 words so I attempted to turn one planned scene into a stand alone story. The scene was chosen to fit the given theme of the contest: A New Beginning. Thus there are missing scenes between last week's snippet and this one but the events here occur the morning after.

The stranger Reggie meets on the beach today is a major character in the FOS story world known as Mama Cat. She has only been mentioned in passing in the FOS snippets I've posted so far because she has been off stage. But I've had big plans for her for a long time, including possibly carrying her own weight as primary POV in a novel either alone or in tandem with another character of equal stature whose them complements hers. All of the major and many of the minor FOS characters carry a theme indicated by their names. Such as Faye (Jubilee Faith Fairchild Gardner), her husband Inny (Innocence Workman Garner), his sister Wilma Grace Gardner and Faye's twin Julia Love Fairchild. Mama Cat is a nickname of course and I've been keeping her true name under my hat for now as it would be a major spoiler to Faye's story to reveal it yet.

Sometimes I wonder if that is ever going to matter. It has been a rough week working with my FOS story world for the 70 Days challenge. I am fighting the demons that urge me to feel like a fraud and a failure. I know this is temporary and that perseverance will see me to the next incline on the path. But meanwhile.... sigh.

I posted this once before after the contest was canceled. I think it was approximately a year ago but I'm too lazy to hunt down the link.

Kinking the Bucket
by Joy Renee

The sky was beginning to lighten when Reggie pulled around a long curve and caught her first glimpse of the sea. She spotted a bench facing the ocean at the side of the road and pulled onto the gravel cut-out that provided parking space. As soon as she opened her car door, she regretted that she had left in such a rush the previous evening. She had no jacket and still wore the same tank top she’d worn in the sweltering packing sheds yesterday. Memories of that heat made the chill morning breeze off the water more refreshing than unpleasant and the chance to see, unobstructed, the view that had beckoned her across the coastal range was enough to draw her out of the car to brave the shivery gusts that whipped her hair about her face.

Only the prospect of a sunrise over the water would make this more perfect. It had been the thought of a Pacific Coast sunset that made her turn her steering wheel towards the west last evening. But there had been no hope of reaching here in time. She was determined, instead to watch the changing color of the sky and water and the early morning flocking of the sea birds as the sun rose behind her back. Could there be a better place for contemplating than a bench on the edge of the world as dawn scribbled the sky with the colors of hope and peace?

And she was determined to figure things out if she had to sit here until the sun set as well. She could not go back until she knew what to do.

Reggie hugged her arms and rubbed them to generate heat. She might have to retreat to the car after all. There was no color in sky or landscape yet so sunrise was a solid half-hour off. The shadows among the dunes and rocks were still fathomless. Her eye snagged on a light near by. Not a football field’s length away. A campfire. Probably some local teens had partied all night. But minutes later she smelled brewing coffee. How many teens knew how to brew coffee over a campfire or had the foresight to bring the equipment to a Friday night keg party? Not her two. For sure.

"Brrrrrrrr!" Reggie finally sang out and jumped to her feet to jog in place, hoping to force her muscles to heat themselves. This just might work she thought after three minutes or so. Yet it was not conducive to a peaceful reassessment of her options. She looked toward the horizon and was startled to see movement of shadow on shadow just yards away.

"Yoo-hoo." A voice emanating from a blob of dark gray sliding against charcoal.

Reggie blinked her eyes trying to make sense of what approached across the sand, wondering if she was still asleep in the car at the rest-stop and dreaming this apparition.

"Yoo-hoo." Now accompanied by sounds of heavy breathing. "I have hot coffee. And a sweater."

Reggie was as surprised at her own impulse to trust this as a gift called up from the earth in response to her need as she was by the sight of a very large woman pushing a baby buggy. She was moving toward it before she fully realized she had decided to. And then the woman abandoned the buggy and moved to meet her, holding open a voluminous sweater in which she enfolded Reggie before pulling her inside her heavy cloak. "Honey! Whatever possessed you?"

Reggie laughed as much to quell the urge to cry like a child against her mother’s breast as in amusement. "It was over 100 degrees when I left home."

"Come sit by my fire. I’ll make hot cereal." They were already moving in tandem toward the buggy before Reggie nodded. The woman pulled a thermos from the buggy and poured a steaming stream into a mug saying, "Call me Mama Cat."

Minutes later Reggie was settling on a driftwood log in front of the fire. Mama Cat removed her cloak and slung it over Reggie’s back before pulling a handful of squirming fur out of the buggy. There was enough light now to identify this as two barely weaned kittens. "These guys’ll keep you warm. Oats or wheat?"

Neither spoke again until their cereal bowls were on the ground for the kittens now numbering four. "If my own kids would eat out of the same bowl like that, I probably would have slept in my own bed last night."

Mama Cat’s silence invited her to continue. "After I kicked the bucket, I thought I better get away to think what to do."

"Yes." Mama Cat chuckled. "Kicking the bucket does tend to make room for new beginnings."

"I passed out twice from the heat yesterday. Once while waiting on the pizza as I held the KFC bucket. Jay prefers pizza and Rae fried chicken. Then again in the driveway at home. The kids were standing over me calling, ‘Mom! Mom! Where’s dinner?’ Must have been pure rage gave me strength to stand up and reach into the car. First for the pizza which I launched like a Frisbee, then…" She closed her eyes against the sight of seagulls flying against a clear blue sky and saw again the arc of the KFC bucket she had drop-kicked into the neighbor’s yard.

"How old are they?"

"Jay’s nineteen. I got him a job in the sheds. He quit at noon on his first payday. I smelled pot on him that night. Rae’s sixteen and dating Jay’s friend behind my back."

"Have you ever seen a mother cat defend her kittens?" At Reggie’s nod Mama Cat continued. "Have you ever watched a mother cat wean her kittens?" Another nod. "Then you know what to do."

Reggie sighed. "I know."

5 tell me a story:

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